The Egyptian government has recently adopted an initiative to convert about 1.8m old, petrol-powered cars to compressed natural gas (CNG), according to Karim Naggar, Chairperson of Kayan International Trade, the Egypt agent for Volkswagen, Seat, and Skoda.
Naggar welcomed the initiative, which particularly focuses on the mass transportation category being the most important means of transport in Egypt. It will see this type of vehicles, in particular, converted to CNG engines, which reduces harmful carbon emissions, especially in Egypt’s densely populated governorates such as Cairo.
“Although this initiative was somewhat delayed, what is new this time is the solidarity of all the state ministries, with a desire to raise the standard of living among Egyptian citizens whilst preserving the environment on the one hand, and to maximise the use of state resources on the other hand,” Naggar said. “This initiative is particularly relevant given the announcement of the recent discovery of many new natural gas wells in Egypt.”
With public transport so important to many Egyptians who are unable to afford cars, Naggar added that the initiative aims to improve mass transportation whilst reducing harmful emissions normally associated with traditional fuels. It will also support the state’s approach to using natural gas, instead of gasoline and diesel fuel.
“We currently have three factories in Egypt capable of converting cars to run with natural gas, with a total production capacity of 50,000 cars annually,” Naggar stressed. “Therefore, the production capacity of these factories must be increased to convert more microbuses and public transport buses.”
He added that, in the past 25 years, Egypt has only seen a total of 318,000 natural gas-fuelled vehicles in operation on its roads. He stressed that this is a small number compared to the ambitious state plans, and its newly adopted initiative.
Naggar noted the need to also include tuk-tuks in this initiative, and to convert the three million tuk-tuks that run on Egyptian roads natural gas, will also benefit the country’s enviroment and contribute to budget savings.
Naggar added, “President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s directive that no licence will be given to new cars that do not operate with the natural gas system caused a little confusion. The Minister of Trade and Industry clearly announced that the current plan for the old cars is to replace old vehicles that have been manufactured 20 years or more ago with new ones, as the state will offer many incentives and financing programmes.”
He added that the state will put in place a series of transitional steps after it stops issuing licences on old cars, to encourage the switch to greener vehicle types. This will include first the reliance on hybrid cars that run on conventional fuel and electricity, before finally seeing a shift to adopting electric vehicles (EV) and other environmentally friendly vehicles.
Naggar believes that all car makers are currently focusing on the shift towards EV. Actually, the EV production capacity at the largest and most important global car makers is expected to reach 50% of total production by 2030, with the production of other cars powered by petrol or diesel to reach almost zero by 2050.
These figures are in line with the startegy that the Egyptian state has adopted, whilst encouraging the import of hybrid cars of all kinds.
Despite the requirements of converting cars to natural gas, Naggar confirmed that Egypt’s conversion of taxis to natural gas was carried out to the highest levels of quality and safety.
He noted that there are currently between 50,000 and 60,000 natural gas-operated taxis running on Egypt’s roads, with no issues relating to their operation and functioning.
Naggar added that converting a car from conventional fuels to natural gas costs between EGP 8,000 and EGP 12,000 per vehicle. However, when looking at the operating costs of cars running on gasoline fuel and their natural gas counterparts, we find that the latter saves more than 50% of the consumption of conventional gasoline fuel.
“Cars, like any other commodity in the world, have a life span. Therefore, the state’s decision to scrap and replace old, worn-out cars with new ones is a very correct decision, and all my brands will support this trend,” he concluded, “I also think that all importers and assemblers of cars in the local market will in turn support the process of replacing old cars in Egypt.”