Maruti, IOC join hands for biofuel blend, engine efficiency
With consumers demanding cost-effective and fuel-efficient vehicles, and the government pushing for cleaner fuel as well as reducing import dependence, the onus is now on auto makers and oil refiners to offer such products.
In keeping with this demand, auto makers, including Maruti Suzuki India and refiners, including public sector giant Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), have joined forces to offer the best.
Tests are happening at various levels at the IndianOil Research & Development Centre and other places to work on various specifications of blending biofuel — ethanol blended petrol/diesel and engine configuration that could help save fuel and lead to better mileage.
While approving the National Policy on Biofuels. the government had observed that it would not only reduce import dependence but also help create a cleaner environment. Sources at Maruti Suzuki said that the company was not only working with IndianOil, but also with NITI Aayog and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) for testing of the engines at various levels, and design.
CV Raman, Senior Executive Director (Engineering), Maruti Suzuki, told BusinessLine that “Methanol blended fuel is a very different fuel as compared to current fuel. In order to understand the impact of the fuel on engines and vehicles in terms of material, emission, efficiency and driving behaviour, a comprehensive check is required. Based on this, proper design changes can be implemented to make vehicles compliant. Maruti Suzuki is actively working with NITI Aayog for conducting this evaluation.”
Work is also happening on taking e10 (10 per cent blending) to e20 (20 per cent).
According to industry sources, ethanol-blended petrol costs may not be expensive because the current procurement price of ethanol in India is lower than the international price of petrol.
Reduction of GST on ethanol in July from 18 per cent to 5 per cent has also helped ethanol-blending programme. In e10 and e20 blends of petrol, ethanol component will be higher and this will impact petrol price positively, oil refiners argue.
SSV Ramakumar, Director (R&D), IndianOil said, “Currently, for Maruti Suzuki, we are using different blends to further fine-tune the engine.”
He said that IndianOil R&D, Indian Institute of Petroleum at Dehradun and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) conduct a joint study for such purposes. “There are extensive discussions among all stakeholders before formalising the specifications,” he said adding that “among various issues deliberated flexi-engines is one subject. It has to happen sometime, but it is for the car makers to decide.” Ramakumar also said that the draft of e20 specifications have been circulated among stakeholders and field evaluations are underway.
It is based on the suggestions made and the draft formalised that BIS notifies them, he added.
According to industry experts, world over, industries are looking at alternatives to fossil fuels, including electric vehicles as the price of crude oil has been fluctuating in the world market and has increased significantly in the recent past.
Such unforeseen escalations in crude oil prices are severely straining economies the world over, particularly those of the developing countries.
The National Policy on Biofuels has also noted that India’s energy security would remain vulnerable until alternative fuels to substitute/ supplement petro-based fuels are developed based on indigenously produced renewable feedstocks.
In biofuels, the country has a ray of hope in providing energy security. Biofuels are environment-friendly fuels and their utilisation would address global concerns about containment of carbon emissions.
The transportation sector has been identified as a major polluting sector. Use of biofuels has therefore become compelling in view of the tightening automotive vehicle emission standards to curb air pollution, it noted.
Therefore, a company like Maruti Suzuki, which is also the largest car manufacturer in the country, has to look at such alternatives. The company has more than 50 variants of vehicles right now and needs to pull up its socks to offer alternative fuel options. It already has CNG-run vehicles and will be launching an electric car by 2020.