BL Explainer

All you need to know about flex-fuel vehicles

| Updated on: Dec 29, 2021

FFVs are capable of running on 100 per cent petrol or 100 per cent bio-ethanol or a combination of both

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What are flex fuel vehicles?

Flex fuel vehicles (FFV) are capable of running on 100 per cent petrol or 100 per cent bio-ethanol or a combination of both. Bio-ethanol contains less energy per litre than petrol but the calorific value (energy contained in the fuel) of bio-ethanol will become on par with petrol with use of advanced technology. The government has also advised carmakers to start making Flex Fuel Strong Hybrid Electric Vehicles (FFSHEV). Such a vehicle, though yet to be made widely available in world markets, essentially houses an electric motor which powers the vehicle alongside the traditional petrol engine.

What way are they different from existing vehicles?

Since an FFV is capable of running on either petrol or ethanol, it will be the first of its kind 100 per cent dual fuel vehicle to be running on Indian roads. To be sure, a litre of petrol sold in India has an average of 8 percent ethanol content even though oil marketing companies have clearance to do even 10 percent (E10) blending. All vehicles manufactured in India are tuned for E10. All existing vehicles on Indian roads will not be able to run on higher ethanol content beyond 10 percent.

Why is government of India pushing for FFVs?

Last year (FY21), India’s oil import bill stood at $62.7 billion which was matched in just the first seven months (April-October) of this year. To make matters worse, the rupee is at its weakest level in last three financial years. The government is desperate to bring down the oil import bill by creating fuel substitutes like ethanol, hydrogen and electricity. Even a push till the E20 level can result in savings of $4 billion per annum, as per estimates. This is possible only if flex-fuel vehicles are made available in the market. Also, FFVs will also help the government meet its commitments when it comes to reducing emission.

To what extent will FFVs help in cutting emission?

According to a report by the expert committee formed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, by just hitting E20, carbon monoxide emissions were observed to be 50 per cent lower in two-wheelers and 30 per cent lower in four-wheelers compared to petrol. Hydrocarbons were lower by 20 per cent. The report also mentioned that E20 blending will result in drop in fuel efficiency by nearly 6-7 per cent in 4 wheelers designed for E0 and calibrated to E10.

What has been the auto industry's reaction to govt's policy?

Higher blending of ethanol will mean higher manufacturing costs which translates to pricier vehicles. Certain auto parts, especially those that come in contact with higher ethanol content, will have to be replaced with a compatible product to avoid corrosion. Automotive companies say that they are ready to move with government regulations on ethanol blending of E20 by 2025. Government officials have said that Toyota, Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai have agreed to make FFV in India. Apparently, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company have also assured the government of rolling out three-wheelers that can be run on 100 per cent ethanol.

Published on December 29, 2021
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