Hydrogen cars could be the Future of Indian Motoring: Why this tech is more usable than battery-run EVs

The technology known as Fuel Cell uses Hydrogen and oxygen to power Fuel Cells with the only resultant bi-product of the reaction being water. Recently, the GST council announced a slash in duties on Hydrogen powered vehicles sparking a re-evaluation of the technology for car manufacturers in India.

By: | Updated: July 23, 2018 12:59 PM
Hyundai's Fuel Cell Vehicle, the Nexo, at the 2018 Indo-Korea Bussines Summit

In order to reduce our dependence on Fossil Fuels, the government has been pushing for electric vehicles for most of this year. However, while electric vehicles themselves are emission-less, there is an alternative technology which has been struggling with widespread implementation across the world. The technology known as Fuel Cell, uses Hydrogen and Oxygen to power Fuel Cells with the only resultant bi-product of the reaction being water.  Recently, the GST council announced a slash in duties on Hydrogen powered vehicles sparking a re-evaluation of the technology for car manufacturers in India.

Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell Vehicle PM Narendra Modi showing interest in the Nexo's usability, something that might have resulted in the recent slash in duties by the GST Council.

In recent times, multiple manufacturers have argued on behalf of Fuel Cell technology saying that it will be easier to introduce Fuel Cell technology, without seriously impacting the environment. Interestingly, Fuel Cell vehicles will be powered by electric motors, but instead of batteries, they use a generator which that derives electricity through the process of combination between Hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproduct of this reaction is water. This not only removes the requirement for lithium (which is a rare commodity) but also increases the usability of the Electric vehicle exponentially.

Speaking on the recent announcement by the GST Council Mr Shekar Viswanathan, Vice Chairman and Whole-time Director at  Toyota Kirloskar Motor said "We note the Government’s technology-agnostic approach with the announcement of GST reduction (from 28% to 12%) on fuel cell vehicles, giving a boost to alternative fuels for mobility. In Toyota’s vision of mobility 2050, all electrified vehicle technologies [xEVs] will remain relevant where EV would cover short distance commute, while HEV/PHV includes passenger cars and FCVs would be for buses/trucks. This new move would positively promote such FCV technology start-ups for future, which is at a very nascent stage. Lower taxes will help faster adoption of electrification by gradually eliminating ICE over the period & improve customer acceptance in a phased manner. Such energy saving & environment protection criteria should eventually become the basis for taxation."

Toyota Mirai FCVToyota's Mirai or a derivative of its technology could also make it's way to the Indian market

For one, Hydrogen cell vehicles can be refuelled in a matter of minutes, compared to the conventional electric vehicle, which could take a couple of hours to recharge on standard charging. Most importantly, however, once refuelled, a Fuel Cell car could easily return a range of over 500 kms. In comparison, electric cars currently on sale in India are limited to a range of 130-150 kms, with a significant drop when used in city traffic. The first manufacturer to really showcase the Fuel-Cell technology in Passenger cars was Hyundai at the recent Indo-Korean Business summit in New Delhi to showcase the Hyundai's Nexo which can go as much as 609 kms on a single refuel. Aside from Hyundai, Toyota has also long been one of the global leaders in the technology and has expressed interest in bringing it to India in the past as well. Even, Tata Motors has showcased a Fuel-Cell powered bus in the past and could be among the strongest proponents of the technology being evaluated for India.

The fact that fuel cells are mainly reliant on Hydrogen, makes the technology even more tempting considering that Hydrogen is the single most abundant element in the atmosphere. The technology uses Hydrogen that can be carried in a tank in the car and fed into the fuel cell stack along with oxygen to create electricity and water, as a by-product. Filling it in vehicles is pretty much like petrol at stations but it’s the conversion and storage process that costs a bomb and has been holding back the implementation of this technology. Hence, any measures like the one by the GST council aimed at lowering costs will go a long way in helping Hydrogen vehicles to go mainstream sooner.

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