In one-of-its-kind venture, General Motors is expanding its jatropha planatations in India as part of its five-year partnership with the US Department of Energy (DoE). This will help develop jatropha as a sustainable biofuel energy crop. The success of the venture will decide GM’s global strategy on alternate fuels.
“We are expanding our plantations in Gujarat and though commercial use of biofuel is still some way off, this is a big project, which will show how potent an alternate energy this can be,” said Karl Slym, president and managing director, General Motors India.
Considered a weed till recently, jatropha produces oil that can be used as biodiesel for cars. The shells of the seed can also be used as cattle feed, making the plant waste-free.
GM already has an ongoing project with Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute where the latter cultivated jatropha for internal use. It ran a fleet of six cars on biodiesel from the plantations.
According to the terms of the partnership with the DoE, two more farms will be established in India, a 39.5-acre plot in Bhavnagar and a 93.9-acre plot in Kalol, the village next to GM’s plant at Halol. The existing plantation at a 74.1-acre plot in Bhavnagar will also be managed under this. The total area under cultivation will now be over 200 acres, making it one of the largest jatropha plantations in the world. The investment will be announced next week.
“It is a fact that the dependence on fossil fuel needs to be checked as it is not sustainable in the long-term,” Slym said. “While hybrid and electric vehicles are part of the answer, other sources like biodiesel also needs to be looked into.”