India's automotive industry is increasingly showing interest in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), both in the passenger car and heavy-duty commercial vehicle segments. Although no fuel cell vehicles are currently for sale in India, there is growing interest in these vehicles and in the use of green hydrogen.
Introduction to Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
Unlike battery electric vehicles (BEVs), fuel cell electric vehicles generate electricity onboard the vehicle using a fuel cell where hydrogen from the fuel tank combines with oxygen from the air. This process generates electricity for electric motors to run the vehicle. One of the main advantages of fuel cell vehicles is that they can be refueled with hydrogen in a similar manner to petrol-powered vehicles, without long waiting times to charge batteries. However, the production of hydrogen is a complicated process that can make it an expensive fuel.
Green Hydrogen in India
Based on the source and process, hydrogen is classified into different colours. India is beginning to invest heavily in green hydrogen production, which is generated through the electrolysis of water using electricity from renewable energy sources like solar or wind. The Indian government has announced an investment of around Rs. 19,800 crores (USD 2.43 billion) to set up green hydrogen production capacity of 5 million tons per year by 2030, with an aim to reduce crude oil imports and the dependence on other countries.
Where Does India Stand?
Globally, the demand for green hydrogen is increasing and India is one of the few countries to have announced a production target. However, the country's target of 5 million metric tons per annum by 2030 is lower than the target set by some other countries. The USA aims to produce 10 million metric tons of clean hydrogen by 2030, while the European Union has a similar target of 10 million metric tons of green hydrogen by 2030.
The Future of Green Hydrogen in India
Industry experts believe that India can achieve its green hydrogen production target by 2030. Localization is key to ensure steady progress in reducing costs. With the right support from the government, the number of companies investing in setting up electrolyzer and fuel cell manufacturing is expected to increase. Looking at consumption and the ability to invest in new technology, companies like Reliance Industries and Indian Oil are likely to scale up faster in green hydrogen production.
The Use of Fuel Cells in Commercial Vehicles
Fuel cells are likely to see growth in heavy payload, long-distance vehicles like buses, trucks, and trains. This technology is expected to become commercially viable in the next 3-5 years as localization of components increases, making it more cost-effective. Logistic and e-commerce companies should also test the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in their fleet. While fuel cell technology is still expensive, it is worth keeping an eye on hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines in heavy-duty commercial vehicles.
India's green hydrogen policy will increase investments in the sector to shift India's energy sources from non-renewable to green hydrogen. Localization of components and meeting decarbonization targets is a step-by-step process that will take time, but with the support from the government and industries, the future of green hydrogen in India looks promising.
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