Hydrogen fuel-cell buses likely to be tested in Delhi later this year

Published - July 07, 2023 08:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Later this year, the first test runs of hydrogen-powered buses will likely be under way in Delhi followed by other States. The buses, developed under a joint venture involving Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and Tata Motors, will ply — as part of a scientific test experiment — between Delhi and Faridabad, and thereafter on some “iconic” routes, according to S.S.V. Ramakumar, Director (R&D), Indian Oil. “This will include, for instance, Delhi-Agra; Vadodara to Kevadia (Statue of Unity), in Gujarat, Thiruvananthapuram Airport to Thiruvananthapuram City Centre (in Kerala),” he said at a press conference on Friday in Delhi.

The hydrogen buses in this experiment are like an electric bus, in that hydrogen interacts with a ‘fuel cell’ battery producing electricity and no carbon emissions. Though they produce electricity like batteries, fuel cells do not deteriorate and can keep running as long they have a steady supply of fuel, in this case hydrogen.

The hydrogen fuel-cell buses to be deployed are “indigenously manufactured” in India but the actual fuel-cells are reportedly imported. “We have applied to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for route permits and are currently in the process of homologation (where a government certifies a vehicle is fit to run on public roads). The first three buses are expected to ply in October,” Mr. Ramakumar added, “This will be a structured scientific process.”

The company has a hydrogen-fuelling centre in Faridabad. “Going ahead, we expect government [Ministry of New and Renewable Energy] to fund more hydrogen-bus projects. Currently this has been funded by internal funds,” he added.

While there were several ‘pilot’ projects testing hydrogen buses, it would be years before they were commercially viable because they were relatively expensive; being combustible were prone to accidents and, required an elaborate charging infrastructure.

Road-worthiness tests

“There are several road-worthiness tests that have to be passed and special tracks have to be created to test these buses,” said Ashish Lele, Director, CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, which has indigenously developed hydrogen fuel stacks and is testing it for a variety of applications including transport.

This is not the first time that hydrogen powered buses will dot Delhi’s roads. In 2020, the Delhi government tested 50 hydrogen-powered CNG buses – again in collaboration with IOCL — but is unlikely to scale up the projects as the buses did not significantly reduce pollution, a senior official in Delhi’s transport department told The Hindu. The hydrogen-CNG buses do not use fuel cells and are buses with an internal combustion engine that uses a mix of hydrogen and CNG as fuel.

The Centre has announced a major push towards evolving a ‘green hydrogen’ economy that envisages India as a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen, which is hydrogen from renewable energy sources. ‘Long-haul mobility,’ which involves making hydrogen powered trucks, is one of the focus areas of this endeavour.

(With inputs by Alisha Dutta)

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