Hydrogen Cars in India

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 21/11/2023

Imagine driving a car that runs on water and emits only water. It sounds like science fiction. Well, not anymore. Hydrogen cars are here, and they are ready to revolutionise the way we travel.

Hydrogen cars are vehicles that use hydrogen as a fuel to power an electric motor. They work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a device called a fuel cell, which produces electricity and water as by-products.

Hydrogen cars have many advantages over conventional cars, such as zero-emission, high efficiency, and long range. They can also help cut down our reliance on fossil fuels and better our surroundings' air quality.

But how feasible are hydrogen cars in India, a country with a vast population, a growing economy, and a diverse geography? What are the challenges and opportunities for hydrogen cars in India? And what are the potential benefits of hydrogen cars for India's energy security, environmental sustainability, and economic growth?

Today, we will try to address these questions and more and will help you understand the current status, potential advantages, and the road ahead for hydrogen fuel cars in India.

How Does Hydrogen Powered Cars in India Work?

If you are interested in learning about the mechanism of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in India, then read out the steps below.

Step 1: This car has a tank that stores compressed hydrogen gas (H2) under high pressure. The tank is designed to be safe and durable and can hold enough hydrogen to power the car for hundreds of kilometres.

Step 2: Next, the fuel cell stack in this car, which has several thin layers of electrodes and electrolytes, starts its function. It converts the chemical energy of hydrogen into electrical energy.

Step 3: Now starts hydrogen oxidation. Its engine system pumps hydrogen from the tank to the fuel cell stack. There, the hydrogen molecules are split into protons and electrons by a catalyst at the anode (the negative electrode).

An external circuit helps the electrons to flow and power the electric motor and other components of the car.

Step 3: The next stage in this process is oxygen reduction. Its engine draws air from the atmosphere and filters it to remove dust and pollutants. The air is then supplied to the fuel cell stack, where oxygen molecules react with the protons and electrons at the cathode (the positive electrode) to form water.

Step 4: The vehicle now regulates the voltage and current of the electricity produced by the fuel cell stack. The electricity is then used to drive the electric motor, which propels the car forward. Furthermore, the vehicle features a battery that stores excess electricity and supplies extra power when necessary.

Step 5: The motor mechanism is such that it collects the excess water produced by the fuel cell stack and releases it as water vapour through the exhaust pipe.

The water vapour is the only emission from the car, making it environmentally friendly and zero-emission.

Current Status of Hydrogen Cars in India

Hydrogen cars are not new to India. In fact, India was one of the first countries to experiment with hydrogen cars in the early 2000s, when the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) jointly developed a hydrogen-powered three-wheeler.

Since then, India has made some progress in the field of hydrogen cars, but it still faces many challenges and has multiple opportunities.

Here are some initiatives and developments that indicate a positive outlook for hydrogen cars in India.

Pilot Project

In March 2023, the Union Ministry for Road Transport and Highways launched a pilot project for hydrogen-based advanced fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). It was in collaboration with Toyota Kirloskar Motor and the ICAT or International Centre for Automotive Technology.

The project aims to study and evaluate the performance of the first hydrogen car in India, Toyota Mirai, one of the world’s first hydrogen-fuel electric vehicles, on Indian roads and climatic conditions.

The project aims to spread awareness about hydrogen and FCEV technology and support a hydrogen-based society in India.

Hyundai Launch

Hyundai, the Korean car maker, is expected to launch a hydrogen-powered sports utility vehicle in India by 2024, according to sources. The car, Nexo, is already available in international markets, such as South Korea, Europe, and the US.

The Nexo drives up to 609 km on a single charge. Its refuelling takes less than five minutes. Hyundai plans to introduce this car in India as a part of its global strategy to promote hydrogen mobility.

Challenges for Hydrogen Cars in India

Some of the challenges for hydrogen cars in India are:

Infrastructure

India lacks a sufficient and reliable network of hydrogen refuelling stations, which is essential for the widespread adoption of hydrogen cars. According to the report, India had only four hydrogen dispensing stations, compared to 161 in Japan and 250 in China.

Policy

India needs a clear and consistent policy framework for hydrogen cars, which creates uncertainty and confusion for the stakeholders. For instance, India's National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap (NHERM), launched in 2006, has not been updated since then, and its targets and timelines still need to be met.

Cost

Hydrogen cars are costly for both makers and buyers. The hydrogen car price in India will be high because the production, storage, and delivery of hydrogen are expensive. This is mainly because there aren't enough large-scale operations and advanced technology to decrease costs.

Moreover, green hydrogen cars in India will face stiff competition from other alternatives, such as electric and conventional vehicles, which are cheaper and widely available in India.

Demand

Hydrogen cars have yet to generate enough demand in India. The primary reason is the lack of awareness and acceptance among the public and the private sector.

Many people are still unaware of the benefits and features of hydrogen cars. Some are also sceptical about their safety and performance.

Also, hydrogen cars have not got much support and incentives from the government and the industry. These are crucial for creating a favourable market environment.

Poor Cabin Space

Installing a hydrogen fuel tank in a hydrogen car slumps the cabin room. This will be a significant issue for hatchback and compact sedan models.

Safety Issue

Hydrogen gas is highly flammable. Its transportation requires utmost caution. Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that the mass storage of this gas is in an area far from residential society or posh neighbourhoods.

Performance

Hydrogen fuel and electric cars have similar performance in terms of acceleration, speed and handling, as they both use electric motors. However, ICT has lower performance than the other two. The reasons are lower power density, higher noise and vibration, and lower reliability.

Hydrogen vs Electric vs Traditional Cars: Key Distinctions

Here is an in-depth analysis of the key distinctions among these three vehicle types.

Efficiency

Electric cars are the most efficient of the three types. They have the highest energy conversion rate from the source to the wheels, at about 80%.

Hydrogen fuel cars have a lower efficiency, at approximately 50%. They lose some energy during the production, storage and conversion of hydrogen.

ICT engine cars have the lowest efficiency, at about 20%. They waste significant energy as heat and emissions.

Environmental Impact

Electric cars and hydrogen fuel cars have zero tailpipe emissions. They do not produce any harmful gases or particles when they run. However, their environmental impact depends on how the electricity and hydrogen are produced.

If they are produced from renewable sources, such as solar, wind or hydro, they have a low carbon footprint. If they are produced from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil or natural gas, their carbon footprint is high.

ICT engine cars have the highest environmental impact. They release carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, tiny particles, and other harmful gases.

Running Cost

Electric cars are the cheapest among the three types. They have lower maintenance and fuel costs than the other two. The average cost of electricity per kilometre is about ₹0.80.

The average hydrogen fuel price in India per kilometre is about ₹4.

In contrast, petrol cars cost around ₹8-10 per kilometre.

However, electric vehicles have a higher initial purchase price than the other two types because of batteries.

Availability

ICT engine cars are the most widely available among the three types, as they have a well-established infrastructure of gas stations, service centres and dealerships.

Electric cars are becoming more available, as the number of charging stations, battery swapping stations and electric car models is increasing.

Safety

Electric and hydrogen fuel cars are safer than ICT vehicles. They have lower risks of fire, explosion and leakage. They further have battery management systems, thermal management systems and circuit breakers that prevent overheating, overcharging and short-circuiting of the batteries.

Hydrogen fuel safety standards will include pressure relief valves, rupture disks and sensors that prevent overpressure and leakage of the hydrogen tanks.

Car Insurance

The price of four-wheeler insurance relies on the car's market value. When comparing the ex-showroom pricing of electric cars to traditional vehicles, the former will be more expensive.

The explanation is that electric cars are outfitted with several cutting-edge technologies, many of which are imported from other nations. If there is damage to your electric car, the cost of repairs and replacements and the insurer's claim obligation will increase. For this reason, when you buy car insurance for an electric vehicle, it will be expensive.

When hydrogen cars are launched, they will also be more expensive to insure because they will have many of the same high-tech features as EVs. However, regardless of which car you drive, always compare car insurance before buying one.

If you are confused about which car insurance is the best in the market, you can opt for Tata AIG car insurance. With over 7500 cashless garages across India, at Tata AIG, we ensure your journey remains stress-free no matter in which city you are driving.

Conclusion

The future of hydrogen cars in India is still uncertain. There is a lot to be done to make them accessible to the public. Proper infrastructure, fuelling facilities, and awareness among the public are some challenges these cars will face while making their way into the Indian market.

However, given the multiple benefits they offer, one thing is for sure: such vehicles will mark the end of the era of traditional vehicles that use petrol and diesel as their running fuel.

FAQS

Who has a hydrogen car in India?

In India, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, and Ashok Leyland plan to launch hydrogen cars. The launch will be implemented in collaboration with Hyundai and Toyota.

What is the mileage per kg of hydrogen cars in India?

Mileage usually varies because of driving patterns, models, and road conditions. Still, you can expect 250 kms on one kilogram of hydrogen.

What is the highest mileage hydrogen car?

Toyota Mirae has a record of 845 miles without requiring second refuelling.

Is hydrogen fuel cheaper than petrol?

Yes, in terms of running costs, they are much cheaper than petrol and diesel engine cars.

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