With the aim to reduce the oil import bill, Indian government led by Ministry of Road Transport is encouraging two and three-wheeler manufacturers to bring in products that run on 100 percent bio-ethanol that is made out of rice and wheat straw. Further, Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways confirmed that top automakers including the likes of Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company have already made this possible and he has approved the permission to mass produce these vehicles.
A report on PTI quotes Nitin Gadkari says, "I told the management of Bajaj and TVS to make ethanol-based bike and auto rickshaws. They made it. I am giving them permission and the auto rickshaws or bikes or scooters will run on 100 percent bio-ethanol."
He further added that institutions and research department involved in agriculture should take up and increase work on topics like biofuel to reduce India's dependency on oil imports. Rice straw is not being used for productivity and in fact being burned as waste in Punjab and Haryana leading to pollution in the capital. Minister says, 280 litres of ethanol can be produced from one tonne of rice straw.
While Nitin Gadkari's comments are very encouraging, we still think it should be Ministry of Heavy Industries taking a call on setting guidelines for manufacturing of these vehicles and also the availability of biofuels to the mass public and popularising it among two/three-wheeler owners will be the first big task.
Currently, the government has been talking a lot about using alternative fuel, electric vehicles to reduce India's oil imports, but has also increased the taxes on hybrids and other eco-friendly vehicles in the country. Hybrid cars in India are currently being taxed at a massive 43% under GST, while electric vehicles (EVs) are being taxed at 12%. Use of bio-fuel and ethanol is now being promoted but again the lack of roadmap and a common way to implement it is still missing. NITI Aayog is now responsible to take things forward and is coordinating with various stakeholders including Ministry of Power, Road Transport, Heavy Industry, NGT and Ministry of FInance. NITI Aayog has already announced that presently there will not be any Nationwide EV policy.
Advantages of Bio-Ethanol fuel:
- Bio-Ethanol fuel being promoted is indeed a cost-effective compared to other biofuels and certainly over petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. The production of this fuel is least expensive and every country has the capacity to use produce it. Rice, wheat straw and even the likes of corn and sugarcane can be used to make this fuel.
- Use of ethanol over other regular fuel ensures fewer emissions and significantly low levels of toxins in the environment. However, many might argue that the distillation process that requires a lot of heat is not the cleanest way to make bio-ethanol. The harnessing of fuel from rice or wheat is an economical way to sustain an economy and reduce dependency on fossil fuels and create huge employment opportunities as it opens up the untapped agricultural sector.
- Remember, Ethanol is classified as a renewable energy source as the production of ethanol begins with photosynthesis which requires sun.
The biggest disadvantage of using 100% pure bio-ethanol is that its hard to vaporize. This makes starting a vehicle in cold conditions difficult. A solution to that is blending ethanol with petrol but that again is an expensive process.
In Brazil, the ethanol used to powered motor vehicles is bio-ethanol, manufactured from the waste fluids created when sugar is extracted from sugar cane. Since bio-ethanol is made from plants, which absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis during growth, it is attracting attention as an environmentally responsible fuel. And ethanol produces 3~5% less carbon dioxide than gasoline under equivalent driving conditions, further contributing to the reduction of CO2 generated in driving.
In Brazil, gasoline (containing ethanol 20~25%) blends and 100% ethanol are available to motorists. The user can refuel these fuels to one tank freely according to the availability or price or other situations of these fuels. In 2017, Oil maker Shell completed construction of a demonstration plant at its technology centre in Bangalore and showcased its IH2 technology that turns waste (bio) into transport fuel.