Rising fuel prices and growing environmental concerns are driving interest in alternative fuel vehicles in India. Petrol and diesel costs have surged dramatically over the past decade, putting pressure on consumers and businesses relying on traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. At the same time, India’s rapid urbanization and industrialization have led to dangerously high levels of air pollution in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. This toxic air causes significant health problems and degrades quality of life for citizens. 

In response, the Indian government and auto industry have promoted natural gas and electric vehicles as cleaner alternatives to petrol and diesel. Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have already become popular options for public transportation like buses, taxis, and auto-rickshaws. Now CNG cars and light commercial vehicles are gaining traction among cost-conscious consumers seeking relief from fluctuating fuel prices. Electric vehicles (EVs) are also arriving on the market, albeit at a slower pace due to high costs and lack of charging infrastructure.

As buyers evaluate their options, CNG vehicles present a compelling value proposition. CNG enjoys advantages in upfront costs, fuel costs, refueling time, emissions, and overall convenience compared to early EV models available in India. For cost-sensitive Indian consumers needing personal or commercial transportation, CNG vehicles currently offer a practical and affordable solution for reducing dependence on expensive petrol and diesel while moving towards a cleaner energy future with CNG.

Quick Comparison: EVs vs CNG Vehicles

FeatureCNG VehiclesElectric Vehicles
Initial CostGenerally lower initial cost than EVs.Higher upfront cost, but may be offset by incentives.
Fuel CostLower cost per kilometer; stable pricing due to government control.Generally lower running costs, depending on electricity rates.
MaintenanceSimpler and cheaper due to mechanical simplicity; fewer moving parts.Potentially higher due to complex electronics and battery systems.
InfrastructureWidespread availability with over 6,200 stations.Limited charging infrastructure with around 1,000 stations.
Refueling/Charging TimeQuick refueling, taking only a few minutes similar to petrol/diesel.Longer charging times, ranging from 30 minutes (fast charging) to several hours.
EmissionsLower emissions compared to gasoline/diesel; produces greenhouse gasses but less than traditional fuels.Zero tailpipe emissions; well-to-wheel emissions depend on the electricity source.
PerformanceComparable to gasoline vehicles; no significant compromise on power.Smooth acceleration with higher torque; performance depends on model.
LongevityLong service life, often exceeding 200,000 kilometers.Battery life varies; replacement can be costly but technology is improving.
RangeDependent on tank size but generally less range anxiety due to more stations.Range per charge is improving, but still a concern due to fewer charging options.

Cost Comparison

When considering the total cost of ownership, CNG vehicles have a clear economic advantage over electric vehicles in the Indian market. The upfront purchase price of a new CNG car is substantially lower, often 40-50% cheaper than a comparable electric vehicle. The lower initial investment makes CNG cars more accessible to the average Indian buyer and reduces financing costs.  

Ongoing fuel costs are another area where CNG excels. With gasoline prices frequently rising, CNG offers stability at around half the price per kilometer traveled. Government-controlled CNG pricing prevents the extreme fluctuations seen in petrol and diesel rates. For high-mileage drivers, the fuel savings with CNG add up significantly over the life of the vehicle.

Maintenance is simpler and cheaper for CNG cars as well. The mechanical simplicity of CNG systems reduces repair costs, unlike the sophisticated electronics and battery packs in electric cars. With fewer moving parts, CNG engines have a long service life, often exceeding 200,000 kilometers before requiring major repairs.

So for budget-conscious Indian families and fleet operators, CNG represents the most affordable form of private transportation. The total savings in purchase price, fuel, and maintenance make CNG vehicles a prudent financial decision compared to electric cars. As long as this cost advantage exists, CNG will remain the go-to fuel for most Indians.

Infrastructure Availability

CNG vehicles have a huge advantage over EVs when it comes to fueling infrastructure in India. There are over 6,200 CNG stations across the country, making CNG widely accessible for consumers. Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, and Lucknow have extensive CNG fueling stations. On the other hand, India has only installed around 1,000 EV charging stations so far, which are concentrated mainly in a handful of major metros.

The lack of charging infrastructure across India causes range anxiety for EV owners, limiting how far they can travel. CNG vehicle owners don’t face such issues since CNG stations are already widespread. CNG fueling is quick and convenient, taking just a few minutes to fill up. EV charging is much slower in comparison, often taking hours to fully charge the battery. This again restricts mobility for EV owners who have to wait long periods while their car charges. 

Overall, the established CNG infrastructure provides a major advantage over EVs at the current stage. Until charging stations become as commonplace as petrol pumps, CNG vehicles present a more viable option for most Indian consumers who desire flexibility and convenience when fueling their cars. The existing CNG infrastructure supports the adoption of CNG vehicles across India.

Refueling/Charging Time

One of the major advantages of CNG vehicles is the quick refueling time compared to the lengthy charging periods required for electric vehicles. CNG cars can be refueled in just a few minutes, similar to how long it takes to fill up a petrol or diesel car. This makes refueling during a trip simple and convenient. 

On the other hand, fully recharging an electric vehicle battery takes hours. Most electric cars take 6-12 hours for a full charge with a standard charger. Even with fast charging technology, it still takes 30-60 minutes to charge to 80%. For consumers used to quickly refueling at petrol pumps, the long charging times for EVs represent a major inconvenience.

This difference in refueling versus recharge times makes CNG vehicles much better suited for driving long distances. CNG car owners can conveniently refuel as needed during a trip. EV owners face range anxiety and the need for lengthy charging stopovers every few hundred kilometers. 

Overall, the quick refueling capability gives CNG cars a strong advantage over EVs when it comes to driver convenience and practicality, especially for Indian consumers used to the freedom to refuel frequently and rapidly.

Emissions Comparison

While electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, CNG vehicles also represent a dramatic reduction in emissions compared to traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles. 

CNG is a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline or diesel. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, on an energy-equivalent basis, CNG reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 90-97%, carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 35-60%, and non-methane organic gas emissions by 50-75% compared to gasoline and diesel powered vehicles.

Although CNG vehicles do emit greenhouse gasses from the tailpipe, their well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions are an estimated 15-20% lower than gasoline or diesel vehicles. CNG vehicles therefore offer a viable transitional solution while electric vehicle technology continues to develop.

The emissions advantages of CNG make it an environmentally friendly fuel, especially as a replacement for older, more polluting vehicles. Although electric vehicles offer zero tailpipe emissions, CNG represents a practical, affordable way for consumers to reduce their transportation emissions in the near-term.


CNG vehicles, especially those with factory-fitted CNG kits, offer excellent performance that is comparable to traditional gasoline vehicles. The power output of CNG engines is very similar to petrol engines, so acceleration and pickup is not compromised. Many car manufacturers like Maruti Suzuki now offer CNG variants of their popular models like the WagonR and Ertiga using intelligent injection systems that seamlessly switch between CNG and petrol modes. These factory-fitted CNG vehicles maintain the original engine warranty and go through rigorous testing to validate performance.

In terms of drivability, CNG cars have a similar feel to petrol cars with smooth gear shifts and throttle response. The factory-installed CNG kits are designed to deliver optimal performance without any lag. CNG fuel systems have advanced over the years allowing precise fuel metering and injection timing to match petrol engine power delivery. This makes the CNG mode driving experience very similar to petrol.

The key benefit of CNG is lower maintenance costs due to the cleaner burning fuel. CNG does not contaminate or dilute the engine oil like petrol does, so oil changes are required less frequently. Spark plugs also last longer. With a well-maintained CNG vehicle, performance can be sustained for years with lower overall upkeep costs compared to traditional fuels.

EV Challenges in India

Electric vehicles face several challenges in the Indian market that have limited their adoption compared to CNG vehicles.

  1. High Upfront Costs – The starting price of most electric vehicles in India is substantially higher than comparable CNG models. For example, the popular Tata Nexon EV has an ex-showroom starting price of over ₹14 lakh compared to just ₹7.5 lakh for the CNG version. This significant price differential makes EVs unaffordable for most buyers.
  2. Battery Replacement Concerns – EV batteries degrade over time and may need replacement after 5-8 years. The high cost of replacing battery packs, which could be upwards of ₹5 lakh, adds to the total cost of ownership. CNG vehicles do not face this issue.
  3. Range Anxiety – Most affordable EVs in India have a range of under 200 km on a single charge. This causes range anxiety, especially when undertaking long journeys or with limited charging options. CNG vehicles, on the other hand, have a range over 300 km and can be quickly refueled.
  4. Charging Infrastructure – India has around 1,000 public EV charging stations, concentrated mainly in large cities. This is inadequate for the needs of most EV owners. However, CNG stations are widely available across the country, numbering over 6,200.

The EV ecosystem in India is still at a nascent stage. Unless these challenges are addressed, EVs will struggle to gain mass acceptance compared to the practicality of CNG vehicles for most Indian buyers. But in the long run, with supportive policies and infrastructure, EVs could eventually surpass CNG cars.

Government Policies

The Indian government has enacted various policies that promote the use of CNG vehicles. Some key initiatives include:

  • The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has set a target to expand India’s CNG infrastructure to 10,000 stations by 2030. This will significantly improve access and drive adoption of CNG vehicles.
  • Under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme, the government offers subsidies for purchasing factory-fitted CNG vehicles. This makes their upfront cost more affordable.
  • Several state governments provide incentives like road tax and registration fee exemptions for CNG vehicles. Delhi, Gujarat, and Maharashtra offer the highest subsidies.
  • CNG kits for petrol cars are exempted from excise duty and sales tax in some states. This encourages retrofitting existing vehicles to run on CNG.
  • Public transportation systems like buses, taxis, and auto-rickshaws receive priority permits and licenses if they switch to CNG. This is driving rapid adoption in cities like Delhi.
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has approved a lower 28% GST rate for CNG vehicles, versus 43% for petrol/diesel cars. This closes the price gap substantially.
  • The government is piloting schemes to set up CNG stations at existing petrol pumps. This will improve last-mile availability and access.

Overall, these supportive regulations and incentives reflect India’s policy direction favoring wider CNG vehicle use as a cleaner and more economical mobility solution.

Market Analysis

The Indian automobile market has seen rapid growth in CNG vehicle sales over the past decade, while electric vehicles still represent a small fraction of overall sales. In 2022, CNG passenger vehicle sales were estimated at over 550,000 units, representing a nearly 30% year-over-year increase. In comparison, electric passenger vehicle sales reached around 50,000 units in 2022. 

Several factors account for the dominance of CNG vehicles:

  • Lower Upfront Cost – CNG kits add only Rs 50,000-90,000 to a petrol or diesel base model, whereas EVs have a price premium of Rs 5-10 lakhs over comparable internal combustion engine models. This makes CNG vehicles more affordable for price-conscious Indian buyers.
  • Wider Model Availability – Most major car manufacturers like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors offer CNG variants across their lineup. EV options remain limited to just a handful of models.
  • Established Fueling Infrastructure – There are over 6,200 CNG stations across India compared to under 1,000 EV charging points. Drivers have range anxiety about long distance EV travel.
  • Government Support – The center provides subsidies on CNG kits and has pushed automakers to manufacture CNG vehicles. There are no major purchase incentives currently available for EVs.

While CNG vehicles dominate today, India’s EV market is expected to grow exponentially as costs decrease and charging infrastructure expands. But CNG vehicles will likely maintain a strong market share as a practical and affordable “bridge” technology until EVs fully mature.


CNG vehicles offer clear advantages for most Indian consumers compared to electric vehicles in 2024. The lower upfront costs, quick refueling, robust infrastructure, and government support make CNG cars and CNG trucks an appealing choice. While CNG emits some greenhouse gasses, the emissions are significantly lower than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles. CNG represents a practical transitional technology while India builds out EV charging networks.

However, electric vehicles will likely dominate the market in the long run. As battery costs decline and charging stations expand, EVs can overcome current challenges like high prices and range anxiety. India’s goal to reach 30% EV sales by 2030 shows the government’s commitment to electrification. CNG offers a bridge to that future today by lowering emissions at an affordable price point. For now, CNG vehicles present the most viable option for most buyers, but EVs will ultimately win out as infrastructure improves.