Cars that run on cooking gas are cruising the streets of Phnom Penh - they're cheaper,
safer and less harmful to the environment.
A private garage in Phnom Penh - Phirom Modern Technology Garage - started making
additions to car engines so they can run on ordinary cooking gas. The garage is the
first in Cambodia to use the technology, but now many garages in Phnom Penh are following
suit and the feedback has been encouraging. In particular, for taxis traveling long
distances each day.
"The cost of conversion is $450, but once the car switches to gas, running costs
are halved," says Noey Phirom, owner of the garage.
Just as important, he says, is that the cars do not emit petrol fumes and are less
harmful to the environment. Once the gas runs through the engine, it is released
into the atmosphere as water and air.
The conversion doesn't affect how the engine runs, meaning drivers can still run
their cars on petrol, should their gas supplies run out mid-journey.
The gas can be purchased at several conversion garages in Phnom Penh, and in Kampong
Cham, Siem Reap and Battambang.
Chin Nga, who drives his taxi regularly from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang, is saving
money. A return trip used to cost $15 of petrol; on gas, the trip costs $7.
A Phnom Penh businessman, who declined to be named, also had his car changed to save
money. "I changed it because I need to use it every day," he said.
Leang Sokha, chief mechanic at the garage, says there have been no complaints from
customers. Gas-run cars run exactly as they would on petrol, he says.
Phirom's garages alone have modified about 400 cars - from Land Cruisers to taxis
- since three of his mechanics returned from a two-year workshop in Bangkok, Thailand,
where they were taught the technology.
To modify the car, an additional mechanism - the "heart" - is inserted
and connected to the engine.
It's called the heart because it pumps gas throughout the engine in the same manner
as the human heart does blood. It is connected to a large gas cylinder, which sits
in the trunk of the car. It also has sensors that automatically disconnect the gas
tube if they detect a collision or significant impact.
Phirom said that there were some errors in the past due to engine incompatibility,
but the system is now very reliable.
He said his garage is now co-operating with PTT Gas Company to meet demand in the
provinces. The heart and other supporting equipment are imported from a Japanese
company based in Thailand.
Leng Thun Yuthea, director general of transportation at the Ministry of Public Works
and Transport (MPWT), said garages would need a permit from the ministry to modify
cars to run on gas, but the permit is still being drafted.
Phirom said he will seek a permit from the MPWT soon. The last four months have shown
the quality of his new service to the public, he said.
Converted cars are already popular in Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China and parts