Abu Dhabi taxi drivers forced to queue 40 minutes for CNG

A lack of compressed natural gas (CNG) filing terminals at petrol stations across the country leaves taxi drivers with a struggle to fill up their vehicles.

The lack of CNG stations in Abu Dhabi means taxi drivers struggle to keep their cars filled up daily. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // A lack of compressed natural gas (CNG) filing terminals at petrol stations across the country leaves taxi drivers with a struggle to fill up their vehicles.

The city’s cabbies said that since a full tank of gas only lasts 90 kilometres, they are forced to refill their cars three or four times a day, and as there are so few petrol stations with CNG pumps, they have to queue up to 40 minutes each time.

Lal Bahadur Karki, who has driven a CNG-powered cab for two years, said that last week he waited for almost 90 minutes at the petrol station in Al Bateen for the pumps.

“Three to four times, we fill the gas each day. When we lose our peak hours filling up, it becomes hard to meet our monthly targets,” he said.

“If all gas stations had a terminal with CNG, we wouldn’t face any problems.”

There are 17 CNG filling stations in Abu Dhabi, with plans to equip eight more by the end of the year, said Emirates Transport, which is converting taxis from petrol to CNG hybrid engines.

Dubai has five CNG stations, while there are not thought to be any in the Northern Emirates.

“There are very few gas stations in Dubai and Northern Emirates, so when we go there we always come back on petrol, which consumes more money,” said Mr Karki.

The taxis are fitted out with hybrid engines, which can be switched to petrol-powered combustion when the natural gas tank is empty.

The drivers receive a larger share of their taxi’s takings if they reach a target for CNG usage.

Suraj Khadka, another cabbie, said his taxi’s earnings target is Dh14,000 a month. If he hits his CNG usage target, he gets 25 per cent of this amount as a commission. If he does not meet this target, drivers only earn about 20 per cent.

“The peak hours lost filling gas is affecting us a lot in meeting these targets,” said Mr Khadka. “These waiting hours eat into our working hours and hamper us from meeting our targets, so our commissions are cut.”

A lack of CNG stations meant he had to use more petrol, said Mr Khadka.

“When we travel to Dubai and the Northern Emirates, we hardly find any CNG gas stations. If we find one, we can’t fill up if passengers are in [the taxi].”

Another taxi driver, Suresh Mishra, said: “Whenever we go to Western Region of Abu Dhabi we come back on petrol due to absence of CNG stations.

“This is truly a clean energy, so I believe more CNG stations must be opened.”

This, he said, would also benefit other motorists who use CNG cars, as well as the environment.

Mahir Al Sayed Ali, technical manager for the Emirates Transport, said the authority had converted 5,400 vehicles to CNG, including taxis and buses.

The CNG pilot project started in July 2010. Emirates Transport is also carrying out an experiment on converting diesel vehicles and buses.

As well as the new CNG terminals in Abu Dhabi, he said that Emirates Transport was, in conjunction with Adnoc, planning to open two centres in Sharjah and the Western Region to convert petrol cars to CNG-power.