Toyota unveils Innova HyCross flex-fuel prototype in India

The Innova HyCross flex-fuel prototype is the world's first electrified MPV that is also compatible with ethanol-blended petrol to offer extremely low hydrocarbon emissions.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 29 Aug 2023 Views icon5556 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) has unveiled the world's first electrified flex-fuel vehicle prototype, based on the Innova HyCross MPV, which comes powered by a 2.0-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine coupled with a hybrid-electric powertrain.

The BS-VI Phase-II-compliant Innova HyCross flex-fuel prototype is capable of operating on petrol with ethanol blending higher than 20 percent, which is currently the norm in India. As of August 2023, over 1,900 fuel stations across the country are dispensing E20 fuel, and India is slated to achieve E20 compliance across its geography by 2025-26. With E20 implementation, the country is slated to save Rs 30,000 crore in crude oil import, by switching to an ethanol-blended mix of petrol for its vehicles. The country presently imports Rs 16 lakh crore worth of crude oil every year to meet its energy needs.

Electrified flex-fuel vehicles have an EV powertrain, as well as a flex-fuel engine, thus, providing dual benefits of both EV and ethanol, and can offer higher fossil fuel savings as well as drive the evolution of an EV ecosystem in the country.

Several tweaks to the powertrain

The Innova HyCross flex-fuel prototype operates 60 percent of the time on EV mode, while 40 percent of the energy consumed comes from the ethanol-powered engine, thereby claiming the lowest well-to-wheel emissions. The company, which is locally manufacturing the 2.0-litre strong-hybrid engine, has made changes to its spark plugs, piston ring tops, as well as valve and valve seats to make them water resistant and prevent corrosion when running on ethanol. 

TKM engineers say that India's varying climatic conditions, including sub-zero temperatures in many parts of the country, required optimal cold-start performance, pushing the company to equip the HyCross flex-fuel prototype with a motor-driven VVT system. Given India's stricter emissions standards, the company has also included a three-way catalyst in the exhaust system to further reduce the hydrocarbon emissions. Multiple changes with respect to optimal functioning with ethanol have also been done to the vehicle's fuel filter, fuel pump, as well as fuel lines, which now have an ethanol sensor installed.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) says that the company is committed to India's energy compliance and decarbonisation targets, not only for the domestic market but also for exports. 

With India having the third-highest carbon emissions in the world, it must follow a sustainable growth model that balances economic development with environmental sustainability. "Therefore, alternate fuels such as bio-ethanol, which is plant based, promises an environment-friendly source of energy whilst boosting the agrarian economy, and also reducing the country's crude oil import. We see India becoming a global hub for achieving cleaner technologies," said Vikram Gulati, Country Head, TKM.

While ethanol, which is a widely adopted biofuel in countries such as Brazil, Thailand and the US, can be derived from sugarcane, it can also be extracted from excess food grains that get wasted.

"Flex fuel vehicles which can use ethanol concentration beyond 20 percent, will enable India to become self-reliant in its energy securities by 2047, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2070," Gulati added.

The unveiling of the prototype by TKM marks the way for increased adoption of flex-fuel vehicles in India and the electrified powertrain would further enable the localisation of EV powertrains in India, and strengthen the ecosystem as a manufacturing base for electrified powertrains for the future. "This milestone demonstrates our commitment to provide advanced technology solutions for our customers," Gulati signed off.

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