Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 1st 2013 Contents A9
December 1, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
CHARLES KONG SOO
Visham Babwah, president of the
T&T Automotive Dealers Association
(TTADA), says he fully supports
Opposition MP Colm Imbert s call for
the Government to give tax exemp-
tions for hybrid vehicles as they are
more cost-effective than Compressed
Natural Gas (CNG).
Babwah said there were "serious
problems" with CNG. He said there
were safety concerns to consider, such
as improper installation of the kit by
unauthorised people. If not properly
installed, CNG tanks could explode.
Imbert made the recommendation
during the debate to confirm the Excise
Duty (Compressed Natural Gas Order,
2013) in Parliament on November 22.
Imbert criticised the Government s
$500 million project to construct 22
CNG stations and convert 17,500 vehi-
cles to CNG as a waste of taxpayers
money. This project is expected to
come on stream in 2015.
Babwah said the world was moving
towards hybrid and electric vehicles.
"I m in full support of the recom-
mendation to get tax exemptions for
these alternate fuel vehicles.
"I asked Finance Minister Larry
Howai and Energy Minister Kevin
Ramnarine what would be the cost to
build the CNG stations, infrastructure
and the cost to convert vehicles, but
got no answer.
"We don t want to go down this
road where we spend millions of dol-
lars putting in infrastructure, and ten
years down the road we realise we
still have problems..."
Babwah said there were other mod-
ern technologies developing such as
Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) which ran on
hydrogen, and the Government should
keep abreast of new technology and
see which would suit the country the
Babwah said he hoped that there
would not be a monopoly on the
awarding of contracts for installation
of the CNG units.
At the CNG excise duty debate in
Parliament, Chaguanas West MP Jack
Warner questioned whether the mil-
lion-dollar deal between state-owned
Vehicle Management Company of T&T
(Vemcott) and a US-based company
Saladin Group to supply CNG conver-
sion kits was the reason behind Gov-
ernment s push for CNG conversion.
He questioned which government
minister was benefitting from the mil-
Cost benefits from CNG
Guardian associate editor Sandra
Chouthi said the cost benefits of her
CNG-powered Wingroad wagon were
incomparable and had enabled her to
slash her fuel bill by more than half at
She had been an advocate for
CNG since the "Jurassic era" of
the technology 20 years ago and
was now on her fourth CNG-
"The cost saving is incompa-
rable. I spent $7 to fill up my tank
at the Beetham CNG filling-point.
"I spend an average of $10 a
day, $300 a month for CNG com-
pared to $1,000 for gas previous-
"I m pleased because it shows
in my bottom line, and if it means
I can save a dollar or two I m
Chouthi said there was no loss
in power and navigating hilly roads
wasn t an issue.
One of the few drawbacks to
using CNG, she said, was the sac-
rifice in trunk space to hold two
Chouthi said the conversion cost
$10,000 and was done by Auto-
motive Components Ltd in Arima,
the only authorised CNG instal-
lation engineers in Trinidad.
She said the down time waiting
to fill up with CNG had improved
dramatically from the two-hour
wait at gas stations in the past
with old malfunctioning pumps,
four cars at the pumps, and eight
taxis lined up outside.
Chouthi said she understood
that the culture and mindset of
Trinidadians made it reluctant for
them to switch to CNG, especially
with the "Fast and Furious" crowd.
Babwah said hybrid vehicles
were "a little more expensive" to
import but they burned as much
as 60 per cent less fuel than the
He said a used Honda Civic
hybrid cost around $125,000 and
if the motor vehicle tax and VAT
were removed, it would cost
The Toyota Prius hybrid, priced
at $135,000, would cost $120,000
with tax exemptions.
A Toyota T&T employee said
the Ministry of Energy had pur-
chased a new Toyota Prius hybrid
from the company and received
tax exemptions on it.
He said the price of the Toyota
hybrid modes (1.8 cc engine) was
$408,000, and the 1.5 cc engine
Toyota Prius hybrid C hatchback
was $255,000. At this price, he
said, it was a bit expensive for the
The employee said if the
exemptions given to CNG vehicles
were applied to hybrid vehicles,
the price could drop significantly
from $408,000 to $260,000.
He said there was almost zero
pollution from a hybrid vehicle
and depending on driving condi-
tions, a drive between Port-of-
Spain and Mayaro would only
burn "a corkful of fuel."
The employee said the Toyota
Prius hybrid could achieve an
economy rate of 50 miles per gal-
lon compared to a conventional
similar sized vehicle typically using
25 to 30 miles per gallon.
He said the Prius hybrid saved
more than 50 per cent on engine
wear, required less maintenance,
and the service time was extended
for the customer.
Maxi men: Foot our
bill for CNG kits
President of the Route Two
Maxi Taxi Association Linus Phillip
said the association s position had-
n t changed in its request that the
Government foot the bill for their
CNG conversion kits.
Phillip said, "We re willing to
go CNG once we get a good, reli-
able product that is properly
installed in the vehicle and we feel
that the Government should pay
for the conversion.
"It would be an incentive for
drivers to switch as it would be
harder for them to source the
$50,000 for the conversion kits
as they re already burdened with
heavy instalments and insurance."
He said it would be a good
investment for the Government
as it would get drivers to convert
to CNG faster, and the Govern-
ment would recoup its money in
the first year.
Phillip said by his calculation
Government spent $90,000 on
fuel subsidies for a 24-seater
maxi taxi annually.
However, he said, if Govern-
ment spent $50,000 instead to
convert the maxi taxi to CNG, it
would be a win-win situation for
He said the CNG maxi taxi
conversion had to be evaluated
fully to determine whether it
could pull a full load of passen-
gers or navigate hilly terrain.
...back calls for tax exemptions on hybrid vehicles
slam Govt CNG plan
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