The automobile industry is a core sector with inspiring success stories. The automobile industry’s estimated annual production is 22.93 million in FY 2022. It contributes 49% of India’s manufacturing GDP and 7.5 per cent to the country’s GDP. Further, Automotive manufacturers are seeking alternative methods to power cars and other vehicles to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel use. Such initiatives have driven the industry to launch vehicles adapted to biofuel, electricity, and Hydrogen.
What to know about 3 types of Fuel Alternatives
Resources like water, natural gas, fossil fuels, or biomass are the traditional raw materials for fueling a vehicle, which is now in limited supply. However, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Hence, Hydrogen cars (FCEVs) are those cars that have characteristics of both electric vehicles and conventional petrol cars. These cars produce electricity by allowing hydrogen to react with oxygen to create the chemical production of electricity and water vapour. Hydrogen cars are much faster to refuel than electric cars, reducing atmospheric pollutants’ emissions.
Electric vehicles (BEVs) are either partially or fully powered by electric power. EVs run on a lithium-ion battery, charged by plugging into a socket or any other charging unit. They are eco-friendly vehicles that can accelerate faster than vehicles with traditional fuel engines. Moreover, they are cheaper, noiseless engines that produce no exhaust fumes and are more reliable than hydrogen-powered vehicles. Globally, the Government have been investing in infrastructure for electric cars. There is widespread availability of charging stations in petrol pumps, motorway rest stops, shopping centres and even on specific streets for convivence and ease of access.
Biofuel is a renewable energy source from organic matter like wood, straw, sludge, sewage, vegetable oil, etc. It helps maintain a healthier and cleaner environment since there is no emission of hazardous gases, such as Carbon monoxide (CO) or Sulphur oxide (SO), thereby reducing the risk of global warming. Biofuel can be classified into first, second, and third generations based on their feedstock and production technology.
Differences between H2 and EV
Hydrogen vehicles offer a higher range and faster refuelling when compared to electric vehicles. For, e.g. the Hyundai Nexo can manage 414 miles and only takes five minutes to fill up. The range of EVs is highly dependent on their vehicle. For instance, expensive cars like Tesla Model S have a range of 375 miles compared to a real-world range of 150 miles for the less expensive Nissan Leaf Acenta.
Availability of Charging/Refuelling Station
Hydrogen cars have less infrastructure, with only around 400 refuelling stations across the globe. Currently, In comparison, EVs have thousands of charging stations worldwide.
Cost of Ownership
Currently hydrogen cars are costly, with no affordable options in the market. But overall expense of FCEV’s can be lesser in comparison to BEV’s. On the other hand, the cost of an EV depends on the model and manufacturer.
Hydrogen is a safer alternative than conventional fuels in a multitude of aspects. Also, hydrogen is non-toxic, unlike traditional fuels. But safety concerns are still based on its flammable nature when stored in bulk. Electric vehicles have insulated high-voltage lines and safety features that deactivate the electrical system when they detect a collision or short circuit. All-electric cars tend to have a lower centre of gravity than conventional vehicles, making them more stable and less likely to roll over.
Many conventional fuels are toxic or contain poisonous substances. These include potent carcinogens responsible for the increased risk of human cancer cell growth. But there are no greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen. In the case of EVs, it has zero tailpipe emission as it runs on electricity.
Difference Between EV and Biofuel
An electric vehicle with no friction between moving parts or exchanges between liquids and gases needs neither lubricant nor exhaust. Stationary fuel cells, in particular, need very little maintenance, with servicing required once every one to three years.
Though electric vehicles are not 100% green, they produce a fraction of the greenhouse gases and waste that a combustion engine car does. They even compared it to biofuel vehicles. The only greenhouse gases produced are in the actual manufacturing of the car and the emissions produced from the power plants supplying electricity to your home where your car vehicle is plugged in.
The downsides are that there is a strict limit to how many miles can be traveled in a day on a full charge before needing to recharge. With biofuels, there is no limit since you can refuel in seconds compared to hours with an electric vehicle.
Availability & Accessibility
Biofuels are a renewable energy source. Because biofuels are derived from plant matter (and occasionally animal matter) that can be harvested annually or, in the case of algae, monthly, biofuels are theoretically unlimited. But in India, biofuel blending can only thrive as a fuel when it has a necessary infrastructure facility for extraction, production and distribution. However, the Union minister of India has addressed the necessity of flex-fuel vehicles and imposed a mandatory option towards automakers to offer cars that run on 100% biofuels within a few months. Electric vehicles are more accessible due to government policies to boost e-mobility and thus promote the development of a charging infrastructure network. There are currently over 10,76,420 electric vehicles and 1,742 Public Charging Stations (PCS) operational in the country.
Biofuel adaptive vehicles, also known as flex-fuel vehicles, are currently a concept but can be a real deal after a few months. Thus, the fuel price of bioethanol, a type of biofuel, would be Rs. 65 against the current petrol price of Rs.110. In contrast, electric cars in India, priced accordingly, include Tata Tiago EV (₹ 8.49 Lakh), Tata Nexon EV (₹ 14.99 Lakh) and Mercedes-Benz EQS (₹ 1.55+ Crore). Electric two-wheelers are priced from 50,000 to 2 Lakh.
Difference Between H2 and Biofuel
Hydrogen, after processing, generates electrical power in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapour and warm air. It holds promise for growth in both the stationary and transportation energy sectors. Emissions from biofuel, such as Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other hydrocarbons, are much less than conventional fuel.
Hydrogen is cheap, and its combustion produces only water (no CO2). It has three times as much energy as an equivalent quantity of petrol. Current green hydrogen production costs range anywhere between ₹320 and ₹330 per kilogram in India. It can reduce to as low as ₹160-170 per kg by 2030, bringing parity with grey hydrogen and other fossil fuels. But hydrogen contains less energy per unit volume than all other fuels. Transporting, storing, and delivering it to the end-use point is more expensive per gasoline gallon. The average price of ethanol and biodiesel in India is Rs.70 per litre. However, there is a substantial difference in these prices among countries as well as states.
The transport sector, railways, and aviation is the major end-user of biodiesel, and bioethanol. It can also be found in automobiles, energy production, the chemical industry, etc. However, bioethanol production from fourth-generation feedstock is still in the embryonic stage. With India’s prime energy demand is to be doubled by 2040 and thus the demand of biofuel would increase as a result.
Based on FY 2021- quarterly update, India’s biodiesel market demand stood at 0.17 million tonnes despite major setbacks due to the pandemic induced disruption in supply chains. The report predicted a healthy growth of 8.60 per cent CAGR until 2030, with a forecasted demand set to reach 0.26 million tonnes. Also, for hydrogen induced fuel showcases similar growth potential as the cumulative value of the green hydrogen market in India could be $8 billion by 2030 and $340 billion by 2050. Electrolyser market size could be approximately $5 billion by 2030 and $31 billion by 2050.
Hydrogen is difficult to store due to its low volumetric energy density. It is the lightest of all elements, more delicate than helium, and quickly lost into the atmosphere. The onboard hydrogen storage systems expense is too high, particularly in comparison with conventional storage systems for petroleum fuels.
But in contrast, the storage of pure biodiesel from vegetable oil is to be safely kept at 45° to 50°F. In cold climates, Above-ground tanks may need to be heated or insulated, depending on the location. Also, biodiesel should not be stored or transported in copper, brass, bronze, lead, tin, or zinc because these metals will hasten degradation. If biodiesel is held for about four to five months, a stability additive to be used, especially in more southern climates due to increased temperature and humidity. Ethanol also tends to absorb water from the surrounding environment—stored in dry areas with low humidity. Ethanol will absorb any condensation that forms inside storage vessels.
The biomass feedstock required for biofuel are more expensive than petroleum. Also the processes for producing the fuel aren’t yet efficient enough to produce it very cheaply. But as of current scenarios in the year 2021, The United States was the leading biofuel producer in the world, with production amounting to 1,436 petajoules. Brazil and Indonesia ranked second and third, with figures at roughly 840 and 312 petajoules, respectively. By comparison, Germany’s biofuel production reached around 121 petajoules, placing the country amongst the top five countries in biofuel production, and the leading producer in Europe.