Mumbai: Indian vehicle makers are joining the global race to make less-polluting, greener vehicles, teaming up with international firms and pouring money into research that could result in commercially viable technologies quickly.
Petrol and diesel are used overwhelmingly in passenger and commercial vehicles in the country, with cleaner-burning compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas gaining in popularity, but curtailed by their limited availability.
India is encouraging use of biofuels such as ethanol, made from renewable resources, for greater energy security and emission reduction, but it is dragging its feet on legislation in this regard.
Still, companies, from top vehicle maker Tata Motors Ltd to tiny electric car maker Reva, are testing options from biodiesel to hybrids.
“Our growth is a combination of greater consumer interest and stricter government regulations overseas,” said Chetan Maini, deputy chairman at Reva Electric Car Co.
Tata Motors is working with foreign firms on biodiesel and electric traction technology, and with France’s Motteur Development International on using compressed air as fuel.
Top utility vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd has a concept three-wheeler that uses compressed gaseous hydrogen, and is studying the feasibility of hydrogen internal combustion engines and fuel cells with Shell.
Indian energy firms, like their global peers Shell, BP and ExxonMobil, are speeding the move to biofuels.
Indian Oil Corp. is partnering some auto makers, while Reliance Industries Ltd is growing jatropha for biodiesel.
Jatropha, a tough shrub, can be grown on semi-arid land and is expected to play a major role in biofuel production in countries such as India where most arable land is already being used to grow food.