Clean Tech

Commercial vehicles on the green-way

Preeti Mehra | Updated on September 05, 2021

IMAGE CREDIT: ISTOCK.COM   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hydrogen generation from agri residue could well change the mobility scenario

With India accelerating its efforts at building an electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem, every breakthrough towards a fossil fuel-free future becomes vital.

In 2016, Pune-based KPIT Technologies, along with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), developed an automotive-grade PEM fuel cell to power EVs. This hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology uses chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen (from air) to generate electrical energy, eliminating fossil fuels. Further, it emits only water, thus cutting back on harmful greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

Then in 2020, again with CSIR, KPIT developed a 10 kWe automotive-grade LT-PEMFC fuel cell stack, which uses extremely thin metal bipolar plates to reduce the weight by about two-thirds.

They successfully ran trials on a battery-electric passenger car platform. The entire fuel cell stack and its related components with power train were retro-fitted in a five-seater sedan car. Going forward, they found that the technology would be more appropriate for heavier vehicles such as buses and trucks, which require a large battery for their operating range. HFC technology requires a smaller battery for a large operating range, making it an ideal match.

Last month, Sentient Labs, the incubator for KPIT, along with the MACS-Agharkar Research Institute in Pune achieved a breakthrough by generating hydrogen directly from agricultural residue for use in fuel cell-powered vehicles. They developed a process of anaerobic digestion of biomass for hydrogen generation. The technology uses rice straw, wheat straw, sugarcane tops, sugar industry waste and so on — basically plants rich in cellulose and hemicellulose content. The country generates around 200 million tonnes of such agri residue.

The process further generates methane, which can be utilised to produce more hydrogen by steam methane re-formation. The innovators say the two-stage process eliminates pre-treatment of the biomass, making it cheaper and cleaner. Its by-products can be used as fertilisers, soil conditioners, and undigested solids can be sold as fuel.

“The idea is to take our technology to its commercial end. Along with appropriate partners we will produce this green hydrogen in areas where plant residue is in plenty. We will link these to hydrogen fuel stations for electric commercial vehicles,” says Ravi Pandit, Chairman of Sentient Labs.

Though tightlipped about the partners’ identity, Pandit expects the first plant to be up in 12-15 months. A green initiative to watch out for.

Published on September 05, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.