The promise and challenges of flex fuel vehicles

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“Union Minister Launches first of its kind pilot project on Flexi-Fuel Strong Hybrid Electric Vehicles (FFV-SHEV) in India” published in the PIB on 11th October 2022.

“The promise and challenges of flex fuel vehicles” published in the Livemint on 12th October 2022.

What is the News?

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has launched Toyota’s first-of-its-kind pilot project on Flexi-Fuel Strong Hybrid Electric Vehicles (FFV-SHEV) in India. The vehicle would run on 100% petrol as well as 20 to 100% blended ethanol and electric power.

What are flex-fuel vehicles?

Like traditional vehicles, flex fuel vehicles have an internal combustion engine, but instead of regular petrol, it can run on blended fuel—petrol with ethanol or methanol. The ethanol mix can vary between 20% and 85%

The vehicle has additional sensors and different programming of the engine control module to assess the blend of the fuel and adjust accordingly.

What are the advantages of flex-fuel vehicles?

Upgrading existing vehicles to run on high blend of ethanol fuel, however, is possible but expensive and not considered feasible.

Flex-fuel vehicles are seen as a one-shot solution for multiple problems—pollution, oil import bill and glut in sugar production.

Flex fuel vehicles bring down India’s crude oil import bill.

With a much lower cost of running, they also offer a better economy for consumers.

Read more: Flex-fuel engines to be mandatory soon: Gadkari
What are the challenges in Flex-fuel vehicles?

Chances of frequent revision: Ethanol is controlled by the government. So, chances of frequent revision are high. On the contrary, the fuel economy is likely to fall by 4-8%.

Less direct benefit to the consumer: Ethanol costs much lower than petrol at ₹47-64/ltr depending on the sugarcane source. However, oil marketing companies are expected to pocket the cost differential.

Significant investment: For mass adoption, adequate supply of different types of ethanol blends is needed across the country. This would have to be in addition to the existing network as current vehicles on the road would have to be supplied with fuel that has only 10% ethanol blending. This means significant investment in infra by oil firms.

Impact of Sugarcane crop: Constant supply of ethanol largely depends on sugarcane in India, which is a water-guzzling crop, any drought could have an impact on blending rates.

Read more: Govt may issue guidelines for ‘flex-fuel’ vehicles by October

Overall, the success of flex-fuel vehicles project will create an ecosystem of electric vehicles and make New India, a global leader in the manufacture of these electric vehicles. These technologies are innovative, revolutionary, sustainable, cost-effective, energy-efficient & will completely transform the transportation sector in New India.

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