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Bajaj Working on CNG Motorcycle

Indian giant Bajaj, which builds Triumph’s Speed 400, will soon launch a motorcycle powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), according to a report by Cycle World magazine. Two concepts are currently being developed, one of which should be on sale on the Indian home market in June.

Bajaj has form with CNG vehicles, being a well-established maker of CNG-powered autorickshaws, increasingly favoured in Indian cities thanks to their lower emissions. CNG is a fossil fuel, but emits fewer emissions than equivalent petrol or diesel engines. It’s also a cheaper fuel, and is more widely available in India than in many other countries.

The downside of CNG is that it’s less dense than petrol or diesel, so needs a bigger tank, which must be sealed to keep the compressed, volatile fuel from leaking. That’s challenging for a bike, but Bajaj’s engineers have squeezed a tank in between the steering head and under the rider’s seat. Even so, range is limited, so an auxiliary small petrol tank is included to extend the mileage between refills. With a bespoke trellis frame, repositioned petrol tank and airbox, it’s clear that the CNG bike has been designed from scratch.

Will it work? Against the promise of cheaper fuel, lower emissions and better fuel consumption, a CNG bike will cost more to buy, need more maintenance, have less power and a smaller range than the petrol equivalent.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, thought that whatever CNG’s suitability for India, its prospects for the Western motorcycle market was more limited. “This sounds remarkably like LPG powered vehicles, not something we’re familiar with on two wheels. On four wheels LPG, with two fuel tanks, one for LPG and another for whatever the engine was supposed to run on originally, was something of a craze back in the last century. Why? Because of the difference in tax. As a power source LPG or CNG is not as energy dense as petrol, so performance is often noticeably gutless, and petrol is still needed for starting. This possibly explains why LPG conversions were popular with Range Rover owners, and other gas guzzlers with plenty of room for auxiliary fuel tanks. Not so sure about 2 wheelers.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top mage courtesy of Bajaj