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Hydrogen Fuel Cell for Vehicles (25 September 2020)

Hydrogen Fuel Cell for Vehicles (25 September 2020)

Why in News:

Aimed at a significant push for hydrogen vehicles in the country, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified standards for the safety evaluation of hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles.


The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified the Standards for Safety Evaluation of vehicles being propelled by Hydrogen Fuel cells. This would facilitate the promotion of hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles in the country, which are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly,


So far, in India, the definition of Electric Vehicles only covers Battery Electric Vehicles.

Battery Electric Vehicles have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank and run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.

The Government of India has launched FAME India Scheme with the objective to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and manufacturing ecosystem. It also covers Hybrid & Electric technologies like Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid &Battery Electric Vehicles.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, under its Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) Programme, has been supporting various projects on hydrogen and fuel cells.

Summary of the Debate

Key Points of the Notification:

  • The Standards were notified through an amendment to Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989.
  • As per the draft rules, the motor vehicles of category M and Category N, running on the compressed gaseous hydrogen fuel cell, will be in accordance with AIS 157:2020.
  • The hydrogen fuel specification for fuel cell vehicles will be in accordance with ISO 14687.
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
  • These standards are also at par with the available international standards.
  • This would facilitate the promotion of Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles in the country which are energy efficient and environment friendly.

Principle of Hydrogen Fuel Cell:

  • Fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process.
  • It is an electrochemical device which converts hydrogen in to electricity directly. There is no moving part.
  • Whatever hydrogen passing on anode, the electron will attract by the anode and it will go to load and Proton will transfer from anode to cathode through electrolyte.
  • In the cathode, the electron coming from load plus proton, then air inducted from the atmosphere where O2 will react and forming the water.

Hydrogen + Oxygen = Electricity + Water Vapour

2H2 (g) + O2 (g) → 2 H2O (l)

  • Limitation of Combustion Engine:
    • The same thing can be done in the combustion engine also but the problem in combustion engine is that the chemical energy of hydrogen will be converted in to thermal energy that is heat, then heat energy will be converted in to mechanical, then mechanical to some other form.
    • Due to so many conversions, some losses are there. The heat energy as per Carnot's theorem, the heat cannot be completely converted in to any form of work and that is the limitation of IC engine.
    • But in fuel cell, it is the low temperature operation, it does not depend on Carnot's theorem and that is why efficiency will be higher and some losses also will be in fuel cell but researchers are working to reduce the losses.

             Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) - INSIGHTSIAS


  • Emission: The hydrogen fuel cell will not emit any emission including carbon monoxide, Hydrocarbon and Particulate Matter.
  • Efficiency: The efficiency of fuel cell is very high than any other power device. It is around 45 percent plus.
  • Storage: As far as storage is concerned, now Type III and Type IV cylinders are available where hydrogen can be store at 700 bar.
  • Autoignition temperature: It has high self-ignition temperature and lower density, the moment any leakage happened, it immediately dispersed in the atmosphere.
  • No Plug in: It does not need to be plugged in for charging, like battery-powered EVs.


  • The investment require for the production is very high.
  • In the global context, India has only just started looking at electric vehicles seriously.
  • Today, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is not even at the infancy stage, Toyota which was the leader in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, in last year, they could hardly produce 6000 vehicles.
  • In terms of transportation, it is risky because hydrogen fuel is inflammable gas, it is more explosive than petrol.

Way Forward:

  • The investment by the governments across the world can lower this cost drastically.
  • India being a leader of world automobile industry world’s leading manufacture have to take the plunge right now.
  • India is the second largest producer of Buses, the larger producer of trucks and the larger producer of tractors. These heavy duty vehicles, there is alternatives which has not been embraced by the world at such a large scale and India and India can take a first advantage over this and make it strive in to this area of embracing hydrogen and keeping it prime location for bus manufacturing and for tractor manufacturing and for heavy duty vehicle and can come up as a front runner in the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle also.

Important points made by the Guests

Prof. K. A. Subramanian, Head, Centre for Energy Studies, IIT Delhi

  • The source of hydrogen from clean energy, only is the natural gas, but in Indian context, renewable energy because India have surplus electricity that electricity can be converted in to hydrogen through electrolysis and in the longer run it will be suitable for India.
  • Another technology is biomass-based hydrogen production because India having lots of agriculture waste, from that waste through gasification, hydrogen can be produced and this hydrogen program will boost rural economy of India.
  • Cost of the fuel cell is very high, but Indian oil industry having more than many decades experience on hydrogen production from natural gas and other sources. Instead of natural gas, biomass can be used.

Abhishek Saxena, Public Policy Expert, (Electric Mobility & Climate Change), NITI Aayog 

  • India is moving towards clean, shared and collected kind of mobility. Prime Minister also said that ‘’Our mobility of tomorrow should be zero emission’’. It means, we have to reduce pollution in our cities, we have to adhere to our commitment to the Paris deal, we have to commit to the INDC target of reducing emissions and at the same time we have to reduce our import bill and we have to embrace new technology which are coming in to automobile sector.
  • In this context we have made lots of progress in the electric vehicle space which has zero emission, clean fuel and different type of mobility at large and the electric vehicle using battery as a source of energy.
  • For heavy vehicles like trucks and buses, we have not come out with the best solution in the market, for example; a kilogram of a battery gives only 0.1 kilowatthours(kWh) of energy, but a kilowatt of a hydrogen can give 33 kWh of energy. So, this is highly energy intense form of technology and this is very beneficial for trucks and buses.
  • As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on Standards for Safety Evaluation of vehicles being propelled by Hydrogen Fuel cell, it allows hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to actually come in the market, there is safety standards which has been setup before any vehicle comes on Indian roads, it has to go some kinds of testing. These standards are actually based on the global best practices followed across the world.
  • This notification allows Indian automakers and players across the world to produce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Indian market.

Arun Malhotra, Automobile Expert

  • Hydrogen fuel cell has been seen as a vehicle of the future and this has been in the top for the last one decade.
  • Companies across the world in Europe and USA had been experimenting with this. The two company which are focusing on this internationally is Toyota and Hyundai and the cost of the fuel cell vehicle on road is $ 50,000 and the Chairman and the senior persons have said that ‘Every vehicle which they are selling which are in very few numbers, the loss is equal to the value of the vehicle’.
  • In the context of emission inventories of India, a large part of it is being contributed by the heavy-duty vehicles, Truck contributes around 40 percent of the PM 2.5 pollution and older trucks contribute more than it.
  • In 2015, there was only 90,000 electric vehicles across the world. Now the figure has reached 9 million in last 5 years.


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