New Delhi: India targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2070. As the transportation sector accounts for a fifth of the global C02 emissions, automobile companies in India are also moving in the same direction with a similar goal.
In tune with this Auto major Tata Motors has recently announced that it aims to achieve carbon neutrality for the passenger vehicles (PVs) by 2040 and for the commercial vehicle (CV) segment by 2045. The time difference is mainly owing to the operational and life cycle variations of both the segments. The automaker is working on a twin strategy: diverse technology-mix in its product portfolio, and focus on renewable energy for its supply chain operations.
“It is imperative to work in this direction for both the product portfolio and the operations. Our operations will move 100% to renewable energy by the end of this decade. We have also communicated our intent to vendors in this regard and they also understand that whoever leads this transition will have a better business proposition,” Girish Wagh, Executive Director, Tata Motors, said.
The company has created a collaborative platform called ‘Aikyam’ with all its vendors. Aikyam is a Sanskrit word meaning unity.
Further, it is focused on balancing the energy basket with half a dozen fuel technologies. “The percentage of each fuel will keep varying as we move forward. We are moving from conventional fuels like petrol and diesel, to natural gas, blended fuels like flex fuels and biofuels and then zero emissions including BEVs and hydrogen-powered vehicles (HPVs),” he said.
HPVs may be further divided into fuel cell electric and internal combustion engines. At the Auto Expo 2023, Tata Motors showcased a range of commercial vehicles with propulsion technologies including battery-electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), flex fuel, hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen combustion engine.
While the government is also focused on this with its national Hydrogen Policy, the hydrogen supply chain including its production , transmission, distribution, making it available at retail, and maturity of this technology is still some years down the line.
Why does H2 ICE seem more practical?
Hydrogen internal combustion engines are emerging as a promising option for decarbonisation. As it appears today, heavy-duty long-haul applications cannot be addressed by BEVs for CVs. For fuel cell electric, a very high level of purity in the hydrogen that is used is required. But hydrogen ICE can work at a less level of purity, Wagh said.
Secondly, hydrogen ICE allows using the current available infrastructure that has been in place for decades. Hence, in a way, it can also keep that value chain for longer.
According to him, the small CV used for intra-city logistics and even buses will lead the way towards zero emission. Government subsidies and corporate requirements will contribute to this. He expects the growth trend to continue in the next fiscal, but it will not be very substantial.
Moving to carbon neutrality
Other automakers like Mercedes-Benz are also focused on becoming a carbon neutral company globally and to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% (compared to 2020 levels) in the lifecycle of every car it produces by 2039.
It plans to do this by meeting over 70% of the energy needs of its manufacturing sites through renewable energy and Power Purchase Agreements; to enhance the share of green metals in vehicles; to set up a green steel supply chain; to have up to 50% of its sales volume from plug-in hybrid and BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicle) and to establish a CO2-neutral recycling factory in Kuppenheim, Germany, for end-of-life electric vehicle batteries.
Mercedes-Benz plans to use LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries in its series-production vehicles as these batteries have a cobalt-free cathode. Together with research partners the OEM is also working on solid-state batteries.
ZF, one of the three largest automotive suppliers in the world, has also set an 80% C02 emission reduction target at its facilities by 2030, compared to the 2019 levels, in its journey to achieve climate neutrality by 2040. As a supplier of components and technologies, the EUR 38-billion German major votes for a technology-neutral approach to meet the environmental challenges.