Union minister Nitin Gadkari has made an important announcement that the market will see the launch of two bikes from two ‘big two-wheeler companies’ that will run on 100 percent ethanol, before end of this month.
Ethanol, priced at around Rs 40/litre, is half the price of petrol, which is now being sold at more than Rs 80/litre in Mumbai. The renewable fuel is witnessing a major retail push from the government as it is desperate to reduce the high cost of imported fuel.
The ministry of road transport and highways is urging automotive companies to introduce flex engines that can run with ethanol content as high as 100 percent. Automotive manufacturers have been selling E10 cars (10% ethanol, 90% petrol) in India but the government even struggled to meet E5 till 2016.
“Flex engines are those which can run on 100 percent petrol and/or 100 percent ethanol. So we will see the launch of two bikes from two big companies by end of this month. Brazil, Canada and US already have the option of ethanol and buyers there have the option of choosing between petrol and ethanol. One tonne of rice straw can produce 280 litre of ethanol,” said Gadkari.
Gadkari further said that as per a new policy, which was approved by the Cabinet, India could see an increase to the tune of 50 percent in production of ethanol.
“We import Rs 7 lakh crore worth of fossil fuel. We have decided that we will make second generation ethanol from cotton stalk, wheat straw, bagasse and bamboo. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been looking into this and made a policy and our Cabinet has approved it. This will result in 50 percent extra production of ethanol in India,” added Gadkari.
Indian two-wheeler manufacturers have tried their hand at CNG-fueled engines in the past but there was no major headway as the technology for gas-fired bikes has not evolved and availability of the fuel still remains a hurdle. Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company tested two-wheelers to run on CNG. There have been launches of CNG-powered scooters wherein the Activa of Honda was modified to run on CNG.
Alongside ethanol, the government is also pursuing other alternative fuels such as bio-diesel and methanol. Gadkari is betting on methanol as fuel for commercial vehicles that can be blended with a fossil fuel or directly. In some countries, methanol is even being used in racing cars.
Being a coal surplus country, production of methanol will not be an issue, believes Gadkari.
“Methanol is Rs 22 per litre and emits much less harmful gases and there are compan+ies which make methanol from coal. We are coal surplus country. We can have trucks and other engines powered by methanol”, added Gadkari.