The Indian Government has been pushing carmakers to introduce flex-fuel engines and to demote diesel engines. The minister of road transport and highway (MORTH), Nitin Gadkari has been keen on introducing Ethanol blend fuel to benefit from the fewer environmental impacts they possess. 

The flex-fuel engine is capable of running on 100% Ethanol or 100% petrol or a blend of both.

The Ethanol petrol blend is known for fewer harmful emissions compared to conventional fuels. Impressed by the use of flex-fuel engines in countries such as the USA, Brazil and Canada, the Indian Government has been urging to introduce the technology in India. 

“ I appeal to vehicle manufacturers to discourage the production and sale of diesel engine vehicles. Diesel based pollution is extremely hazardous to the environment and human health. The industry must promote alternative fuel technologies and fund R&D for alternative fuels”, said Nitin Gadkari. 

The government’s plan to encourage Ethanol (E20) 

The government has been cutting down the target to produce a 20% Ethanol blend or E20. Initially set for 2030 and reduced to 2025 the government has now set 2023 for the introduction of E20 fuel across the country. This will encourage car manufacturers to introduce flex-fuel engines as soon as possible. 

Tarun Kapoor, the petroleum secretary added “As far as the future of petrol is concerned, it will be ethanol-blended petrol going up to 20 per cent. Once we reach E20, then with flex-fuel vehicles, we can have E20 as well as E100. Motor vehicle owners can then decide what percentage they want. So that’s the roadmap as far as petrol is concerned”. 

What is holding the carmakers to introduce flex-fuel engines?

Currently, the only vehicle to be powered by a flex-fuel engine is the TVS Apache RTR 200. This was launched in 2019, but it was not made available for mass purchase. Also, there are only three outlets across the country providing E100 fuel. 

Understanding the lack of demand for it in India, many carmakers are hesitant to launch flex-fuel engines. Fuel availability is also a major factor that is holding OEM’s to introduce the technology. 

The government seems to be all geared up to introduce alternative fuels. But it is hard for the carmakers to keep up. The CAFE II norms will be introduced next year and the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) is set to be introduced in 2023. This complicates matters for carmakers to keep up with the introduction of both RDE norms and switch to E20 in the same year. 

E10 to 100% Ethanol in India

According to Kapoor “ More than 80% of petrol sold in India today is E10. Except for the Northeast and parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, West Bengal and few parts in the East, the rest of the country gets E10. From next year onwards, it will certainly be over the complete country, including the Northeast”. 

Nitin Gadkari also mentioned, “India imports Rs. 8 lakh crore of crude oil annually and this is going to double in the next 4-5 years, which will have a huge impact on the economy and the environment. So the government is promoting the adaptation of cleaner and greener alternative fuels”. 

E20 infrastructure

The infrastructure for the availability of Ethanol is holding back carmakers. The government has stepped up and has promised to improve the availability of fuel. At a recent SIAM annual convention, Nitin Gadkari stated “Within six months, we will establish a network of Ethanol pumps in the country. I assure that the availability of Ethanol is our responsibility, and we will see to it that Ethanol is available”. 

 The government’s aim to secure a cleaner and greener future is clear. However, it depends on the carmakers to take the initiative and follow the road map for a better future.