New Delhi: Scooters and motorcycles that run on non-polluting natural gas could be on India’s roads one day, if a pilot project involving 10 such two-wheelers launched on Thursday proves successful.

The 10 two-wheelers retrofitted with compressed natural gas (CNG) systems are the first of 50 such vehicles which will be released in Delhi within a month. Emissions and efficiency of these vehicles will be closely monitored. Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the pilot in the national capital.

Adopting CNG is one of the ways that could help bring down air pollution in the country, where around seven out of 10 vehicles are two-wheelers that use petrol.

“Two wheelers account for 32% of pollution from the transportation sector. These CNG-run scooters will take the benefit of natural gas to people. These scooters will cut down pollution by 40% compared to Petrol run scooters," said B.C. Tripathi, chairman and managing director of Gail India, which is India’s largest natural gas company.

Widespread adoption of CNG as a fuel for two wheelers will also open a new market for companies such as Gail India. Tripathi said feedback from all stakeholders including drivers and industry bodies will be taken to make suitable modifications to make CNG a viable fuel for two wheelers.

As per idle emission tests, hydrocarbon emissions from CNG retrofitted two wheelers are 75% less and carbon dioxide emissions are 20% less than similar petrol-driven vehicles. The CNG kit consists of two cylinders with a capacity of 1 kg each. These scooters can go up to 120 km with a single fill and are expected to be more economical than similar vehicles using petrol.

Javadekar, who launched the pilot project, also promised a full support to the project. “I promise a blank cheque for environment clearances to all gas projects if all environment norms are followed," said Javadekar.

After Delhi, the pilot project will be extended to other cities like Pune and Bangalore. At present, Delhi has around 5 lakh CNG-run private cars and around 3 lakh CNG-run commercial vehicles.

Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the cleaner natural gas accounts for only 7% of the country’s sources of energy at present, compared to global average of 24%. He said the central government has asked the Delhi government to make the Bawana thermal power plant operational on imported liquefied natural gas, which can deliver cheaper and cleaner power to the city’s residents.

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