Kittiratt enthuses over E85 buses

Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong seemed enthusiastic about switching from compressed natural gas to use of E85 gasohol for the planned new Bangkok bus fleet after talks in Sweden.

Chinese-made NGV public buses which the government has planned to purchase for the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's fleet. (File photo)

While accompanying Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a trip to Sweden and Belgium, Mr Kittiratt observed renewable energy projects in Sweden. He paid special interest to the public buses fuelled by gasohol E85, a source said.  

The delegation's talks included discussions with representatives of bus manufacturer Volvo, which operates an ethanol production plant in Thailand.

The current plan is buy compressed natural gas powered buses from China for the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA).

The cabinet in January asked the National Economic and Social Development Board to further study the Transport Ministry's plan to buy 3,183 new buses fuelled by natural gas for vehicles (NGV)  as a cost of around 13 billion baht.

The BMTA operates at huge loss with 76 billion baht in accumulated debt so it hopes that the new fleet will help to turnaround the situation, with lower maintenance costs and restructuring.

Mr Kittiratt said NGV is cheap in Thailand due to the subsidies so it does not reflect the actual cost, therefore Thailand should consider switching to buses fuelled by gasohol E85, which is ethanol-based. Ethanol is already being produced from energy crops grown in Thailand, the source said.

For a long time public busess in Thailand ran on diesel, he said. More recently many had been converted to gas.

Now there was a plan to buy a new bus fleet fuelled by compressed natural gas, even though Thailand's known natural gas resources were being depleted, he said.

"If we use more natural gas, we need to import it. But if we use gasohol, Thailand has both sugarcane and cassava for ethanol production. We don't have to import the ethanol, unlike Sweden that has to import it from Brazil," Mr Kittiratt said.

Thailand has previously promoted use of ethanol in gasohol production as an alternative energy source, but the programme was suspended. This resulted in a glut of ethanol production in Thailand.

Although retail pumps in the country now no longer sell petrol 91, having replaced it with gasohol 91, ethanol production still exceeds demand, he said.

Mr Kittiratt said a bus fleet fuelled by E85 would help stabilise the price of farm crops. Because bus fares could then be related to the fuel cost, energy farmers would be better informed about what price they would get for their crop, the source said.

Mr Kittiratt said he had discussed this idea with Pailin Chuchottaworn, president and chief executive of PTT, who is a member of the prime minister's delegation to Europe.

He said PTT was ready to increase production of gasohol E85 if the government decided on the switch from compressed natural gas to gasohol for the new Bangkok bus fleet.

However, Mr Pailin had expressed concern about the smuggling of ethanol earmarked for the transportation sector to produce alcoholic spirits because of the lower tax.

The natural gas public bus fleet was intitially an initiative of the Bhumjaithai Party but the proposal was too expensive at 15 million baht each and was shelved.

Under the current proposal, the BMTA would buy 3,183 natural gas-powered buses - 1,659 would be non-air-conditioned buses at around 3.8 million baht each and 1,524 air-conditioned buses at around 4.5 million baht apiece -  for a total of 13.16 billion baht.

Related search: alternative fuels, bangkok bus fleet, politics

About the author

Writer: Online Reporters