The Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) has called for expressions of interest to manufacture liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) automotive conversion kits and/or components locally.
Junior project manager Renny Malungane told Engineering News Online the locally made parts or kits would be used in the AIDC-led taxi project wherein LPG conversion kits are installed in minibuses in Gauteng to reduce emissions and operating costs.
The R20 000 systems enable taxis to operate dually on LPG or petrol.
To date, over 300 of Gauteng’s 32 000 minibus taxis have been equipped with the LPG systems, while eight refuelling stations have been constructed in and around the province. “Between now and February 28 we have to have done another 110 taxis in Gauteng,” Malungane noted.
He said the programme had been extended on request of the Department of Transport (DoT), which was looking to reach all areas of the province. “The amount of taxis to be converted in the extended programme will depend on demand from taxi operators.”
The AIDC is looking to stimulate a new industry of “autogas” component manufacturing in South Africa.
Local manufacturing would boost employment and bring down the cost of the conversion kits, which were currently sourced from Poland-based DT-Gas Systems. “To have the kits or components manufactured locally could drive down their price and increase demand locally,” Malungane said.
He added that companies such as DT-Gas were willing to partner with local manufacturers and would fund the starting up of operations.
However, the AIDC would work with the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as the Industrial Development Corporation in providing funding for local manufacturers which were interested, but did not have the funds to finance the infrastructure and skills required.
He further stated that AIDC would undertake a feasibility study in the current financial year, while contracts could be awarded in the next financial year.
The industry body was also currently in discussions with commercial gas producer African Oxygen regarding the construction of additional refuelling sites in Gauteng.
Malungane said a cofunded model would be considered for the next financial year that would see local government paying 80% of conversion costs, while taxi operators paid the balance. However, in the longer term, the plan was that taxi owners would finance 100% of the conversion.
Meanwhile, the AIDC was processing proposals for compressed natural gas automotive conversion kits for minibuses and buses.
Malungane emphasised the importance of dual-gas/fuel systems in South Africa, adding the DoT was considering the implementation of regulations that would prohibit the registration of vehicles that were not outfitted with such units.