International Road Federation (IRF), a Geneva based global road safety body working for better and safer roads worldwide has urged the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to formulate and immediately notify strict technical requirements including digital monitoring compliance for retro fitment of CNG kits in the cars already on the roads.
“International Road Federation (IRF) was instrumental with Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to bring in latest global safety regulation to automobiles in India, including crash tests. The MoRTH has worked in bringing in the legislative and regulatory environment towards saving human lives. European Crash test regulation, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, regulations for Airbags, Seatbelt reminder, ABS are some major examples. On similar lines, the need of the hour by the Ministry is to bring in strict regulations and framework for retro-fitments of CNG kits in vehicles “ said Mr K K Kapila. President Emeritus, International Road Federation (IRF) .
“Out of over 1.8 million CNG light vehicles — which includes passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles — plying the roads today, 60-65 per cent are those retrofitted in the aftermarket,. Under the CNG retro-fitment technique that is followed, the gas tank, fuel lines, injection system and the electricals are retro-fitted on to a vehicle which wasn’t designed for CNG. The CNG kit manufactures supply “unapproved and uncertified” CNG fuel kits” said Mr Kapila.
“The Government and the private sector we understand has invested thousands of crores in setting up test facilities like ARAI/ICAT/NATRAX etc. by NATRIP to carry out these tests only for saving human life. It is however, with great regret we notice that the Auto companies in total pursuit of profits, turn a blind eye to human life, in collusion with CNG retrofitters who are merrily flouting the safety norms by fitment of non-compliant CNG kits on vehicles. Once Type Approval of CNG kit is obtained, they fit spurious kits on vehicles since there is no rigorous enforcement of compliance of TA norms at the RTO level. These facts are known to the Ministry who had initiated an exercise of monitoring the entire system of CNG fitment through Digital technology under the supervision of NIC, who have already initiated some steps in this direction but effect of it is yet to be felt in the entire country.“ said Mr Kapila.
“CNG is a clean fuel and should be encouraged because of pollution concerns as long as it does not affect the safety of car occupants and other pedestrians on the road as per the crash test and other applicable standards instituted by MoRTH. First, on the main objective of pollution control itself, we are not sure whether retrofitted CNG cars have any benefit in pollution reduction. This is because a standard kit is fitted on a wide variety of engines/vehicles without any change in engine tuning/programming and post-fitment, the car is never tested, whether one-time or for conformity of production.” He said.
“Retro-fitment of a CNG kit involves adding a weight of about 100 kg in the boot of the car. It involves force fitting of fuel lines and electrical wire connections into the car on a car design which was not originally meant to accommodate these. Post-fitment, there is no testing to ensure that the brakes will perform the same way, the crash test safety will be at the same level, the fuel lines don’t run close to the battery, etc and many such technical safety requirements are met.” He added.
It is not clear, in case of retrofitted/dealer-fitted CNG cars, who takes the responsibility, if there is fire or crash and a human life is lost. Is it the OEM? Is it the CNG retrofitter? Is it the dealer? Is it the mechanic who did the connections? For years, all of us were helpless spectators to retrofitted CNG cars blowing up in flames on roads and there was no way to address the problem as everybody kept quoting lack of regulation and enforcement. Many times while making electrical connections, instead of a spring-loaded coupler which ensures proper contact, trader-retrofitter to save a few rupees, have asked mechanics to peel off the wire insulation and tie the wires together in a jugaad. These wires have loose contact and many times starts sparking. CNG is inflammable at room temperature and this spark is sufficient to blow up the car in flames within seconds. Sometimes, the car inmates do not get adequate time to jump off the car.
In view of such serious implications, MORTH should strictly enforce digital monitoring of fitment of CNG kits throughout the country to ensure that only those components are used in retro fitment as are type Approved by test agencies. If they want to use CNG kits, let them prove their designs and systems through proper testing by test agencies as per norms prescribed under CMVR which are similar to UNECE regulations which are internationally recognized. We need to put up a full proof regime in place or else we keep compromising safety at the cost of human lives, charred to death in the event of cars catching fire, in the absence of appropriate kit and its retrofitting.