Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hydrogen-CNG combo fuel for Vehicles

The quest for a sustainable source of fuel supply has brought India’s automobile rivals together. Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ashok Leyland and Eicher Motors have joined hands under the aegis of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to participate in a first-of-its-kind project to create an optimal mix of hydrogen and compressed natural gas (CNG). The idea is to make the fuel mix usable in existing vehicles.

The world over, vehicle makers are looking for ways to use hydrogen fuel in new products, but this project seeks to develop the CNG-hydrogen mixture (called Hithane) for use in the existing on-road fleet of vehicles with minimum modifications in the engine and engine components.

The participating companies are providing seven different types of vehicles for this Rs 5 crore project, which is being done in partnership with the ministry of new and renewable energy. In fact, SIAM and the ministry are expected to sign a memorandum for the purpose soon.

During the course of the project, all vehicles - three light commercial vehicles (LCVs), two three-wheelers, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) and a passenger car - will be first tested on various blends of Hithane. Blends containing between 10-30% of hydrogen will be tested to get to the optimum blend that reduces emissions and achieves the desired fuel supply sustainability. Thereafter, this blend will be used to modify vehicle engines for optimum performance with the new fuel.

The hydrogen needed for this project will be sourced from Indian Oil and a hydrogen station is expected to come up at the Central Government Officers’ Complex in Delhi. Hithane not only reduces dependence on foreign oil, but also cuts down on NOX (nitrous oxide) emissions and helps achieve better fuel efficiency.

In a hydrogen engine, electricity generated from solar power is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is released into the atmosphere, while hydrogen is liquefied and stored at a very low temperature (-253 °C). During internal combustion, the hydrogen combines with oxygen and the resulting energy powers the vehicle, while the hydrogen is returned to the environment as water.

However, several issues have to be addressed before viable hydrogen engines can be developed indigenously. Explains Arun Jaura, senior vice-president (R&D and Product Development) at M&M: “Use of hydrogen in vehicles poses several challenges such as its availability, distribution, on-board storage and safety. The SIAM project is the first step towards looking for a viable use of hydrogen in automobiles in the Indian context.” M&M has already made a beginning with hydrogen - by showcasing a concept vehicle called HY-Alpha Champion - a sub-one tonne three-wheeler which runs on compressed hydrogen gas.

Source:- DNAIndia