India’s Green Hydrogen Push in the Transportation Sector


12:05 PM

1 min read
India’s Green Hydrogen Push in the Transportation Sector Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Green Hydrogen?
  • What is the Scheme for Use of Green Hydrogen in the Transport Sector?
  • Advantages of Green Hydrogen in the Transportation Sector
  • India’s Green Hydrogen Push in the Transportation Sector
  • Significant Challenges to the Large-Scale Use of Green Hydrogen in the Transportation Sector

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced (in February, 2024) the ‘Scheme Guidelines for implementation of Pilot Projects for use of Green Hydrogen in the Transport Sector’.
  • The Scheme, which falls under the National Green Hydrogen Mission, would be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs. 496 Crores till the financial year 2025-26.

What is Green Hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen is colourless and green hydrogen is ‘green’ only by virtue of the way it is produced/ the source of the energy used to manufacture it.
  • Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen that is produced from the electrolysis of water (splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen) using an electrolyser powered by renewable energy.
  • It is 'end-to-end' green since it is powered by renewable energy, uses water as a feedstock, emits no carbon when consumed.
  • This means, except for a difference in the production pathway and emissions, green hydrogen is essentially the same as grey or any other colour hydrogen.

What is the Scheme for Use of Green Hydrogen in the Transport Sector?

  • The major objectives of the MNRE scheme include -
    • Validation of technical feasibility and performance of green hydrogen as a transportation fuel,
    • Evaluation of the economic viability of green hydrogen-powered vehicles, and 
    • Demonstration of safe operation of hydrogen-powered vehicles and refuelling stations.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways will appoint a scheme implementation agency that will invite proposals for pilot projects.
  • The selected company or consortium will be the project’s executing agency and will be required to complete the pilot project within two years.
  • Based on the recommendation of a Project Appraisal Committee, the MNRE will approve viability gap funding (VGF) for the project.
  • The VGF amount will be finalised after considering “specific needs, merits, and feasibility of each project”.

Advantages of Green Hydrogen in the Transportation Sector:

  • A hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle utilises hydrogen through combustion - which is similar to cars running on diesel and petrol, except there are no carbon emissions.
  • A hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) utilises hydrogen electrochemically by converting hydrogen stored in a high-pressure tank into electricity, leaving water as the byproduct.
  • Even though hydrogen ICE vehicles do not emit carbon, research suggests that burning hydrogen is far less energy efficient than converting it into electricity in a fuel cell.
  • Compared to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), in which the battery is the heaviest part, hydrogen FCEVs are typically much lighter because hydrogen is a light element.
    • This makes hydrogen fuel cell technology a viable alternative to EV battery technology, especially for heavy-duty trucks.
  • Given the need to cut carbon emissions in the transportation sector while ensuring there is no loss in revenue-generating payload capacity, green hydrogen holds promise.

India’s Green Hydrogen Push in the Transportation Sector:

  • Big Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Volvo Eicher and Ashok Leyland are doubling down on efforts to develop hydrogen-powered trucks and buses.
  • Indian energy companies too are trying to scale up production of green hydrogen and bring down costs to make it affordable enough to compete with other fuels.
  • As a large and growing market for both vehicles and energy, India stands to gain significantly from the large-scale adoption of green hydrogen as vehicular fuel.
  • India sees advantages ranging -
    • From curbing pollution and meeting its climate goals to reducing costly fossil fuel imports,
    • As well as a business opportunity to become a global hub for the production and export of green hydrogen.

Significant Challenges to the Large-Scale Use of Green Hydrogen in the Transportation Sector:

  • The prohibitive cost of production:
    • Green hydrogen-powered vehicles are not yet seen as a suitable alternative to four-wheel BEVs due to challenges arising from fuel costs.
    • For hydrogen FCEVs to compete with BEVs, green hydrogen needs to cost between $3 and $6.5 per kilogram by 2030.
    • For perspective, retail green hydrogen prices in California touched $30 per kilogram in 2023.
    • With more innovation in technology and scaling-up of production, costs are likely to come down in a few years.
  • Inadequate supporting infrastructure:
    • According to the California Transportation Commission, building a hydrogen truck fuelling station costs up to 72% more than the cost of building a battery electric truck fuelling station.
    • Shell, a pioneer in hydrogen refuelling technology, last month announced it was shutting all its hydrogen refuelling stations for cars in California due to supply complications and other external market factors.
  • Challenges of storage and transportation at scale:
    • Hydrogen is stored at a much higher pressure, and CNG cylinders cannot carry hydrogen.
    • For cylinders to carry a high mass of hydrogen, the carbon fibre needs to be stronger, which makes high-pressure hydrogen cylinders expensive.
    • This is a key barrier to the adoption of hydrogen as a transport fuel. For the same reason, the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure is also not seen as viable.
    • The MNRE plans to convene a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the development of specialised cylinders to store green hydrogen.
  • Challenges in handling hydrogen:
    • Hydrogen is extremely flammable, which means that special care would be needed in handling the fuel at retail stations compared to diesel, petrol, or even CNG.
    • Robust and fool-proof handling and safety standards need to be developed before pushing large-scale adoption.
  • Long-term viability of green hydrogen-powered vehicles:
    • The advancements in battery technologies continue to reduce the overall weight of EV batteries.
    • Therefore, the long-term viability of green hydrogen-powered heavy duty commercial vehicles could also come under pressure.

Q.1. What is the National Green Hydrogen Mission?

The National Green Hydrogen Mission, which aims to accelerate the deployment of Green Hydrogen as a clean energy source, will support the development of supply chains that can efficiently transport and distribute hydrogen.

Q.2. What is the Green Hydrogen Standard for India?

The Green Hydrogen Standard for India (issued in 2013) have defined what encompasses ‘green’ in green hydrogen. These standards specify an emission threshold of 2 kg CO2 equivalent / kg H2 as a 12-month average.

Source: Why green hydrogen presents both major opportunities, significant challenges