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CNG-Powered Rickshaws Come to the UK

7 July 2006

Tuctuc1
An original Bajaj CNG three-wheeler.

TucTuc Limited announced the launch of Europe’s first TucTuc (motorized three-wheelers, or rickshaws) route service, which will begin official operation on 10 July 2006. Brighton & Hove has been chosen as the test-bed for this service, which is due to be introduced in London in May 2007 and across the rest of the UK and Europe in 2008/2009.

Motorized rickshaws are commonplace in Asia, and, depending upon their age and fuel/engine combination, a serious source of pollution. TucTuc Limited—which has been awarded the first known operator’s licence of its kind outside Asia—is importing low-emission CNG-fueled tuctucs from Bajaj in India.

Tuctuc2
One of 12 wrappings for the new TucTucs.

The 6.5 hp (4.8 kW) 173.5cc engines use a compression ration of 9:1, and deliver 50 miles/gallon equivalent of CNG. Maximum torque is 9.3 Nm (6.9 lb-ft). The tuctucs carry a Euro-4 emissions rating.

The vehicles will refuel at a dedicated filling station in Brighton Marina, which will also be open to the public.

(A hat-tip to Nick Flynn!)

July 7, 2006 in Europe, Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack (1)

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Comments

There is another company coming online now making an all American made three wheeled vehicle that gets 70 mpg using natural gas. It will carry three people and is fully enclosed unlike the Tuc-Tuc. And it performs like a sports car. They include a compressor with the vehicle and it is supposed to get 700 miles on a 10 gallon tank. So starting the week off with a full tank for less than $15 or so is quite a deal not to mention ZERO Pollution and decreasing our dependcy on oil!!!!

Brent: good news! Do you have a link for this?

How do these things look from a safety point of view? What about their place in the regulatory framework? I could imagine riding one of those things to work in the city, but that's only because I live in a dense, inner-city neighborhood where the streets are not too big and the traffic not too fast. I would have a hard time imagining myself riding one of those things down the interstate, and I imagine that most regulators would as well.

Furthermore, these things are currently used like taxicabs -- riders pay professionals to get driven around in them. Would they be used in that manner in the West, or would we use them as personal vehicles instead? If so, how could we get properly sized parking spaces set aside for them, and widespread driver training for them?

Three wheeled vehicles tend to be less stable than four wheelers, so safety and training is an issue.

In truth, the main advantage to using these things over a Prius taxicab is their ability to dart in and out of traffic, getting ahead of the gridlock, based on their smaller size. If we find that such traffic behavior is unreasonable or impractical, then their main advantage becomes moot. They also take up less space, but until architects, road designers and parking garage developers plan around this class of vehicle, users will have a hard time fully taking advantage of this fact.

Well, I also suppose that they might be cheaper than a Prius, though the posting does not list a price. But they are also less capable than a Prius (not highway ready), so a price comparison is rather moot.

Brent,
70 miles per gallon on CNG? How do gallons figure in measuring the quantity of CNG? At what pressure and temperature? Surely measuring by mass would be more effective.
Also, CNG powered vehicles are not zero emissions. They produce at least C02. If the engine is internal combustion then probably NO, CO, and other combustion products.
This might sound like a nitpick but such errors detract from the credibility of your report. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for CNG vehicles: at least until we have to start importing it.

Notice that TucTucs have open sides. Great for cruising the boulevard during the brief summers of the English riviera (sic) - perhaps less so for harsh European winters. They claim they will use "curtains" to keep passengers warm. Right...

They also claim to meet all applicable safety standards. Given the motorization and low top speed, those are presumably the standards that apply to two-wheelers rather than cars. They do offer seatbelts but those are of limited value if you have no crumple zone.

Perhaps the best thing about the whole proposal is the fact that their CNG gas station will be open to the public.

I can't speak for laws in the UK but in the US 3-wheeled vehicles are required to meet the same standards as 2-wheeled vehicles for safety and emissions not the requirements of cars.

Kevin -

the report claims "low emissions", as in: meets Euro 4 when on CNG. Presumably, that means the Indian engine would not meet Euro 4 on gasoline.

The MPG metric is really rather bad for several reasons:

(a) UK and US gallons are different, and most reports do not specify whose unit they are using.

(b) fuel is consumed per unit of distance, the reciprocal is a non-linear function that renders percentage changes meaningless.

(c) a gallon of diesel contains 12% more energy than a gallon of gasoline. It also produces 10% more CO2. Conversely, a gallon of E85 contains 25% less energy than a gallon of gasoline. Methanol is even worse. LPG and DME are liquid only under mild pressure. Gaseous fuels such as CNG and CH2G cannot be sensibly measured by volume at all, only by mass. The simplest and fairest way to compare the tank-to-wheels GHG impact of various fuels is CO2 in g/km or g/mile.

For reference, X MPG(US) equals 9032/X g CO2/mi. For diesel, the conversion is 9973/X g CO2/mi.

I suspect that the 50MPG (presumably imperial?) indicated above are based on an amount of gasoline with equivalent energy content, simply because consumers cannot easily compare X kg CH4/100km to conventional fuel economy.

Frankly, for these slow-moving rickshaws it doesn't matter unless you're an eco-geek. As a passenger, you're paying mostly for the driver and the depreciation of the vehicle.

Motorized rickshaws

That's kind of an oxymoron, since the term "rickshaw" comes from the Japanese "jinrikisha" which literally means "human strength/power vehicle".

The article states equivalent gallon which is based on energy content. Could be either US or Imperial though.

What is the USA import tariff on Oil, gasoline, coal, natural gas and electricity?

Is it equivalent to the $0.54/gal on ethanol?

One would think that import tariffs on high GHG fossil fuels should be equivalent if not much higher.

What are the justifications (other than old fashion protectionism) to impose such a high import tariff (54/179 = 30%) on a relatively clean liquid fuel?

An equivalent tariff would be more than justified, could add about $30 on each imported Oil barrel and bring gasoline retail price to $4+/gal.

Equivalent energy tariff application would promote sales of Hybrids and PHEVs, reduce GHG, increase government revenues, reduce current high USA budget and trade deficits and oil import.

USA's international credibility gap would stop expanding and oil wars could be stopped.

Harvey D. -

trade restrictions of all kinds are just boondoggles for less efficient domestic producers. It's not as if e.g. Exxon wasn't already minting money and still collecting subsidies and/or tax breaks.

First, which countries would you impose your tariffs on, instantly damaging your diplomatic relations with them? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Canada? Norway? Mexico? Brazil?

Second, refiners in third party countries would buy crude from any sources subject to a US tariff at a discount and export finished gasoline to the US at a markup, without weaning the US off oil from that source.

A better strategy would be to focus on the excessive demand for automotive fuels in the US, which has the real driver behind US military activity in the Gulf of Persia for six decades. Gasoline in e.g. Germany hit $6.40 per US gallon this week. Don't tell me the Germans are sooo much richer than the Americans. Perhaps they're just not (quite) as selfish when it comes to energy and CO2 emissions.

Rafael seems to have it all worked out. The Germans aren't as selfish as the Americans, proof being the $ 6.40 a gallon paid in Germany as against the $ 3.00 paid in the States. By that logic, Venezuela must be uber selfish, with a price of 20 cents a gallon ( if this figure is wrong, would someone offer the right price ), and ditto for Saudi Arabia.
Rafael doesn't mention the fact that Germany is a smaller country with way more people per sq.mile, lending itself to the economic and practical use of much more mass transit, inter and intra city. The opposite end of the spectrum is Canada, with a higher gasoline usage per head than the U.S., despite higher prices, because of huge distances and a tiny population.
With the Chinese auto sales up nearly 50 % in the first half of '06 vs '05, i look forward to see where the Chinese rate in Rafael's measure of national selfishness.

The "huge distances" argument is bogus, since the vast majority of trips are short distances and the vast majority of people in these "huge distances" countries live in populated areas.

As for Rafael raising the issue of "selfishness", I believe that refers to the propensity of a country to tax its transportation fuels. Using Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, both oil-rich with vastly different economies than the US or Germany, is also bogus.

Try a good argument instead of silliness.

Vehicle-miles per person (annually)
======================
Canada - 5,546
US - 9,316

US is 68% higher than Canada.


Gallons of fuel per person (annually)
======================
Canada - 264
US - 475

US is 80% higher than Canada.

There goes that one, too, Tan.

Refs.
http://www.tc.gc.ca/pol/en/Report/anre2005/7D_e.htm
http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_04_12.html
http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_04_12.html

Rafael:

As I posted before, US can not impose import tariffs for Canada and Mexico goods, including oil, because of NAFTA agreement. In order to promote domestic production and energy independence, US theoretically could impose blanket import tariff for all imported oil – with Canada and Mexico excluded due to mentioned above NAFTA agreement. However, this is very unlikely. The biggest test of US will to be more energy independent will be the vote of Senate to allow off shore drilling.

As for taxation, there are different approaches around the world. US does not tax any commodity, goods, or service to regulate consumption. The general idea is that it is not government business.

High taxation of automotive fuel in Europe was imposed well before global warming or even oil peak theories were unveiled. The main reason initially was to compensate for scarcity of local resources, of course exploiting the idea that cars are damaging the environment. Very quickly it transformed just into huge source of revenue for the government, surviving even in countries such as GB and Norway after beginning of massive oil exploration. Pronounced suppression of hybrid cars and ever increasing taxes for alternative fuels, such as cleaner burning LPG and NG, suggests just that. Interesting enough, overtaxation of automotive fuels distorted market enough to achieve exactly opposite of important initial reason for overtaxation: switch to way more dirtier diesel engines for personal transportation. As I understand, same heavy taxes are imposed on renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel too.

Andrey -

you're right, European governments did introduce taxes to limit their nations' dependence on foreign oil. Diesel engines are more fuel efficient. Their fuel is still taxed more lightly today, at least by energy content, because the agricultural and haulage lobbies are very strong. Unlike the US situation, in the EU emissions and fuel economy targets have always been set by one and the same agency - this has favored a trade-off between air quality and dependence on foreign oil. Nevertheless, emissions reductions of 80-98% have been achieved in less than 20 years.

Btw, the US does levy fuel taxes, they are just much lower than in Europe. There's also a gas guzzler tax, which can run into thousands of dollars per vehicle - in order to dissuade sales and hence, fuel consumption. Your ideas about US tax philosophy are not entirely accurate.

It is also true that European governments have become fiscally dependent on income from fuel taxes. In Germany, they represent the #2 source of revenue for the federal finance minister. Note that the German states (Laender) are not allowed to raise income taxes, unlike their counterparts in the US and Canada. The dependence on fuel taxes is one reason why biodiesel is now being taxed, although at a much lower rate than mineral fuels. The currently very low tax rate for CNG has been "guaranteed" through 2020.

It is to avoid this dependency trap that I've suggested that any additional fuel taxes raised in the US should be disbursed by way of flat income tax credits. That would turn the exercise into one of straight redistribution of wealth from gas guzzlers to gas misers, regardless of the income level of the vehicle's owner.

It is simply nonsense to state that European governments are actively suppressing hybrid cars. It's just that the fuel economy they offer is not all that much better than that of diesels. Owning a relatively exotic car always represents a risk in terms of service locations and resale value, so most Europeans are sticking with the diesel for now. Note that diesels became popular when Western Europe switched to unleaded gasoline in the late 80s/early 90s, a painful process because all the national governments had to agree. Technological advances such as direct injection and turbocharging have bolstered diesel market share.

US does not tax any commodity, goods, or service to regulate consumption.

Tobacco, for one.

I rode in rickshaws in India. They are efficient and fun to ride, but would be a deathtrap in US streets filled with Hummers and Excursions.

Rafael:

True. Europeans and Japanese manufacturers did wonderful job to make light duty diesel engines better and cleaner. US is way behind in small diesel technology (heavy duty is up to date at least). However, your numbers of 80-98% reduction is for new diesel cars, old ones still pollute, and many years will pass before air quality in European cities will start to improve, like it already begin to happen in US/Canada.

As I know, fuel and vehicle taxation in EU is still set separately by each government. If I remember right, in Holland and GB low prices guarantee for gaseous fuel (LPG?) was reversed, to the great dismay of people who already bought more expensive alt fuel vehicles in participation to absorb the premium cost through cheaper fuel. That saying that at least in some countries revenue collection to government is more important then fuel diversification or vehicular emission reduction.

Revenue neutral gasoline tax, considering vastly inefficient government structures, will be truly “neutral” to the society benefits. Lions share of collected taxes most probably will be used to fund collection and distribution infrastructure. This general inefficiency of operation is the reason why role of the government is kept (at least nominally) to an absolute necessary minimum in US.

And of course transportation fuel is taxed, and more heavily then other goods. In Canada more then in US, no matter that we use our own oil. And yes, there are CAFÉ standards and gas guzzler taxes. The reality is that it does not nearly enough to influence consumption anyhow significantly.

Hybrids. Thre is one place in Europe that does encourage hybrids – London. Considering unpresedentent possibilities hybrid technology promises to European countries (think about PHEV/nuclear power combination in France), I call current lack of governmental insentives “discouragement”. Matter of wording.

Joseph:
Yes, so called “sin taxes” – tobacco, alcohol, gambling. It does not change big picture.

Joseph: Yes, so called “sin taxes” – tobacco, alcohol, gambling. It does not change big picture.

But you said:
"US does not tax any commodity, goods, or service to regulate consumption."

Lots of things are taxed in the US - some at very high rates. There are often many reasons for those taxes. So I don't think any blamket statement can be made about them, especially since taxation occurs not only on a federal level, but on state and a variety of local levels as well. Can't generalize about it.

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Bye
Naeem Ashraf
Pakistan

Whith a 3 wheeler like this who needs a car..........?

here is the link www.ammarmotors.com

suggestions and comments most welcome

Brent,

I appreciate the thread on rickshaws here. I have a business down in Houston, Texas (USA) that provides tip based short distance rides on three wheeled motorized rickshaws. We don't have an established route, but at many city events, we work alongside METRO and lines have actually been forming for Ricky rides for more personalized, door-to-door service.

I worked on my business plan for three years prior to our actual launch June 2007. Bringing a vehicle into the US is a pain in having to deal with the EPA, DOT and the customs in both countries. We’ve been very disappointed in the initial product quality and reliability on our first design and have a new and improved model being designed.

One of the biggest nuisances of the pedicabs is their wreckless disregard of the law. Weaving through traffic, driving on sidewalks, blowing through stop signs and lights, going the wrong way on one way streets, are some of the reasons they are dangerous (All of this without seatbelts or helmets for the passengers). One of the responses listed these behaviors as an advantage which i strongly disagree with. I've seen wheels folded in half in the middle of the street with the pedicab loaded two high in the seats with no safety belts or helmets. This is was in a busy street where they were already causing traffic delays cruising at maybe 8mph.

Our vehicles do not drive on freeways due to the safety concerns, but provide short distance rides in the CBD area and special events, parties and weddings (hourly rates). Taxis accept us, pedicabs feel threatened, and the city is close to adopting a much needed ordinance regulating us and the bicycled pedicabs.

I think the US is ready for these vehicles and from what I have experienced, if operated safely with the proper type of vehicles, their popularity will continue to grow.

Thanks
Chris Laflin
President
Ricky Rickshaw Rides
[email protected]
www.rickyrides.com

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