KOCHI: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has granted permission for a pilot study proposed by Kerala on use of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles for transportation. The state can conduct trial run of these vehicles on designated points specified by the state government on national highways complying with the safety precautions and statutory approvals.
The study is being taken up by Sree Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering (SCTCE), Thiruvananthapuram, in coordination with ANERT, Indian Oil Corporation, Kerala Automobiles and KSEB. The agency has been directed to submit monthly updates and trial test report to the ministry. Compared to conventional internal combustion engines that cause pollution, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are more efficient and produce no tailpipe emissions. The major drawback of battery operated electric vehicle technology is the high charging time and limited range.
Fuel cell-based vehicles are more convenient as the fuel charging time is comparable to that of conventional IC engine driven vehicles. However there are several hurdles in the way of adaptation to the fuel cell electric vehicles.Although the cost is a major concern, other important issues like ambient temperature tolerance and heat exchange during charging process still need to be tackled. “Kerala is an ideal state for implementation of the hydrogen economy as we have a fragile ecology.
The initial cost will be high and a hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus will cost `2 crore. But as the technology matures the cost will come down. We have sought an allocation of `19.38 crore for the project and we expect some budget allocation from Kerala government also. We are confident of launching the trial run within a year,” said G Mohan, principal investigator and head of the department of mechanical engineering at SCT College of Engineering.
The project is not for technology development but to evaluate the performance of components in Kerala’s environment. “When CNG was adopted KSRTC faced certain issues like low performance in high altitude. We have to evaluate and assess the roadworthiness of hydrogen fuel cells on high altitude roads. We have constituted a team of five researchers with expertise in different areas of technology,” he said.
The SCTCE is also conducting research on development of compressed storage facility for the fuel cell-powered vehicles in association with leading research institutes in the country. The pilot study will take three years to complete. The challenges include adaptation of key technology, capacity building and development of technical man power. Though Delhi is also conducting studies in this direction, Kerala will conduct the study independently.