After EVs, India wants to tap hydrogen for its green drive

by Sumantra B Barooah , 19 Aug 2016

Tata Motors showcased its Magic Iris Ziva Fuel Cell vehicle at Auto Expo 2016. This gearless, clutch-less vehicle is powered by an efficient traction electric motor which develops maximum power of 9Kw

To further strengthen the battle against growing pollution, India could see a new breed to vehicles that run on hydrogen in the not-so-distant future.

The Central government, which embarked on promoting battery electric/hybrid vehicles under its FAME India scheme last year, is learnt to be drawing up a policy for developing hydrogen as an automotive fuel. The research, development and demonstration projects for Hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles are being supported by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

Hydrogen can be mixed with diesel and CNG or used directly in IC engines. In India, it could be a hydrogen-CNG blend initially. The percentage of hydrogen will be 18 percent, which could be later increased to 20 percent. According to the MNRE, R&D efforts have led to the development of laboratory level prototypes of hydrogen-fuelled motorcycles, three-wheelers, engine-generator sets, and water/methanol electrolysers for hydrogen production.

Hydrogen as a fuel has very high energy content and is environment-friendly (water is the byproduct). The government wants to develop its usage and tackle not only the environment problem but also use it to reduce the country's fossil fuel imports as hydrogen can substitute petrol and diesel too. But the challenge lies in its storage as the gas is very low on volumetric density. Also, the colourless and odourless gas is highly inflammable. These are some issues that will test the Indian ingenuity to come up with efficient solutions that are economically viable too.

OEMs in the global automotive industry, including India's Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, have been working for long on hydrogen concept cars. Toyota's Mirai and Honda's Clarity are a couple of such vehicles to be launched commercially. With the government's growing focus, in association with some industry players, on developing hydrogen as an automotive fuel, the day is not too far away for a hydrogen car to be commercially launched in India too.   

Tata Motors had, in February at Auto Expo 2016, displayed the Tata Magic Iris Ziva Fuel Cell vehicle developed with support from the government of India’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research under the Technology Development and Demonstration Programme. Designed to accommodate four passengers and a driver, the Ziva FCV is a gearless, clutch-less vehicle powered by an efficient traction electric motor which develops a maximum power of 9Kw and 42 Nm of peak torque. 

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