From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Hydrogen fuel cell, H-CNG
Mains level : Paper 3- Adoption of hydrogen as vehicular fuel
Transport sector has been a major contributor of Green House Gases in India. Moving towards cleaner fuels brings to fore two options battery-operated electric vehicle (EV) and hydrogen fuel cell EV. The article compares the two.
Vehicular emission and steps taken to deal with it
- The transport sector in India contributes one-third of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, within which the lion’s share is that of road transport.
- The government has made concerted efforts to tackle vehicular emissions with policies steps and programmes such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME I) scheme, FAME II, tax benefits, etc.
- Typically, hydrogen can be produced in one of three ways, i.e., from fossil fuels (grey hydrogen), through carbon capture utilisation & storage (CCUS) application and fossil fuels (blue hydrogen), or by using renewable energy (green hydrogen).
- Indian Oil Corporation Limited has patented a technology that produces H-CNG (18% hydrogen in CNG) directly from natural gas, without having to undertake expensive conventional blending.
- This compact blending process provides a 22% reduction in cost as compared to conventional blending.
- In comparison to CNG, H-CNG allows for a 70% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions and a 25% reduction in hydrocarbon emissions.
- The new H-CNG technology requires only minor tweaks in the current design of CNG buses.
- However, the issue is that the Hydrogen-spiked CNG is still being produced from natural gas-a fossil fuel.
Electric vehicle Vs. Fuel cell
- From a commercial viability standpoint, two cleaner fuel alternatives come to mind—battery-operated electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
- Hydrogen FCEVs has reduced refuelling time (5 minutes versus 30-40 minutes with fast charges), higher energy density, longer range, etc.
- However, one needs to focus on is the entire life cycle of these vehicles as opposed to restricting the analysis to just the carbon-free tailpipe emissions.
- According to a report by Deloitte (2020) on hydrogen and fuel cells, the lifecycle GHG emissions from hydrogen FCEVs ranges between 130-230 g CO2e per km.
- The lower end of the range depicts the case of hydrogen production from renewables while the higher end reflects the case of hydrogen production from natural gas.
- The corresponding life cycles GHG emissions for BEV and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles range between 160-250 g CO2e and 180-270 g CO2e respectively.
- The cost of lithium ion-based battery-operated vehicles has been reducing while hydrogen fuel cell technology is relatively quite expensive.
- A hydrogen-run vehicle achieves an energy efficiency rate of 25-35% (roughly 45% of energy is lost during the electrolysis process alone).
- Given that these are early days for FCEV, one can be hopeful that we will be able to achieve economies of scale and attain cost reductions.
- Hydrogen Council (2020) on hydrogen cost competitiveness that states scaling up and augmenting fuel cell production from 10,000 to 200,000 units can deliver a 45% reduction in the cost per unit.
- Similarly, the versatility of hydrogen allows for complementarity across its numerous applications.
- Moreover, based on the numbers quoted by this report, fuel cell stacks for passenger vehicles are expected to exhibit learning rates of 17% in the coming future.
- The corresponding figures for commercial vehicles stand at 11%.
- Efforts are underway in India, and the research activities pertaining to hydrogen have been compiled and recently released in the form of a country status report.
- In their quest for becoming carbon neutral by 2035, Reliance Industries plan to replace transportation fuels with hydrogen and clean electricity.
- Similarly, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is considering setting up a green hydrogen production facility in Andhra Pradesh.
- The ministry of road transport and highways issued a notification proposing amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (1989) to incorporate safety standards for hydrogen fuel cell technology vehicles.
- As per a policy brief issued by TERI, demand for hydrogen in India is expected to increase 3-10 fold by 2050.
Consider the question “What are the benefits and challenges in the adoption of hydrogen as vehicular fuel?”
Against this backdrop, the future of hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen, looks promising in India.