National Hydrogen Mission: An alternative to battery electric mobility


India’s hydrogen mission can be a game-changer for the automotive industry, especially heavy-duty vehicles. Shorter refueling times and the possibility of being entirely produced in India give hydrogen an advantage over any other form of electric mobility.

The future of the automobile is electric. By 2030, electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to account for almost 30% of total new vehicle sales in India. Two-wheelers will lead India’s push towards electrification, with EVs in this segment accounting for nearly 50% of total sales by the end of the decade. Commercial transportation, i.e. light and heavy trucks and buses, will also make significant strides in reducing their emissions and adopting a zero-emission ecosystem.

So where is the hydrogen in this picture?

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Hydrogen as a fuel has several advantages over lithium-ion or any other type of battery-powered electric vehicle; hydrogen has a high energy density, which means that for less weight, more fuel can be carried by the vehicle, thus increasing the distance traveled by the vehicle on a single refueling. Shorter refueling times, fewer hydrogen stations, and the ability to be fully produced in India give hydrogen an edge over any other form of electric mobility.

The government has launched the National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) which aims to strengthen the infrastructure of green hydrogen (hydrogen produced using renewable energy sources) in the country and transform India into a global hub green hydrogen for the production and export of fuel. In May 2021, the Delhi High Court ordered the government to consider including hydrogen electric vehicles and fueling infrastructure as part of the FAME program, Fuel Cell India magazine reported. In September, the government proposed an $ 8 billion auto sector program to encourage companies to build electric and hydrogen vehicles in order to meet its clean mobility goals for 2030 and build a solid foundation for it. the manufacture of VZE in India.

The NHM has a budget of Rs 800 crore for FY22. In its first year, the NHM will mainly focus on funding pilot projects and experimental initiatives in the hydrogen sector. Indian PSUs such as Indian Oil and NTPC are leading the charge by bringing fuel cell buses to Indian roads. Indian Oil has already issued a tender and awarded a tender for the purchase of 15 fuel cell buses from the Tata Group, which will be launched by the end of 2021 and will operate between New Delhi and Agra on Yamuna Expressway, while NTPC is preparing to launch a similar project. fuel cell bus service between New Delhi and Leh. Another fuel cell bus line has been identified in Gujarat between Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity, and plans are underway to make these lines operational on a pilot basis during this exercise. These projects are partly funded by the NHM and the PSUs.

The NHM will be implemented alongside the government’s Production Linked Program (PLI), which would apply to domestic sales and exports. Lack of investment and low demand have prevented the electric vehicle ecosystem from thriving in India. This is expected to change drastically with NHM, especially for the hydrogen mobility sector, as the government will be looking not only at pure hydrogen vehicles, but also vehicles that run on alternative fuels such as methanol. Methanol can be produced using green hydrogen and existing diesel buses and trucks can be converted to use methanol using a conversion kit at a fraction of the cost of a new ZEV. Major bus fleets across the country will benefit significantly from the low cost of methanol and save huge capital outlays to convert polluting diesel buses to run on methanol.

The combination of government programs like FAME India, NHM, PLI, etc., will give a big boost to the manufacturing of electric vehicles in India and create a favorable environment for foreign investment in this sector. The ultimate goal of net zero emissions reported by various companies around the world is to make their supply chains emission-free. Transport is a major part of this supply chain and the transport sector contributes nearly 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The government’s initiatives to promote clean transportation will not only help India reduce its carbon footprint, but will also make India a hub for the global manufacture of clean automobiles.

Author: Ashwini Kumar

Disclaimer: The author is a green hydrogen expert and his opinion is personal.

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