Tue, 19 Aug 2003

'Bajaj' can use LPG to reduce pollution : NGO

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The bajaj (three-wheeled motorized vehicle) can still operate in the city if the owners improve its engine performance to make it more environmentally friendly, says international NGO Swisscontact. The bajaj is said to be the most pollutive vehicle in the city.

Swisscontact, which financed a study on the bajaj conversion pilot project from September 2001 to April 2003, says that one of the ways to improve the vehicle was to change the fuel it uses from gasoline to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Changing the fuel type can cut the emission of carbon monoxide (CO) by up to 70 percent and hydrocarbons (HC) by up to 30 percent from its current levels.

Health experts say that HC can cause lung cancer and respiratory infections, while CO can cause heart problems.

The study also shows that at the current fuel price, converting the vehicle's engine from a gasoline-powered to an LPG-powered engine will reduce the driver's fuel expenses by around 13 percent. Each day, a bajaj can consume around 10 liters of gasoline and 0.6 liter of lubricant oil for every 115 kilometers.

The study reveals that the bajaj's conversion from gasoline to LPG will be economically sound if it is implemented en masse. The cost can be minimized by setting a lower price for LPG and purchasing converters in bulk. In this case, the break even point can be reached within one year.

If the project is implemented as a small scale production, the break even point will be reached in 3 years and six weeks.

Ari Mohammad, clean air project policy analyst at Swisscontact, said the converted bajaj could quell its critics, as the cost analysis of the conversion would be economically sound if it also took into consideration the environmental and health costs of the old bajaj.

"A converted bajaj will cost Rp 5.5 million -- far cheaper compared to the price of a new Kancil vehicle, which is Rp 34 million," Ari told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Converting the bajaj would require the replacement of several components including the odometer, an LPG kit converter, electronic systems, lubricant systems, steel flats and various cables.

To obtain the best results, the engine should also be overhauled.

The city administration has been considering replacing the bajaj, an Indian-made vehicle first introduced to the city in the 1970s, with the kancil, a four-wheeled vehicle made in Tangerang, because of the pollution the bajaj produces.

However, the plan has received strong opposition from bajaj drivers and owners, who say that the high cost of the kancil would cut into their daily earnings.

Each bajaj driver pays about Rp 30,000 as a daily rental fee. If the vehicle is replaced with the kancil, each driver or owner would need to make a down payment of Rp 5 million, with a daily rental fee of Rp 50,000.