By on February 15, 2010

While the world is trying to come to grips with pedal-gate, tiny Hong Kong is attempting an exorcism of its own gremlins: 18,000 (mostly Toyota Crown) taxis and 2,000 minibuses are propelled by LPG, liquefied petroleum gas. The gas is lugged around in a large tank housed in the trunk of the taxis, much to the chagrin of suitcase-schlepping tourists. The real problem is: The LPG mobiles are breaking down in wholesale fashion, China Daily reports. Hundreds a month.

The Hong Kong government set up a special task force to investigate. Nobody is blaming Toyota – this time.

Enraged taxi drivers point fingers at Sinopec, the mostly state-owned Chinese energy giant, which owns seven of the 12 dedicated LPG stations in Hong Kong. The drivers say, the Chinese gas is contaminated. The drivers boycotted Sinopec. The rivaling stations promptly ran out of gas.

Sinopec did react no different than car companies that are faced with unexplained ghosts. Sinopec pointed their fingers right back at the drivers and said they don’t maintain their vehicles properly.

Sinopec did their own testing of the gas, and found no problems. In the meantime, the Hong Kong government took samples and sent them to an independent laboratory in Germany for testing. Final results will be announced next week.

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11 Comments on “Hong Kong Battles Strange Ghosts In A Bottle...”

  • avatar

    Gas problems aside, I think the concept of a special tailor made taxi cab is very interesting. I guess it’s the japanese equivalent of the Panther platform, it seems to be based on an ancient Toyota Crown platform from the early 80’s, but continually updated.

  • avatar

    It is a pain trying to fit luggage into a CNG taxi, but I love the idea of an omnivorous vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      In Australia, LPG is freely available at gas stations at half the cost of petrol. I had a V8 Land Rover Discovery converted by putting an LPG tank where the gas tank had been and adding a small petrol tank inside the rear fender. Range was increased 50% and costs almost halved. Holdens and Falcons are available from the factory as LPG equipped. Why is this a non-existent option in the U.S.? Why was no infrastructure ever begun?

    • 0 avatar

      Institutionalized mediocrity.

  • avatar

    Man, look at the large windows on those taxis.
    Remember when most 4 door sedans sold in the US had large, easy to look through green houses?
    Then the design concept of ‘Every vehicle must have a coupe roof and a high belt line’ took over and we are all squinting through narrow gun slit windows.
    So we gave up outward visibility for cool, sporty looks.

    • 0 avatar

      Tapering the sides inboard primarily serves an aerodynamic purpose. Styling is usually built around those concerns.

    • 0 avatar

      Human ergonomics and outward visibility should take precedence over aerodynamics else we will someday be lying prone in low tube cars and looking at hi res video screen images of the road ahead fed from cameras.

  • avatar

    It shouldn’t be a pain to load luggage in an LPG equipped taxi if they opt for the toroidal tank that fits in the spare tire well… which is cavernous on a late 80’s / early 90’s design like the Toyota Crown.

    Of course, most taxi drivers are cheapskates and opt for the cylindrical tank, which takes up more space than a quartet of subwoofers.

    I wonder what kind of breakdown it is? If the fuel system is gumming up, then that could be Sinopec’s fault. If it’s engine failures… then it’s not contaminated fuel so much as either substandard fuel or poor tuning.

  • avatar

    That is a curious; the problems related to slow burn rate of propane causing valve and valve seat wear have been largely solved since the advent of unleaded gasoline. Without knowing what the breakdowns actually are its hard to say what the culprit could be.
    Using LP for a fleet is a brilliant move in regards to emissions, in increasing longevity of the engine and increasing service intervals and so reducing maintenance costs.

  • avatar

    Improperly graded propane with high propylene levels create all sorts of problems with internal combustion engines. US and Canadian regulations call for HD5 in commercial applications. HD5 contains 5% or less propylene and other contaminates. HD10 contains greater than 5% and will cause fuel system pressure regulators and carburetors to gum up quickly. Heavy deposits are left in the propane fuel tank as well. A supplier, if by accident, providing HD10 could create a large scale situation similar to what is occurring in Hong Kong. It will be of interest to her what the German’s find in their testing.

  • avatar

    Why can’t the taxi drivers just put a big basket on the roof for luggage?

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