Is CNG an alternative to diesel? Explained

Come April, 2020, Maruti Suzuki India, country’s largest carmaker, will stop selling diesel powered cars in India. Diesel cars currently make up 20 percent plus of Maruti’s sales which means about 10% of all cars sold in India are Maruti diesels.

Presently, MSI offers its popular models Alto, AltoK10, Celerio, WagonR, Dzire, Ertiga in CNG option along with light commercial vehicle, Super Carry.

That, at around 250,000 cars, is a pretty big number. The question is, will CNG work for those who were buying diesels till now?

Siesel Cng

Maruti believes it should:

“For Maruti Suzuki in the future, CNG vehicles are likely to make up for the space vacated by small diesel engine cars,” MIS Senior Executive Director (Engineering) C.V. Raman told PTI.

“We believe that for a small car, CNG is a very good option. It is an alternative to oil consumption. We have the widest range of CNG cars for our customers. We are keen to promote green fuels,” he further said.

Besides, the government’s focus is also to expand the gas-based economy, Raman added.

“There is a lot of emphasis on expanding CNG availability in the country,” he added.

Is CNG cheaper than diesel?

Yes, on both per km running cost as well as upfront buying cost. Let’s take Maruti Ertiga VXi as an example. The petrol, CNG and diesel versions costs Rs. 8.26 lakh, Rs. 8.87 lakh and Rs. 9.86 lakh, respectively. So, there is a saving of nearly Rs. 1 lakh over diesel.

The running cost per km too are lower. The respective ARAI mileage for petrol, CNG and diesel per litre/kg are 19.34, 26.2 and 25.2. Assuming the petrol, CNG and diesel prices at Rs. 73.39/litre, Rs. 52.95/kg and Rs. 65.14/litre, the per km running costs for CNG come to just Rs. 2.02/km against Rs. 2.58 km/litre for diesel.

So, CNG cars are both cheaper to buy and run that diesel.

Is CNG easily available?

Yes. And no. If most of your driving is within the city, then availability in most cities is not an issue. On an average a CNG car runs 300 km per tankfull so if you drive about 30 km per day, you’ll have to top up the tank once every 9-10 days. Mind you, you might have to wait in queue and so if your usage is higher, and trips required to filling station more frequent, it might get a bit annoying.

Also, if you do a lot of intercity driving, be prepared to run on petrol a lot of time.

Is CNG ready for primetime?

Logically, CNG is a strong contender. There has been talk of CNG damaging the engine but that is largely just talk—the most intensive users, the cabbies use CNG. Besides, CNG is cleanest of all the fuels. The only downside, particularly in smaller cars is that CNG kit eats into the already meagre boot space.

Regardless of the logic, unless the queues at the filling stations get shorter, there is unlikely to be a big shift towards CNG.