A public-private partnership (PPP) research initiative, to identify an optimal mix of hydrogen and compressed natural gas (CNG) for use in vehicles, has hit a logjam following a dispute over how the royalty from the intellectual property rights (IPR) would be shared between the partners.
The fuel was for use in three- and four-wheeler vehicles and the research was to be carried out by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), an industry body and the government.
“There are certain clauses within the proposed agreement which some of our members (the auto majors) would like removed,” said a Siam official closely associated with the project who did not wish to be identified.
The withdrawal of these clauses, would not make it binding on the companies to share all the research results with the government.
A senior government official, involved with the project said that the industry body wanted “exclusive intellectual rights” over some crucial aspects of the results of the research. The official did not wish to be identified.
According to initial plans the cost of the project was to be equally shared; now the government is committing only Rs2.88 crore, while the industry is investing Rs3.36 crore
Because of the impasse, a formal memorandum of understanding on the initiative is yet to be signed, even though auto majors Tata Motors Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Ashok Leyland Ltd and Eicher Motors Ltd, represented by SIAM, had floated the proposal last year.
The ministry of new and renewable energy had consistenly expressed its enthusiasm for the project and announced it at a recent conclave promoting public-private cooperation in hydrogen fuel research.
The differences notwithstanding, both Siam and government have said that the project “will definitely happen.”
While Siam didn’t wish to make an official statement, S.K. Chopra, principal adviser to the ministry, said, “This is a project of vital importance and will definitely take shape.”
He added that project should commence by August, with its results coming out by 2009.
The Union government has set a target of one million vehicles based on hydrogen by the year 2020.
And the CNG-hydrogen initiative is an important step towards achieving that goal.
Under this project, existing vehicles will first be tested using various blends of CNG and Hydrogen.
Currently, state-owned Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, which is also involved in the Siam-government project, is conducting pilot projects in Haryana using 10% hydrogen-blended-CNG.
Researchers are trying to find a blend that contains between 10% and 30% of hydrogen and will reduce emissions and is economically viable.
Hydrogen currently costs Rs240 per kg; its cost needs to be brought down to a third of that cost, for it to compete with petrol or diesel.
Once identified, the blend will be used to modify vehicle engines for optimum performance with the new fuel.