Faced with rising petrol prices which lead to fare hikes for millions of commuters, the multibillion-rand taxi industry is looking at gas as an alternative source of fuel.
Taxi Investment Holding (TIH) director Joel Mafenya whose company is spearheading the energy revolution in the industry, was yesterday upbeat that there were already more than 1,200 taxis in the country running on gas after being converted from petrol.
Gauteng alone, said Mafenya, had 10 gas filling stations, with TIH committed to fast-track the rollout of the gas infrastructure by forging partnerships with strategic gas-producing entities like Auto Gaz Centrum to supply taxi operators with comprehensive natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Mafenya said the TIH, whose shareholders included taxi operators, drivers, queue marshals and administrative staff, was set to invest in gas technology and infrastructure throughout the country in an effort to promote the adoption of the alternative fuel.
The latest development would enhance the taxi economy by exploiting the use of gas as a cheaper, reliable and a clean energy alternative.
A pilot study conducted by CNG Holdings has revealed that:
- A vehicle filled with 387.11 litres of petrol travelled 3,173km at a cost of R5,423.36, compared with a CNG gas-powered vehicle that travelled the same distance for R3,059.50.
- The gas-filled vehicle made R2,363, which is 44% more than petrol.
- Natural gas is one of the safest transport fuels available.
SA National Taxi Council Mpumalanga secretary Simphiwe Sibanyoni said the technology used to convert vehicles to run on gas was now within the reach of the taxi industry and operators were “looking forward to fully embrace the implementation of fuels, which are an alternative to petrol and diesel”.
Hailing the availability of CNG gas in the province as “a breakthrough for the taxi industry”, Sibanyoni said: “We are excited that this source of energy is now available right at our doorsteps and set to help the industry save money on fuel, because gas is cheaper compared to petrol.”
He visited the highveld industrial complex, which distributes the gas.
Gas expert Eddie Cooke said taxi operators were now spoilt for choice.
“The taxi operators can convert their vehicles to run on CNG or LPG gas, depending on the availability of infrastructure and the gas type available in areas in which they operate in the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, TIH has issued a prospectus in terms of the Companies Act, to provide information to potential investors to buy ordinary shares in the company.
The price is set at R1 per share open for purchase by taxi owners, drivers, queue marshals and selected black investors, closing on September 30.
Said Mafenya: “We have now begun to redefine the true meaning of black economic empowerment [BEE] in the taxi industry [which has] never benefitted from BEE.
“We have now seen it necessary to slice the cake and share it with all players in the industry, including operators who currently have no form of pension.
“This will also address the threat of violence, which has bedevilled the industry.”
The taxi industry employs more than 600,000 people and transports over 15 million commuters per day, according to the taxi council.