Maruti backs hydrogen fuel, says will reduce dependency on lithium imports

To reduce fuel consumption and emissions, Maruti has been pushing sales of cars that operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), and is also investing in
File photo: Cars are seen parked at Maruti Suzuki's plant at Manesar. (REUTERS)
File photo: Cars are seen parked at Maruti Suzuki's plant at Manesar.

India's top-selling carmaker Maruti Suzuki has said that hydrogen-based fuel is an 'interesting alternative' after the Centre recently said it is considering green hydrogen to fuel vehicles on Indian roads. Maruti thinks hydrogen-based will reduce India's dependency on lithium imports, a mineral essential to build batteries for electric cars.

RC Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Limited, thinks hydrogen can help India move towards its aim to attain net zero emission in future. At the same time, vehicles running on hydrogen will cost much less than electric cars.

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"We need to recognise that our strategy for moving towards net zero emission has to be consistent with the economic and infrastructure conditions prevailing in the country," said Bhargava. "The use of hydrogen is also an interesting alternative," he added.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently said that his ministry is seriously considering green hydrogen as a viable option for the Indian markets. "Whatever concessions we are offering for electric vehicles, we can offer that concession for green hydrogen also," he said. Gadkari feels India should focus on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology exclusively for heavy trucks, buses, marine and aviation purposes.

While the Centre has been pushing hard for a quicker transition to electric mobility in an effort to reduce pollution and reduce costly fuel imports, the adoption of electric vehicles by carmakers in India has been slow due to the high cost of batteries and lack of sufficient infrastructure.

During a meeting on Maruti's annual report, Bhargava told shareholders that selling electric vehicles in India is not easy due to the above reasons. He explained that with a per capita income of around $2,000, it is difficult for anyone to buy electric cars, 95% of which cost under $20,000. Also, lithium is a key component for electric vehicle batteries, for which India will have to depend on China for the bulk of imports.

Maruti has been pushing for CNG cars as an alternate to ICE vehicles, besides investing in hybrid technology. Suzuki Motor Corp, which partners Maruti in India, will soon launch its first electric car in India. Together, the Indo-Japanese carmaker duo are focusing on development of clean technologies suitable for the Indian market. Bhargava added that Suzuki's tie-up with Toyota in Japan would also prove valuable in this effort.

There has been a bit of debate lately around import taxes on electric cars in India. Tesla has sought lowering of import duties on electric cars, a view echoed by Hyundai Motor, one of Maruti's key rivals in India. However, the Centre has ruled it out for now.

Interestingly, Maruti's take on hydrogen fuel comes days after Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, said his company would invest $10 billion in clean energy, including setting up giga factories to produce fuel cells and green hydrogen.

First Published Date: 03 Aug 2021, 09:14 AM IST

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