Wilma den Hartigh
A group of forward-thinking entrepreneurs have established South Africa's first carbon-neutral transport service.
The Green Cab is the idea of a group of women who decided to pool their expertise to help lower vehicle emissions and make transport services more sustainable.
The Cape Town-based initiative has attracted much attention from businesses looking to green their operations, eco-conscious individuals and the local tourism sector.
"Looking after the environment is something everyone needs to do. We are destroying our planet and we all have a responsibility to do something. We owe it to future generations," says Lynn Maggott, Green Cab MD.
The company's fleet has been modified to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and a biodiesel blend of diesel used cooking oil. A 20/80 ratio of biodiesel to diesel is used.
LPG is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as fuel in vehicles. It burns more cleanly than petrol.
According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, LPG used in taxi, limousine or shuttle services can achieve carbon dioxide savings of up to 12%, compared to normal petrol-driven vehicles.
Biodiesel is a vegetable oil or animal fat-based diesel fuel. Vehicles running on biodiesel can achieve carbon dioxide savings of between 15% and 90%, compared to standard diesel vehicles.
Maggott explains that LPG's percentage reduction in harmful emissions, as compared to petrol, is 75% less for carbon monoxide; 85% less for hydrocarbon; 40% less for oxide and nitrogen and about 10% less for carbon dioxide.
Biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide emissions between 30% and 50%, depending on the percentage of used cooking oil in the blend.
Most of The Green Cab's vehicles are supplied by Hyundai South Africa. This is the only vehicle manufacturer in South Africa that will extend warranties on new vehicles once they have been converted to run on a dual fuel system.
The Green Cab petrol vehicles are fitted with a gas tank to store LPG that connects to the fuel system. Diesel vehicles are fitted with diesel particulate filters.
An accredited South African Bureau of Standards technician installed the LPG tanks. All Hyundai converted vehicles are signed off by the manufacturer's technical director to ensure compliance with international standards.
Verifying their claims
Maggot says that The Green Cab has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), its new technology partner.
"Through the alliance our claims can be assessed, we can verify what we offer to corporate, and we ensure that the manufacturer's claims are valid," she says.
The Green Cab's collaboration with UJ will also make it possible to research new products.
The company is also working with South African tour operator Springbok Atlas to convert their vehicles by fitting whale filters. These are secondary diesel particulate filters that remove particles larger than one micron. This limits harmful emissions and enhances fuel efficiency.
The Green Cab's partnership with Springbok Atlas means that they can expand their operations nationally by April next year.
Guilt free travelling services
The transport company offers a variety of services under The Green Cab banner. "Our services are supplied to many corporates for their events as a way to reduce their carbon footprint," says Maggott.
This year, The Green Cab has a presence at the COP17 climate change conference in Durban.
At a daily rate it provides delegates with a dedicated 12-hour chauffeur service in a Green Cab-branded climate change cab.
Corporates can also arrange transfers in a customised company-branded cab.
A green transport certificate is issued to clients to show that the transport of their company is carbon neutral. The certificate also quantifies the distance travelled and resultant emissions.
The certificate is issued in partnership with the South African Carbon Protocol, which certifies that the emissions were sequestrated.
As part of their regular services, companies can form an association with the low carbon shuttle service through the branding of vehicles at large events.
"This allows companies or government departments to communicate their environmental messages to a large national and international audience," Maggott says.
Companies can also enroll their drivers in sustainable mobility driver training courses. The two-day course includes both a theoretical and practical component.
"This course creates awareness among drivers about how their driving influences the volume of carbon emissions and teaches them how to drive to reduce emissions," she explains.
Recently, The Green Cab introduced a shuttle service for patrons attending the Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
"In doing this we hope to reduce congestion with parking, reduce the footprint of the event and encourage people to drive less," Maggott says.
The Green Cab sustainable transport movement is gaining momentum and the company is winning awards for its efforts.
Green Cab claimed top honours in the 2010/2011 in the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur Award competition by being named the provincial winners for the Western Cape.
Western Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde, congratulated the innovative "green ladies" for their novel business idea.
"The Green Cab initiative speaks to growing tourism responsibly and on behalf of the Western Cape tourism industry, I would like to commend their efforts," he said.