Ethanol Vehicles: A Viable Alternative to Electric and Ice Cars in India?

In the ever-evolving world of the global automotive industry, a profound transition is underway, steering the landscape toward an all-electric, ethanol-based vehicle. While India, a significant player in this dynamic theater, once envisioned a fast-track journey to a 100% electric vehicle (EV) realm by 2030, practicality intervened, postponing the goal to a more pragmatic 2040.

Interestingly, amid the determined push for electric vehicle dominance, there is significant research into ethanol flex-fuel vehicles. Incredibly, India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways is passionate about this cause. But what is fueling the growing fervor for biofuels and what kind of sustainability does it embody?

What is ethanol?

Some people don’t know that ethanol is a renewable fuel for vehicles that comes from the fermentation process of sugars obtained from botanical matter. Among the predominant sources of ethanol, sugar cane, maize and corn are leading. Furthermore, it is worth noting that ethanol extraction extends to other botanical entities such as barley, wheat and cassava.

𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐝’𝐬 𝟏𝐬𝐭 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐭𝐲𝐩𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐁𝐒-𝟔 (𝐒𝐭𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐨) ‘𝐄𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐬’ #ElectrifiedFlexFuelVehicle #FlexFuelVehicle #UrjadataKisan@Toyota_India

— Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari)
August 29, 2023

Proving to be a fuel of notable virtue, ethanol boasts the virtue of being clean-burning, emitting significantly fewer emissions compared to its gasoline counterpart. This attribute aligns perfectly with the paradigm of domestic production, thereby setting the potential for easing India’s dependence on imported oil. In its quest to encourage the integration of ethanol into the automotive industry, the Indian government is strongly advocating its use as a powerful fuel source. In order to materialize this vision, a final goal was set: blending 20% ​​ethanol with gasoline by 2025. Called flexible fuel technology, the harmonious fusion of ethanol and gasoline epitomizes this progressive initiative.

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Growth of ethanol blended fuel and its potential

The presence of ethanol-blend fuel on the Indian automotive scene is by no means new – for the past decade, a modest infusion of ethanol, roughly 2 to 3%, has graced the petrol mix. This infusion, considered safe for existing internal combustion engines due to its relatively low concentration, was initially implemented to reduce India’s dependence on imported crude oil. Over time, this ethanol blend has gradually increased to around 10%, with government plans to increase it to 20% by 2025.

Sugarcane, an old Indian agricultural producer, takes center stage as the primary source of ethanol. National expertise in sugarcane cultivation led to surplus sugar production from 2010 to 2011, exceeding domestic needs. Consequently, part of the sugar cane harvest found its purpose in the production of ethanol, deviating from the traditional sugar route. In the face of rising fuel consumption and increasing demands for ethanol blending, stakeholders agree that meeting this demand remains an achievable feat.

The pinnacle of sustainability

Ethanol Fuel: A Viable Alternative to Electric and ICE Cars in India?

The synergy between ethanol and India’s automotive aspirations is highlighted by precise projections. Taking into account gasoline consumption forecasts and a 20% ethanol blend, the predicted need for 1,016 million liters of ethanol will appear in 2025. Interestingly, this demand is still well below the expected supply of 1,500 million liters of this environmentally conscious biofuel. Supporting this commitment, state-owned oil marketing entities operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas are actively setting up twelve 2G bio-refineries with a significant investment of Rs 14,000 crore. It is significant that these 2G ethanol plants utilize agricultural residues such as rice and wheat straw, along with sugar cane and fruit branches, thereby increasing ethanol production and repurposing agricultural waste.

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Multiple ethanol gains

Beyond its fuel value, 2G ethanol represents a transformative waste-to-riches trajectory for the agrarian domain. It represents a sustainable solution for avoiding the burning of crop residues, which contribute to atmospheric pollution. At the same time, the adoption of ethanol is in line with India’s commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, cementing its commitment to get 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Ethanol and ICE’s Tenacious Continuation

The expected growth of the Indian passenger car market, from 3 million units in the previous year to a growing domain of 7 million units by 2030, lays the foundation for this continued work with the internal combustion engine (ICE). While predictions for EV penetration vary, the consensus prevails — 70% of the landscape will remain in the domain of ICEs, which translates to a significant 5 million units. Furthermore, ICE vehicles will coexist with new electrified and environmentally friendly fuel technologies, as explained by Arun Goel, Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries.

He says, “ICE vehicles in India will co-exist with various electrified and eco-fuel technologies to power cars for at least the next 20 years.”

Ethanol and the Government’s E20 initiative

Amid these evolutions, the government’s strategic E20 effort emerges as a decisive intervention. By orchestrating a 20% ethanol blend, this initiative deftly addresses multiple aspects. First, it reduces India’s reliance on crude oil imports, strengthening economic independence. At the same time, it introduces cleaner combustion dynamics, since the organic origin of ethanol supports extremely low carbon emissions throughout its life cycle.

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The world’s first ethanol-powered car

Recently, a key milestone marked India’s journey towards sustainable automotive solutions. The pioneering unveiling of the world’s first inaugural Bharat Stage 6 (BS6) ethanol-powered hybrid Innova has attracted considerable attention. The landmark discovery echoed India’s firm commitment to encourage eco-friendly vehicles, as expressed by Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways. He presented a vision of India achieving 20% ​​ethanol blending in just three months, a testament to the nation’s production capacity.

Since ethanol is an indigenous, environmentally friendly and renewable fuel, India has promising prospects. The Modi government’s emphasis on ethanol is aligned with the goals of achieving energy self-sufficiency, doubling farmers’ income, transitioning them to Uryadat while continuing…

— Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari)
August 29, 2023

The Innova’s revolutionary hybrid powertrain, featuring a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor, embodies the spirit of innovation. With a power output of 181 hp, this combination delivers an impressive fuel consumption of 23.24 km/l, matched to the e-CVT gearbox. Notably, this powerful engine offers an outstanding city fuel efficiency of 28 kilometers per liter and an equally commendable 35 kilometers per liter on the open highway. What’s more, this visionary wonder pairs flawlessly with ethanol, a sustainable and renewable resource derived from sugar cane.

Categories: Trends

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