LPG vehicles exceed 1 million

As the government considers a proposal to ban the registration of new vehicles fuelled by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the number now on Thailand's roads has topped one million.

As of the end of January, 1,014,089 vehicles were registered as having LPG engines, according to Somchai Siriwatanachoke, the director-general of the Land Transport Department.

In 2012, the department approved 133,088 registrations, under rules stating that modifications must be carried out by approved garages and the cars must pass safety tests.

Taxis queue for refills at an LPG station in Bangkok. (Post file photo)

As of the end of 2012, department statistics showed cumulative vehicle registrations in Thailand of 32.47 million units, of which 11.7 million were four-wheel vehicles, 19 million motorcycles, and the rest public vehicles, trucks and other types.

Of the total registrations, 24.95 million vehicles were in the provinces and 7.5 million in Bangkok.

Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal recently floated the idea of curbing the number of vehicles using LPG. He wants to reduce the use of LPG in the transport sector and also increase road safety, as fires involving LPG vehicles, many of them illegally modified, are common.

LPG has gained popularity as a fuel for vehicles due to its subsidised price. Almost all taxis in Bangkok run on LPG, but the government would prefer drivers seeking alternative fuels to use compressed natural gas (CNG) instead.

To discourage further use of LPG in the transport sector, the government has begun raising the price, from the capped level of 18.13 baht a kilogramme, to 21.38 baht at present.

Industrial users are now paying 30 baht a kilogramme for the fuel.

The ministry is now preparing to float the price of LPG for general and household use. The plan is to raise the price starting in April by 50 satang a month for 12 months, until it reaches 24.82 baht a kilogramme.

LPG costs the equivalent of 45 baht a kilogramme in Cambodia, 49 baht in Laos, 34 baht in Myanmar and 20 baht in Malaysia. Such prices are attractive enough to make smuggling of the gas lucrative, creating further problems for the government.

Thailand had capped LPG prices for more than two decades before this year. In 2008, the country became a net importer of LPG when global oil prices hit a record high of US$147 a barrel.

LPG consumed in the transport sector currently accounts for 14.6% of the gas used in Thailand, amounting to 606,000 tonnes in 2012.

The ministry wants to encourage more use of CNG, known also as natural gas for vehicles (NGV), but vehicle users are complaining that there are not enough CNG stations. There are only 483 CNG stations nationwide serving 380,000 CNG vehicles.

However, no final decision has been reached on the suspension of new LPG vehicle registrations.

If registrations do end, owners of existing registered LPG vehicles will be able to continue using them, according to Deputy Transport Minister Gen Prin Suwanatat.

Related search: LPG, CNG, NGV, Thailand

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