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India's first hydrogen fuel-cell powered car has completed the first round of testing in the country. The prototype car running on in-house developed fuel cell stack at the (CSIR) Council of Scientific and Industrial Research — National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
The fuel cell is a low-temperature PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type Fuel Cell that operates at 65-75 degree centigrade, which is suitable for vehicular applications. Researches have retro-fitted the newly developed fuel cell to a Mahindra e-Verito electric sedan.
CSIR and KPIT have successfully developed a 10 kW automotive-grade LT-PEMFC fuel cell stack. The fuel cell stack uses a PEM fuel cell technology that includes an electrode membrane assembly form CSIR along with KPIT's stack engineering which included light-weight metal bipolar plate and gasket design; among others. The fuel cell stack uses extremely thin metal bipolar plates, thus reducing the stack weight by about two-thirds.
An (HFC) Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle is essentially an electric car with an on-board power generation unit to charge the batteries using Hydrogen as a fuel. The chemical reaction inside the Hydrogen fuel cell will result in the generation of electric which will then power the electric motors.
The advantage of having an HFC vehicle is that it is like a conventional petrol or diesel car. All it needs is Hydrogen gas fuel to start generating electricity. Although Hydrogen is among the most abundant gas on the earth, it is quite tricky to compress it as fuel and transportation of compressed fule is also a challenge.
The byproduct of the chemical reaction after generation electric power is only water, which will come out of the exhaust of the HCF equipped vehicle. It is among the cleanest form of transportation that is currently available to the world.
Speaking about which, researchers in India have managed to develop an indigenous HFC technology to power a vehicle. In 2016, CSIR-NCL and CSIR-CECRI as part of the Industry Originated Project (IOP) category of the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) scheme partnered with KPIT for the development of an automotive-grade PEM Fuel Cell technology.
The retro-fitted HFC vehicle is equipped with a Type III commercial hydrogen tank. It can take around 1.75Kg of Hydrogen fuel stored at about 350 bar pressure. It has given the HFC vehicle an approximate range of 250 kilometres under typical Indian road conditions at a moderate speed of 60-65 Km/hr.
Mr Ravi Pandit, Chairman, KPIT said, "The technology has a great future and owing to its indigenous development, is expected to be more commercially viable than ever before. It is an important technology that will help India significantly reduce pollution and reduce our fossil fuel imports."
Prof. Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-NCL, said, "the time has come for renewable energy based on hydrogen as a fuel to power transportation in the country. This will not only reduce the petrol, diesel import bill but hydrogen is the cleanest fuel with water as the only by-product. A long term investment of CSIR under NMITLI in a niche energy area has come to fruition."
There are only a handful of Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars across the world. This includes the Honda FCX Clarity, Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota Mirai. The production version of the Indian developed HFC vehicle is still some time away. However, with in-house technology, we could make retro-fit kits for existing electric cars.
Thoughts About India's First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car Testing Completed
Despite the evolving technology in electric vehicle space with super-fast charging and long-range batteries, the industry believes that HFC technology is an ideal replacement for fossil fuel power vehicles. Indian researches indigenous developing an HFC technology and successfully completing a trial run is certainly a proud moment for the county.