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Tata-ISRO team to launch hydrogen car in 2008
Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore
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November 22, 2007 14:04 IST
Last Updated: November 22, 2007 17:51 IST

Automobile major Tata Motors [Get Quote] and space agency Indian Space Research Organisation are gearing up to launch the prototype of the world's cleanest car that will run on hydrogen and emit a mere wispy trail of water vapour.

Making this announcement in Bangalore on Thursday, ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair said that the car would roll out early next year.

According to Nair, the car will run on Hydrogen and would emit water vapour, thus making it extremely environment friendly.

Nair said that an agreement for the pilot project to see whether hydrogen can be used as fuel for automobiles had been signed and work had already commenced on the project. He said that ISRO is working with the Tatas and, if all goes well, the car will be rolled out in early 2008.

This car will have engine as it will be completely electricity-driven, and hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen will be combined in the fuel cell to produce electricity that will propel the car. The car will also have hydrogen storage and regulatory control systems, Nair added.

Need for hydrogen-powered cars: There has been a growing concern regarding the high levels of pollution caused due to vehicles which are run on either petrol or diesel. Nair said that these engines cannot prevent pollution and hence hydrogen could act as the fuel of the future.

A recent survey by the World Health Organization states that at least 10 per cent of the people in India suffer from respiratory problems due to the increase in the number of automobiles in the country.

The WHO report also said that in the next 15 years, if petrol and diesel vehicles are not phased out there is every chance of an asthma epidemic breaking out in India.

Keeping this in mind, the National Hydrogen Energy Board met in New Delhi in 2004 to chalk out the various ways in which hydrogen could be used as an energy source.

The board decided to adopt the methods used in countries such as Iceland, the United States, Japan and Germany where hydrogen fuel is used extensively.

Following the meeting, the Tatas decided to revolutionise the automobile market and develop hydrogen cars. The Tatas had said in 2005 that in the next three to four years, hydrogen vehicles will be rolled out on Indian roads. The group said that by 2020, at least 1 million such cars will be rolled out in the Indian market.

However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Madhavan Nair said that the major hurdle will be the fuel technology and India has not yet matured in this field. He said that they are trying to get some modules from outside.

Once cars that run on hydrogen are introduced into the market would it mean that the other vehicles will be phased out? Nair points out that even other cars could switch over to hydrogen fuel cell and run on hydrogen.

It seems as though the first batch of cars will be launched in New Delhi. Currently, hydrogen-powered cars are being run in the research campus of Indian Oil Corporation [Get Quote]. These cars will come out on the roads once the first hydrogen dispenser comes up in New Delhi.

Delhi is better geared to host hydrogen cars due to the CNG revolution that took place there. For vehicles running on CNG there would not be any major modification required as 10 per cent blend and the hydrogen could be stored in the CNG cylinder.

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