Maruti Suzuki has begun work on an E85 capable (85 percent ethanol) engine, according to the company, though no details about its market introduction were revealed. The carmaker’s model range will also be E20-compliant by April next year, essentially to meet the government target for the introduction of E20 fuel.
Speaking at an R&D facility media tour in Rohtak, CV Raman, CTO at Maruti Suzuki India said, “We will have E20 compliance by April 2023 but are also developing a flex-fuel engine to handle up to E85 (85 percent ethanol blend).”
Currently, petrol in India is already a blend of about 10-15 percent ethanol, but to increase the percentage to 20 to 25, a few modifications are required, essentially to the rubber hoses and the fuel system to handle the corrosive nature of the fuel, along with a mild engine system recalibration. To get to higher blends like E85, further modifications are required, including major remapping of the ECU, injection, as well as ignition systems, to handle the lower calorific value and cold start ability.
“For us, fuel efficiency is important and maintaining it along with the lower calorific value will be a big focus,” said Raman. He also added that worldwide, E85 engines are only BS4 compliant, so India could be the first market where an E85 BS6 engine would debut. Thus, he says, a lot of work needs to be done here.
While Maruti has begun work on the EV front and will debut its first model by 2025, it is also massively focusing on alternate fuels. Currently, it has a wide CNG portfolio and interestingly, in addition to the ethanol fuel development, Raman says the company is also exploring bio-CNG.
While EVs will grow substantially, the internal combustion engine is expected to be around and with the overall growth in the market, its numbers will only increase. Maruti thus says it’s clear that cleaner internal combustion technology must also be developed along with EVs.
After the EV initiative, flex-fuel engines have been the new push from the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, who believes that ethanol-blended fuel could be a good solution for India just like in Brazil where E20 and higher blends have been used for decades now. Indeed, this is very plausible but a careful assessment is needed to ensure that crops for ethanol production do not use agricultural land meant for food production, which is already a concern in a few regions where ethanol fuel is popular.
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