India’s green hydrogen roadmap and its role in the transportation sector

India is making significant strides in its green hydrogen roadmap, and very recently the government approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission that aims to make India a leading producer and supplier of Green Hydrogen to the world.
India’s green hydrogen roadmap and its role in the transportation sector
India’s green hydrogen roadmap and its role in the transportation sector11/04/2023

India has set a target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. However, with the country’s growth trajectory gaining momentum, the demand for energy is expected to increase substantially in the coming years. In fact, India’s energy consumption has doubled since 2000, and it is predicted to experience the largest surge in energy demand over the next two decades. India is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels, with over 40% of its primary energy requirements being imported at a cost of more than USD 90 billion annually. Key sectors such as mobility and industrial production are major consumers of these imports. This highlights the urgent need to transition to renewable energy sources that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

In India’s path to Net zero, green hydrogen has the potential to reduce fossil fuel dependence and enable us towards a path of decarbonization in the mobility sector. India is making significant strides in its green hydrogen roadmap, and very recently the government approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission that aims to make India a leading producer and supplier of Green Hydrogen to the world.

Several initiatives and partnerships are being implemented to develop green hydrogen technology and infrastructure in India. Reliance New Energy Solar Limited (RNESL) and Denmark’s Stiesdal A/S have joined forces to develop and manufacture Hydrogen Electrolyzers in India, as part of their efforts towards achieving the ‘1-1-1’ target for Green Hydrogen (Hydrogen at $1 per kg in 1 decade). Meanwhile, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd., in collaboration with the International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT), has launched a pilot project to study and assess the performance of the hydrogen-powered vehicle Toyota Mirai on Indian roads and in different climatic conditions. Furthermore, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) is setting up  India’s first green hydrogen fuelling station in Leh which is likely to be commissioned by May 2023. In addition to this, several other initiatives are being developed. With all these developments and new projects, India is likely to be a major player in the global green hydrogen market. 

National Green Hydrogen Mission – A transition towards cleaner energy 

The government’s Green Hydrogen Mission announced at an outlay of 19,700 crores aims at making India the global hub for export, usage and production of Green Hydrogen. The National Green Hydrogen Mission aims to achieve the following by 2030: develop green hydrogen production capacity of at least 5 MMT per annum, add 125 GW of renewable energy capacity, generate over Rs. 8 lakh crore in total investments, create over six lakh jobs, reduce fossil fuel imports by over Rs. 1 lakh crore, and abate 50 MMT of annual greenhouse gas emissions. 

Transport sector’s contribution to India’s carbon emissions

According to a report by Niti Aayog, the transport sector is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for 14% of India’s energy-related CO2 emissions. These emissions have tripled since 1990 and are projected to double by 2050. Furthermore, India’s motor vehicle fleet is expected to touch 200 million by 2030. Though there are a number of EV-related measures being implemented, there are a few concerns in terms of the environmental effects associated with the complete lifecycle of  EVs. 

A key benefit of hydrogen-powered vehicles is their rapid refueling capability, which typically takes only a few minutes. In contrast, electric vehicles have slow charging times, often requiring a couple of hours or more. In this context, green hydrogen emerges as a more efficient alternative

Transport sector and Green Hydrogen – Advantages and challenges

The use of hydrogen as a vehicle fuel has the potential to drastically cut emissions while also providing a sustainable energy source for transportation. Though the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles is still in its early stages, there are some encouraging signs. Many automotive companies are investing in the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, as well as the infrastructure for creating, storing, and distributing hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be used in two kinds of vehicles: those with internal combustion engines (ICEs) and those with fuel cells. Hydrogen ICE vehicles can run on a lean combination and have a wide flammability range, but fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are more efficient and release only water vapour and warm air. FCEVs have zero emissions, great efficiency, silent operation, and a long range, combining the best qualities of battery EVs and ICE vehicles.

In spite of the advantages, there are many challenges in the mainstream adoption of FCEVs. From high vehicle costs to lack of sufficient hydrogen filling stations, there are several barriers to mass adoption. In India, over the last several years, renewable energy production and grid infrastructure have advanced significantly, and therefore, battery electric cars (BEVs) may have an advantage over FCEVs, particularly in the light passenger vehicle category with shorter driving ranges.To summarise, while hydrogen as vehicle fuel provides some advantages, there are also problems that must be overcome before it can become a widespread option.

Hydrogen as a Solution for Hard-to-Abate Long-Distance Mobility in India

Long-distance heavy-duty vehicles, including trucks and buses, are major polluters and account for most of India’s vehicular traffic. These vehicles produce a significant amount of CO2 and particulate matter, which is difficult to capture. Batteries are not suitable for these vehicles due to their weight, slow charging speeds, and lack of infrastructure on challenging routes. Hydrogen fuel cell technology can provide faster refuelling and greater range, resulting in increased uptime potential for heavy vehicles. The comparatively lighter weight of hydrogen tanks also increases payload capacity marginally, making it a more suitable option for these vehicles than batteries. Additionally, India’s abundant renewable energy resources can allow for the indigenization of the hydrogen fuel cell supply chain, making it a more self-sufficient and sustainable option for clean transportation, as compared to  Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) which rely on imported raw materials like lithium and cobalt for lithium-ion batteries. 

The way forward

While there are challenges associated with producing green hydrogen, including high production costs and the need for regulatory support and large-scale investment, the potential benefits make it a crucial component of India’s transition to clean energy. It is essential to overcome these obstacles to maintain India’s momentum toward clean energy. 

Green Hydrogen offers significant benefits and the mobility sector will see massive changes over the next few decades. With all its initiatives around Green Hydrogen, India has shown great commitments to transitioning towards clean and green energy. With the abundance of energy resources such as solar and wind, India can build a self-sufficient and sustainable source of energy. In addition, the development of green hydrogen can also increase business opportunities and attract investments in the clean energy sector.

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