India proposes to manufacture 30,000 vehicles that run on hydrogen and generate 1MW of power from plants that use the fuel by 2012. Hydrogen is the cleanest among fuels and available in abundance but it requires sophisticated technology to generate power from this in sufficient quantities.
Disclosing this, a senior official at the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), who didn’t wish to be identified, said that the next five years would allow manufacturers to select the appropriate technology.
The first few years are crucial, said B.M.S. Bist, a senior scientist associated with India’s hydrogen programme. At present, India has a host of prototype vehicles which can run on hydrogen, but these are not ready for large-scale manufacture. “It requires a lot of finetuning to be able to be commercially viable,” he added.
The Union minister at the MNRE, Vilas Muttemwar, announced on Monday that India has set itself a target of one million vehicles and 1,000MW of hydrogen power by 2020.
Officials at MNRE maintain that this target can be achieved once the technology is productionized in the next five years.
Activity in the hydrogen-fuelled automobile market in India is heating up with several companies testing prototypes over the last two years: Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd showcased a gaseous hydrogen cargo three-wheeler, the Hy-Alpha, at last year’s Auto Expo, a trade show of the automobile industry, in New Delhi.
The company has also developed a hybrid (one that runs on multiple-energy sources) prototype of its sports utility vehicle, Scorpio, which is expected to hit the market by 2009.
Bajaj Auto Ltd unveiled a hydrogen-run three-wheeler in 2005. TVS Motors Ltd has developed a prototype of a petro-electric hybrid three-wheeler.
Meanwhile, domestic auto majors under the aegis of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, an industry body, are looking at a new fuel option called hithane—a combination of CNG (compressed natural gas) and hydrogen.
“In the next two years, a host of pilot projects will test the mettle of the current research that is under way at various research organizations across the country,” said S.K. Chopra, special secretary, MNRE.
But analysts advise caution. Arvind Mahajan, executive director, KPMG (India), an audit firm, said that the targets set for hydrogen power were not really exciting. “We already have wind power to the tune of 7000-8,000MW. So even the 2020 target of 1000MW will not make much of a difference.” He said the target of one million hydrogen-run vehicles by 2020 was a “challenging one, but possible”.