Envision driving a car that runs entirely on water and emits no emissions at all. It has a science-fiction feel to it. That is, until now. These vehicles, which run on hydrogen, have the potential to completely transform transportation.
India’s car sector is facing a decision. The demand for energy-efficient automobiles is rising exponentially, along with the number of automobile users. This could affect the current status of hydrogen cars in India.
Hydrogen-powered automobiles have surfaced as a viable substitute for conventional gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, following electric vehicles (EVs). But in India, a nation with a sizable population, a developing economy, and a varied topography, are hydrogen cars feasible?
Indian automobiles have long used hydrogen. When the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) collaborated to create a hydrogen-powered three-wheeler in the early 2000s, India was one of the first nations to experiment with hydrogen-powered automobiles.
Even though the scope of these early efforts was constrained, they set the stage for further advancements.
India has since made great strides in the realm of hydrogen vehicles, but there are still numerous obstacles to overcome and plenty of potential. We will assist you in comprehending the plans, facts, and rumors surrounding hydrogen-fueled automobiles in India today.
Let us first review some background information about FCEVs.
Table of Contents
A Hydrogen Car: What Is It?
A hydrogen car, also known as a fuel cell vehicle (FCV), is a vehicle that runs on electricity produced through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell.
Similar to filling up a car with gasoline, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is fueled with hydrogen at a fueling station. The electricity generated while using hydrogen to travel is then used to power the electric motor.
The only emissions that these green hydrogen automobiles emit into the atmosphere are warm air and water vapor. When compared to cars with conventional internal combustion engines, they are recognized to be more potent and efficient.
Future clean and inexpensive energy for India will come from the use of new and improved technology to produce green hydrogen from plant materials and clean energy sources.
How Does an Automobile Powered by Hydrogen Operate?
A fuel cell automobile is essentially made up of many pressurized fuel tanks that supply a fuel cell stack.
The stack is made up of individual cells which each produce less than one volt of electricity, so hundreds of them are connected to produce the necessary voltage to power the electric motor.
The process of forcing hydrogen to react with oxygen inside the fuel cell produces energy. Water is the only product. Because hydrogen is an excellent energy transporter, a small bit of it can release a large amount of energy to power the vehicle.
This also means that hydrogen is extremely explosive if it leaks, which is why, whenever someone brings up hydrogen-powered cars, you will unavoidably read about or see references to the 1937 Hindenberg airship explosion.
But that was 86 years ago, and since then, a lot has happened in terms of the storage and usage of hydrogen. Petroleum fuel tanks are another extremely flammable substance that we are content to live with daily. In comparison, modern hydrogen fuel tanks are equally safe, if not safer.
Usually, they have a layer of glass fiber around a carbon fiber shell. They can withstand twice as much operational pressure when surrounded by sensors as they normally can.
Hydrogen Cars in India: The Overview
As a potential third option, the Government of India (GOI) is investigating the usage of hydrogen-powered cars through the National Green Hydrogen Mission Policy (NGHMP).
A key component of India’s energy transition, the strategy to encourage the use of renewable energy in all economic sectors was authorized by the GOI in January 2022.
Since it can support clean transportation, replace fossil fuels in industry, enable long-term storage of renewable energy, and possibly even ease decentralized power generation, aviation, and marine transportation, green hydrogen (GH) is seen as a promising alternative for facilitating this transition.
The aim is to produce at least 5 million metric tons (MMT) of GH annually by 2030, with the possibility of reaching 10 MMT annually with export options, to meet the aforementioned goals.
The Mission will encourage substituting renewable energy and feedstocks based on GH for fossil fuels and feedstocks derived from fossil fuels.
This will involve producing steel, blending GH into city gas distribution systems, replacing hydrogen derived from fossil fuel sources with GH in the production of ammonia and petroleum refining, and using GH-derived synthetic fuels (such as green methanol and ammonia) to replace fossil fuels in a variety of industries, such as transportation, aviation, and mobility.
Industry insiders predict that GH-powered automobiles, particularly for commercial vehicles, will dominate the Indian automotive market in the future.
It is lighter than lithium-ion batteries, has a greater energy density, a longer range, and requires less time to refill than electric vehicles, to name just a few of its many benefits.
Furthermore, building hydrogen fuelling stations is less expensive than installing EV charging infrastructure across the nation.
Green hydrogen-powered vehicles have significant benefits, but there are several reasons why their adoption in India is restricted. The high expense of manufacturing and storing hydrogen fuel is one major obstacle.
Expanding the usage of green hydrogen-powered vehicles is difficult since there is currently insufficient infrastructure for hydrogen generation and storage.
The cost of green hydrogen fuel is currently $4 every 0.001 MT, however by 2025, it is predicted to be less than $1.
Consequently, a multitude of both local and foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are enthusiastically launching their automobiles and associated technologies within the Indian automotive industry.
While India is still in the early stages of the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles and related technologies, this offers export prospects for American companies that offer green hydrogen solutions, including converters, powertrains, and hydrogen-powered vehicles, among many other products.
Hydrogen Cars in India: The Speculatuions
Upcoming Hydrogen Cars in India
There aren’t any hydrogen-powered vehicles available for purchase in India right now. Nonetheless, some automakers have stated that they want to sell these cars in India.
It will be interesting to see how the cost of hydrogen cars in India compares to that of electric vehicles. The Toyota Mirai, the most talked-about hydrogen vehicle in India, is anticipated to cost INR 60 lakhs.
Toyota and the Indian government-affiliated vehicle testing agency, International Centre for Automotive Technology (iCAT), recently formed an understanding pact.
Their partnership intends to carry out an extensive evaluation of the second-generation Mirai, a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV). This project involves extensively testing the Mirai to see how well it performs in Indian circumstances, including the temperature and the state of the roads.
Some foreign and Indian automakers have expressed interest in hydrogen-powered vehicles. Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Tata Motors have all declared their intentions to create hydrogen fuel cell automobiles.
Furthermore, partnerships with international automakers like Hyundai and Toyota have made it possible for hydrogen-powered vehicles to be sold in India.
1. Toyota Mirai
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways initiated a pilot program for advanced fuel cell electric cars (FCEVs) based on hydrogen in March 2023. It was done in association with the International Centre for Automotive Technology, or ICAT, and Toyota Kirloskar Motor.
The project’s goal is to investigate and assess how well the Toyota Mirai, one of the first hydrogen-fuel electric cars worldwide, performs on Indian roads and in the country’s climate.
Regarding the vehicle’s specifications, the Mirai can go 650 kilometers on a full hydrogen tank. The vehicle can reach a high speed of 175 km/h and sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9 seconds.
If you have access to a hydrogen refueling station, you may replenish the hydrogen tank in a matter of minutes, which is one of the main benefits of the Mirai.
If the initial testing of the Mirai goes well, Toyota might launch the vehicle in India. However, there is no official indication of when the Mirai will be available in India. If it is introduced, the hydrogen car should cost about Rs. 60 lakhs ex-showroom.
2. 2023 Hyundai Nexo
Hyundai Motor Corporation declared its intention to transition to a carbon-neutral brand by the year 2045. The facelifted version of the original Hyundai Nexo will be unveiled during the 2021 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA 2021). Verified (via HMG Journal) March of 2018.
With a single hydrogen tank, the Nexo can travel up to 611 kilometers and has a maximum power output of 120 kW. A 10.25-inch touchscreen display and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are also included with the vehicle.
Hydrogen Cars in India: The Truth
Hydrogen Fueling Stations in India
Although they require hydrogen gas-dispensing refueling facilities, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are a formidable substitute for traditional gasoline-powered automobiles.
Fortunately, India is building up its infrastructure for hydrogen refueling step by step to prepare for the increase in hydrogen-powered vehicles on Indian roads in the future.
There are now two significant hydrogen fueling stations in India: one at the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurugram and the other at the Indian Oil R&D Centre in Faridabad. Cities like Bengaluru and Pune are anticipated to receive their hydrogen refueling facilities in addition to these.
To encourage the usage of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the government has also suggested creating hydrogen corridors on the roads connecting Chennai and Bengaluru and Delhi and Mumbai.
The infrastructure for hydrogen refueling in India is still in its infancy, but since more automakers want to sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the country, it is anticipated to expand quickly in the upcoming years.
The Price of Hydrogen Fuel
The existing lack of infrastructure for hydrogen refueling stations in India is one of the key reasons why hydrogen fuel is more expensive than traditional fuels. Even though some cities have a small number of hydrogen refueling stations, transporting and storing hydrogen fuel can be costly due to a lack of infrastructure.
Furthermore, the process of producing hydrogen fuel by steam methane reforming or electrolysis needs a lot of energy and might be expensive.
Although hydrogen fuel cell automobiles are a cutting-edge substitute for conventional fuel-powered vehicles, one common query is how much hydrogen fuel costs for these vehicles.
The price of hydrogen fuel in India currently ranges from ₹300 to ₹400 per kilogram, which is much more expensive per liter than that of gasoline or diesel.
It is important to keep in mind that the cost of hydrogen fuel is expected to decrease as more fuel cell vehicles are produced, more hydrogen filling stations are opened, and hydrogen-powered vehicles become more widespread.
Hydrogen Cars in India: The plans
The Indian government has demonstrated its commitment to building up the nation’s capacity to produce at least 5 million metric tons (MMT) of green hydrogen annually, along with an additional 125 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy.
The mission also seeks to establish India as a major global supplier and producer of green hydrogen. The National Green Hydrogen Mission received an initial investment of Rs 19,744 crore (more than US $2 billion) from the Union Cabinet.
India is now well on its way to sustainability, with this mission estimated to prevent about 50 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030.
A cabinet note detailing the mission’s criteria for R&D and green hydrogen consumption obligations has been moved by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Investments by The Indian Government
The government has allocated Rs 17,490 crore (88.6%) of the mission’s total budget under the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition (SIGHT) Programme as an incentive to produce green hydrogen and electrolyzers.
By 2030, it is anticipated that the National Green Hydrogen Mission will bring in a total of Rs 800,000 crore in investment and generate about 600,000 employment.
Effect on the Industry for Heavy-Duty Trucks
Although they are not anticipated to be on the road until later this decade, heavy-duty trucks are predicted to play a big role in the hydrogen mobility area. It is projected that 12,000 heavy-duty FCEV trucks will be operating on Indian highways by 2030.
Despite making up a relatively small portion of all cars on the road, heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for almost one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. This figure emphasizes the necessity of switching to FCEVs in place of heavy-duty vehicles.
The private sector now has more trust thanks to government measures. Tata Motors and Cummins, Inc., a global supplier of hydrogen technologies and power solutions, have inked a collaboration agreement to work together on low- and zero-emission propulsion technology solutions for commercial vehicles in India.
Battery electric vehicle systems, fuel cells, and internal combustion engines (ICEs) fuelled by hydrogen would all be a part of this partnership.
Partnerships between businesses, such as the one between Cummins and Tata Motors, provide a favorable impression and highlight the National Green Hydrogen Mission as an excellent platform for the introduction of FCEVs into India.
India’s use of hydrogen-powered vehicles is still in its infancy. To make them available to the general public, much work needs to be done. Some obstacles these automobiles may encounter on their path into the Indian market are adequate infrastructure, fueling stations, and public awareness.
One thing is certain, though, considering all the advantages they provide: the days of conventional cars powered by gasoline and diesel are coming to an end.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.