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EghtesadOnline: To curb air pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has set forth a plan to convert carbureted motorcycles into using compressed natural gas (CNG).

There are 11.5 million motorbikes in Iran, three million of which ply on Tehran's streets. All of the two-wheelers are infamous for their high fuel consumption. The motorcycles also have a huge share in worsening air pollution in major Iranian cities, according to Financial Tribune.

Zanganeh also told IRIB News that plans are in motion to set up centers where carbureted motorbikes would be converted to use CNG. He added that specialists are designing mobile and stationary gas stations to supply CNG to motorcycles. 

"Some changes should also be made in the two-wheelers' fuel tank and combustion system in order to adjust them to burning CNG," he said.

“This is the first time in Iran that the idea of burning CNG in motorcycles has been brought up. The plan is expected to create job opportunities and reduce air pollution caused by the mobile sources in the long term.”

Zanganeh stressed that the move will further reduce the gasoline consumption rate.

Since mid-November 2019, when the government rationed and tripled gasoline price, its daily average consumption of 87 million liters declined by 20 million liters.

The conversion is not merely limited to motorcycles, according to Zanganeh, as the government is planning to pay 65 billion rials ($481,000) in loans to owners of passenger and commercial vehicles who are willing to have their cars converted into CNG hybrids.

The loan payment process and installment details will be announced as soon as they are finalized, he added.



Demand for CNG Hybrids

Following the government's decision to hike fuel prices, compressed natural gas consumption has risen by 2 million cubic meters per day, Hamid Qasemi, the head of CNG Department at the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company, said.

“CNG consumption is growing rapidly. It surpassed 21 mcm/d, up 11% in late November 2019. The figure is expected to exceed 24 mcm/d by the end of the current Iranian year [March 19],” he added.

In the last two months, close to 30,000 car owners have applied to convert their vehicles into CNG hybrids at authorized centers.

“Due to the large number of applicants, the authorized centers [supervised by NIOPDC and the Industries Ministry] will follow the policy of first come, first served,” Ali Mahmoudian, the head of Alternative Fuels Union, said.

“Much-needed parts and equipment to convert cars to CNG hybrids have been indigenized and centers will be working round the clock to meet rising demand.”

According to NIOPDC, of the 19 million vehicles in Iran, over 5 million have CNG hybrid engines. The number of active conversion centers in the country has reached 250 and could rise to 380 on demand.



Free Conversion Soon

Depending on the type of car and size of CNG tank, owners are charged between $300-400 for converting their vehicles from gasoline-powered to CNG hybrid, including the price of CNG tanks. 

However, the government is working on a plan to offer free conversion services to the public who will, nonetheless, pay for the CNG tank. 

According to Qasemi, negotiations with seven companies are underway. 

"As soon as an agreement is reached between the sides, the free conversion scheme will commence," he added. 

Only time will show whether these companies would actually waive their service charges, or simply hike their CNG tank prices in the name of offering “free services”. 

Motivating people to switch to natural gas has been on the Iranian government’s agenda for long. However, these efforts have mostly been limited to major cities like Tehran.

Long before the free services became the subject of debates, NIOPDC started to offer low-interest loans to owners of all commercial and passenger vehicles running on gasoline and diesel to convert them to CNG hybrids



Long-Term Plan

With the introduction of various incentives, CNG consumption in the country has soared, but the government aims to further increase the use of this clean fuel. 

Its endeavors have been aimed at curbing fossil fuel consumption and reducing toxic emissions released into the air by diesel engines that are considered heavy polluters.

However, according to the latest report, CNG consumption can increase to over 40 million cubic meters per day.

NIOPDC reports that in the last Iranian year (ended March 2019), gasoline consumption was 90 million liters per day. This is while gasoline in Iran is costlier than CNG.

One cubic meter of CNG costs 4,140 rials (3 cents), while a liter of gasoline is sold at 30,000 rials (22 cents).

CNG is projected to comprise 35% of Iran's total fuel consumption by the end of the Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2017-22). To achieve this goal, the government recently launched an initiative to motivate more drivers to convert their gas-burning vehicles to CNG hybrids.


Fuel Iran Bijan Namdar Zanganeh air pollution fossil fuels CNG Zanganeh compressed natural gas Reliance Motorbike Conversion carbureted motorcycles