Toyota’s flex-fuel prototype: How it will work, what advantages it offers

Source: The post is based on the article “Toyota’s flex-fuel prototype: How it will work, what advantages it offers”  published in Indian Express on 5th September 2023

What is the News?

The Union Road Transport Minister has launched the world’s first-ever prototype of the BS-VI Stage-II Electrified Flex Fuel Vehicle.This vehicle has been developed by Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

The vehicle uses a mixture of fuel to drive the car.It includes ethanol, a biofuel produced from energy crops like sugarcane, maize and rice and an electric power.

What are Flex-Fuel vehicles?

A flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) is an alternative fuel vehicle that has an internal combustion engine designed to run on more than one fuel.

An Electrified Flex Fuel Vehicle has both a flex fuel engine and an electric powertrain.This gives it the ability to provide dual benefit of higher ethanol use and much higher fuel efficiency.

How does Flex fuel vehicles work?

Most components in a flex fuel vehicle are the same as those in petrol-only cars.But some special ethanol-compatible components are required to adjust to the different chemical properties and energy content in ethanol/ methanol, such as modifications to the fuel pump and fuel injection system.

The Engine Control Module (ECM) is also calibrated to accommodate the higher oxygen content of ethanol. 

What are the pros and cons of Flex Fuel vehicles?

Pros: The use of ethanol blending sharply lowers harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur, and carbon and nitrogen oxides. 

– Blending will also help cut oil imports to fuel vehicles.

Cons: Flex-fuel cars typically take a 4-8% hit on fuel efficiency when using ethanol for motive power.

– In Flex Fuel cars, ethanol is sourced from crops such as sugarcane which are usually very water-intensive.

Note: According to a NITI Aayog report, in 2019-20, more than 90% of the ethanol produced in the country came from sugarcane, which is also a politically important crop in states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

From the customer perspective, flex fuel vehicles may not seem feasible in India, since the cost of ownership and running cost are going to be very high compared with regular vehicles.

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