Delhi, the 'CNG capital of India', will see the launch of the next-generation, zero-emission hydrogen fuel early next year.
The process will start by blending hydrogen with CNG to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate-matter emission from vehicles by about half. "Hydrogen is the cleanest among all available fuels, including bio-fuels. Its burning emits no carbon and the final result is water," said Dr SK Chopra, special secretary, Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy.
The country's first hydrogen-filling station will begin functioning at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC)-owned petrol pump near Nigambodh Ghat.
"By next year, a dispenser each for filling pure hydrogen and hydrogen mixed with CNG will be available in Delhi," said Dr RK Malhotra, general manager, R&D, IOC. The cost—Rs 5 crore—will be shared by the IOC and the ministry. The station will be able to provide fuel to about 1,000 vehicles a day.
Hydrogen as a fuel has been introduced in a handful of other countries already. There are 50 hydrogen-filling stations in the United States.
The economics of using hydrogen fuel are, however, a different matter. Hydrogen will be four times as costly as CNG, though no doubt it will have three times more energy.
Only a few modifications are required for a CNG vehicle to start using CNG laced with 10 per cent hydrogen. But significant changes in the engine will be mandatory for those vehicles using fuel where the blending is over 10 per cent.
By early 2007, seven vehicle models—Tata Indica, a Tata bus, Bajaj three-wheelers, an Ashok Leyland mini bus, an Eicher mini bus, Mahindra three-wheelers and the Mahindra Utility—are expected to be ready with modified engines which can run on up to a maximum of 30 per cent hydrogen blend.
Banaras Hindu University has already developed modified two-wheeler and three-wheeler engines that are compatible with a CNG-hydrogen mix. The Hosiarpur-based International Cars and Motors Limited has bought the right to use these engines in three-wheelers.
Malhotra said the initial manufacturing cost of hydrogen was high because of the cost of technology involved. "We are confident that the prices will fall once the market for hydrogen gathers momentum," he said.
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