Sandeep Joshi

DELHI: With petrol prices headed only in one direction -- upward -- India's largest car manufacturer Maruti Udyog Limited is all set to market an alternate fuel technology vehicle that is claimed to be both cost-effective and environment-friendly.

This coming March, the company will launch the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) version of one of its most popular models -- Wagon R -- which it claims will be three times more cost-efficient besides being environment-friendly. And Maruti is likely to market it with the catchphrase: "A four-wheeler that runs at a scooter's cost... ."

To store the LPG cylinder, Maruti has compromised on the luggage storage area. "We have designed a circular cylinder and placed it in the slot meant for the spare tyre, which in turn has been fitted into the luggage unit by minimising wastage of space. Apart from this, there are no other major changes," says a senior Maruti official.

Asserting that high petrol prices would certainly push up sales of the new LPG vehicles, the official claimed that it was the first time an LPG system based on multi-point fuel injection (MPFI) technology was being introduced in the country. "We have the Maruti Omni LPG but that has a carburetted engine. Wagon R LPG model will be a passenger car fully certified for safety and quality."

Disclosing that the LPG version would cost about Rs.35,000 more than its petrol version, the official said: "The car will run around 300 km on a full cylinder and use petrol only to start the engine. Once the engine starts, the driver can switch over to LPG mode by pressing a button."

Explaining that research and designing for the LPG model had been done indigenously and the results had been encouraging during test-drives, the official said re-fuelling was one thing that makes people wary about the new technology. "But this scenario is expected to change soon as it will be made readily available across the country."

"Not only the public sector undertaking but also a major private player is likely to enter this field in a big way. Already over 100 filling and dispensing stations are operating now in 24 cities, where Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore alone account for over 15 outlets each. Moreover, by the end of this year, 50 more cities will be added to the list," the official added.

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