Why dont we have automatic CNG or LPG cars in the market

I started my hunt for a brand-new car with a factory fit CNG/LPG kit. That’s when I noticed, none of the manufactures offer automatic transmission option in their CNG/LPG line up and this surprised me.

BHPian Nishith recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hello All,

I am currently on a look-out for ways to reduce my fuel expenses on our (2014) Maruti Celerio AMT or to replace it with an automatic transmission car that runs on lesser expensive fuels (CNG/LPG). This is primarily due to the high running cost of the petrol vehicle. We see an average running of 1,000KM – 1,300KM/month within city and this brings my fuel expenses close to 10K per-month.

After a test-drive of the Tata Nexon EV and Tata Tigor EV my heart is inclined towards getting the Nexon EV, as we have an on-gird solar set-up at home, leveraging this I can essentially run my car for free. However, following are the reasons I am holding myself back from getting it:

  • Extremely high upfront initial cost – Paying close to 17 lakh OTR for a city use car seems too much for me.
  • Uncertainty in the car’s maintenance expenses post the 8 year/1,60,000 KM warranty period, while Tata executives claim that even if there is battery issue, only the cell that failed will be replaced and each cell costs approx.– 10K. But the speed at which the EV technology is evolving I am not sure if the spares for the current technology will even be available after 8 years.
  • No idea about the re-sale value of the car if I intend to sell it in after the warranty period.
  • Dad and wife might find it difficult to maneuver the Nexon in Bangalore’s congested road and traffic, as they are used to dimensions of a hatch back.
  • A real-life range of 250KM makes it a strictly city use car (Yes, I am a few of those who prefers to have least breaks while on the highway).
  • We own a Hyundai Accent that we are using for our highway drives. If I spend 17 lakh rupees on a city use car, the upgrade for the Accent is at least 5 years away and I will have to continue my highway runs in a car with no safety features and use a (5-star safety rated) car for my city runs (I would prefer the reverse combination).

Simultaneously, while I was exploring at more cost-effective ways to reduce my fuel expenses. I thought of getting an after market CNG/LPG kit fit in the Celerio (I don’t mind losing the boot-space as this is purely a city-use car). The installation of these kits from branded companies like Lovato would cost me around 50K to 60K, this made more financial sense as CNG costs around ₹55/kg in Bangalore and I am told I’ll get 7 to 10 additional kms/kg on CNG over petrol (this brings the running cost to ₹2.70/km on CNG, against the current running cost of ₹7.7/km on petrol).
However, while I was taking my service advisor’s opinion (from Mandovi Motors) on this and he mentioned if I get an after-market CNG/LPG system fitted I cannot get my car serviced in any Maruti authorized service centers thereafter.

Additionally, I am not sure if I have to get in touch with the RTO for any updates on my car’s RC once I add the CNG/LPG kit.

Considering all these blockers, I started my hunt for a brand-new car with a factory fit CNG/LPG kit. That’s when I noticed, none of the manufactures offer automatic transmission option in their CNG/LPG line up and this surprised me. There might be a considerable chunk of audience in the market looking for this combination. Even more surprising was the fact that I couldn’t find news about any new launches in this combination either.

I want to understand from the experts in this forum if this is a technical limitation in getting an automatic option in CNG/LPG fuel or is it a strategy from the manufacturers to restrict automatic options only to petrol & diesel engines? (lets excluding EVs as they are and will be available only in automatic transmission). In my understanding, considering the expertise Maruti has in CNG cars and automatics. It is not a difficult task for them to get this option into production, but not sure why they aren’t.

Additionally, if anyone has installed a CNG/LPG kit on their automatic car looking for their suggestions/feedback (pros & cons) and guidance whether I should go for it or not, also about the RTO formalities involved to make this legal.

Here’s what BHPian prajwalmr62 had to say on the matter:

Simply because most of the companies moved out of CNG game.

CNG prices have been increasing steadily and now it is just 20-25% less than petrol, making it less of an alternative each day. Add to the initial cost and maintenance, difference is negligible.

Also, CNG customers are a minority, and same goes to automatic customers. There’s a tiny overlap with these two groups, which companies (MS and Hyundai) are not interested to fill-in.

Here’s what BHPian Everlearner had to say on the matter:

From what ever knowledge I have gained online, there are no technical limitations, but the actual reason is:

  • The automatic cars generally have lower pickup when compared to manual option except for DSG and other advanced dual clutch systems.
  • The CNG cars have lower pickup compared to petrol and diesel cars.

When both 1 and 2 are combined, we might be looking at seriously under-performing cars which may not sell in good numbers for manufacturers to invest in them, but it is still technically possible.

That said, I have read on this very forum itself about fitting a CNG kit in an automatic Honda Civic. The bigger engine and a better transmission of the Civic might have covered the shortfalls explained above.

I drive an automatic car and I’m very conscious of running costs. I was always hoping that some manufacturer will come up with this, but with the pace EVs are progressing, this will be a moot point in near future.

Here’s what BHPian youknowitbetter had to say on the matter:

I think the issue is more so pertaining with the cost/on-road pricing. Typically, the CNG/LPG models are made more so for commercial cars (which are typically 1-2 gen old cars).. In case of private vehicles, the CNG as an option are offered on affordable range of cars wherein the customer is price sensitive. The factory fitted CNG/LPG cars cost little more than after market ones (and are already an additional cost for a petrol engine) thereby increasing the on-road pricing. Adding an AMT or an automatic transmission, will increase the cost further and may not result in significant sales for OEMs. This is also due to the fact that overall percentage share of factory fitted CNG/LPG cars compared to overall sales number is very small or maybe a fraction.

I don’t suspect a technical reason as I have seen quite fancy and sophisticated automatics refuelling at CNG stations in Delhi.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.