Engineers at Maruti Suzuki's R&D centre in Gurgaon are close to developing the country's first dual-fuel engine, running on petrol and CNG, that will shrink a vehicle's fuel bill to a fourth, making it one of the cheapest to run anywhere in the world.
The optimism is palpable at India's No 1 carmaker, whose technicians are close to developing an engine that will use multi-point fuel injection (MPFI) technology in CNG mode, just as it does in petrol mode, eliminating loss of power and efficiency associated with current retro-fitted CNG engines.
Externally fitted to petrol engines, today's CNG kits supply fuel in a single flow, thus losing out on the benefit of multi-point nature of the engine. So, the new engine will bring a marked change in the way CNG-fuelled cars run on MPFI technology that revolutionised petrol car driving at the beginning of this century. For an average car driver, this means better pick up and, above all, huge savings in fuel bills.
This is how the technology works. In the engine being developed by Maruti Suzuki, the gas will be injected into the engine through multiple points, leading to better utilisation of fuel. The gas injectors will be integrated into the engine to directly spray the CNG, leading to higher pick up and reduction in consumption.
This will result in CNG-run cars displaying higher power just like the new-generation petrol cars, dispelling the belief that CNG-fuelled vehicles are slow and fail to perform at high speeds. This new breed of CNG-fired engines will reduce running cost to a fourth compared to petrol cars, translating into one of the lowest fuel bills in the world.
Today, a CNG kit is externally fitted to an engine after the car is dispatched from the factory, mostly at company dealerships. All CNG cars in the market such as the Maruti Alto, Hyundai Santro, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Innova have CNG kits attached to the engine externally.
Improved burning of fuel in Maruti Suzuki's new engines will decrease emission and qualify them for Bharat Standard-IV emission norms that will be in force from April 1, 2010. What may work against the new technology is the extra price that customers will have to pay for cars strapped with the new engines.
Maruti Suzuki invested in dual-fuel engines after market feedback convinced the company that hybrid and electric cars are not feasible due to their high price tags that led to low customer interest.