Methanol-powered bus could be seen connecting Mumbai and Pune soon as per an announcement made by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday, laying emphasis on boosting the use of alternate fuels.
The Minister of Road Transport and Highways was talking at the 58th annual session of Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA).
“We will shortly start running 10 methanol-powered buses on a pilot basis on the Mumbai-Pune route,” Gadkari said, adding that the government is pushing for greater use of biofuels, including methanol and ethanol, for mobility needs.
German auto giant Mercedes-Benz has reportedly agreed to supply 20 methanol-fuelled buses to be run in Assam and Maharashtra. These buses would be bought by the Centre or state governments.
“Last month, SpiceJet operated India’s first test flight powered by biojet fuel. Imagine the savings on fuel cost if we shift to biofuel for road transport," Gadkari questioned.
In January, Gadkari said at least two companies have developed bikes that can run on 100 percent ethanol. Chennai-based TVS Motor Company later unveiled an Apache motorcycle that can be run on ethanol.
Made from biomass mostly via a fermentation process using glucose derived from sugars (sugarcane, sugar beet and molasses), starch (corn, wheat, grains) or cellulose, ethanol is the cheapest of alternate fuels available today. One tonne of rice straw can produce 280 litres of ethanol.
Methanol can be produced from natural gas, coal and from municipal waste and biomass. Around Rs 43 per litre, ethanol costs less than half the price of petrol, which has crossed Rs 86 per litre in Mumbai. Methanol is even cheaper at under Rs 25/litre.
Gadkari is urging automotive companies to introduce flex engines that can run with ethanol content as high as 100 percent. Automotive manufacturers have been selling E10 cars (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent petrol) in India, but the government even struggled to meet E5 till 2016.
Flex engines are those which can run on 100 percent petrol and/or 100 percent ethanol. Brazil, Canada and the US already have vehicles that can run on 100 percent ethanol.