In Mohali, refineries are making methanol using bamboo, and I have advised them to supply 20 per cent ethanol blended fuel to countries like Bangladesh, which can in turn give a big boost to bamboo cultivation in the North East region…”
THE GOVERNMENT IS open to fostering multiple technologies when it comes to new and emergent vehicle platforms, said Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways.
The Centre’s approach is focussed on harnessing and adapting different platforms based on their suitability in India with the twin objectives of cutting down on emissions and lowering fuel imports, he told The Indian Express.
Currently, upfront tax incentives are largely limited to mainly one technological platform — battery electric vehicles or BEVs — even though other technologies such as hybrids get incentives under the Centre’s flagship FAME subsidy scheme. But vehicle manufacturers maintain that a technology-agnostic approach which spells out emission objectives manufacturers have to meet, irrespective of technology, might be beneficial.
“Multiple technologies (are needed), region to region, district to district, we need to have a different type of policy,” Gadkari said. In a pilot project that was carried out for three months, mixing of 15-20 per cent methanol in diesel proved to be a big success, he pointed out. “We are looking to expand it throughout Karnataka since it is very cost effective compared to just diesel and also far less polluting…
Assam Petroleum has about 600 tonnes of methanol. In Mohali, refineries are making methanol using bamboo, and I have advised them to supply 20 per cent ethanol blended fuel to countries like Bangladesh, which can in turn give a big boost to bamboo cultivation in the North East region…”
“Similarly, rice straw is being used to produce bio-CNG and bio-LNG (liquefied natural gas). For trucks and buses, it will be far cheaper to use this LNG… Burning rice straw is a big issue in states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and we can plan around 300-400 such plants in these states to convert rice straw into bio-CNG and bio-LNG. It can be used for tractors, buses and trucks,” he said.
The arguments against solely focusing on just one platform — BEVs — have multiple triggers.
For instance, the BEV experience across all markets, from Norway, to the US and China, show that the electric push works only if it is backed by state subsidies. The problem with this overt subsidisation of EVs, especially in the context of a developing nation such as India, is that much of this subsidy, especially the one offered as tax breaks for cars, ends up in the hands of the middle or upper middle class – the typical buyers of battery electric four-wheelers.
Then there is the issue of developing the charging network, and of the source of electricity generation. In several countries that have gone in for an EV push, much of the electricity is generated from renewables — in Norway for example, it is 99 per cent from hydroelectric power. In India, despite a concerted renewable push, the grid is still fed largely by coal-fired thermal plants. Unless the generation mix changes significantly, there would be an issue with using fossil-fuel generation to power EVs. So, theoretically, while the tailpipe emissions by cars might not be polluting the cities where they are being driven, the pollution is still happening wherever the thermal plant is running.