On 5th June 2021 that marks World Environment Day, the government released the ‘Report of the Expert Committee on Road Map for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-2025’. In this report, the government has laid down a target of blending 20 percent ethanol in petrol by 2025. International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT), through its technology platform ASPIRE, conducted a webinar inviting experts from diversified segments of the automotive industry to highlight the benefits and challenges of this decision.
In its report, the committee announced the target of achieving 20% ethanol-blending with petrol in the next five years as it looks to cut dependence on oil imports. The government expects investments of up to Rs 41,000 crore to help India achieve its ethanol blending target of 10 percent by 2022 and 20 percent by 2025.
Currently, ethanol blending in the country is to the tune of 8.5% and is slated to increase to 10% ethanol by end of FY 2021-22. The current capacity of 300 crore litres ethanol increase to 400 crore litres for a 10% blend. By 2025, it is estimated that 1,000 crore litres of ethanol will be required for the country, says Dr SSV Ramakumar, Director R&D, IOCL.
C V Raman, Chief Technical Officer, Maruti Suzuki India, and President, ASPIRE Governing Board, points out that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to replace 18% of gasoline consumption. E20 fuels will also lead to a 16% reduction in harmful greenhouse gases.
However, he expressed his concern about customer acceptability and the impact of compatibility with ethanol fuels with on-road vehicles which are not developed to run on 20% ethanol-blended fuel which might would result in increased fuel consumption and higher maintenance costs for vehicles.
He also emphasised the need to recognise ethanol as a carbon-neutral fuel and mentioned that RON 95 fuels should be the standard for all ethanol-blended fuels from E20 to E85/E100.
Vikram Kasbekar, ED & CTO, Hero MotoCorp expressed his concern on E20 fuel impact on carburetted two-wheelers as a large number of such vehicles is running across the country. He suggested E10 be the base fuel for a certain period of time to compensate customers for the loss of fuel economy. He stated that clarity in the energy roadmap is imperative for the industry.
Dr Reiji Mathai, Director, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) stated that by 2023 some places in India will be selling 20% blended ethanol, and by 2025 it will be available all across India. He mentioned that vehicle manufacturers will be addressing the challenges of ethanol-blended fuels and he mentioned options of availability of E20 reference fuels locally in India is being explored with various refineries in India.
All the panellists acknowledge the benefits of ethanol-blended petrol in reducing harmful emissions, the reduction in import costs and advantages to farmers in producing raw materials.
The panel discussed that awareness building is a crucial aspect for the success of EBP in India. Other challenges include vehicle performance compatibility for ethanol-blended petrol, reduced fuel efficiency, pricing, storage, engine reliability issues, inconsistency in character of ethanol-blended petrol from various biosources, a requirement of consistency in policy across all aspects, etc.