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08 May, 2023

Green fuel alternative to EV charging stations

The world is riding a wave of electrifying change in personal mobility. There is an tense focus on the duction of emissions from fossil fuels and the most visible and viable area for improvement is in intra-city personal transportation. After an initial hesitancy, related to range anxiety and charging infrastructure, electric vehicles are selling in ever increasing numbers. The high initial cost of EV, even at the lowest end of the price spectrum, is evaluated against low running costs and is gradually winning a larger share of customers.

While the electric mobility industry is doing quite a commendable job of ushering in a new age of green transportation and its widespread implementation, there is no hiding from the fact that the source still has a large carbon footprint. In other words, the electricity being used to power/charge these electric vehicles, is still sourced traditionally, i.e., from the burning of fossil fuels. More than half of India’s electricity production today is plain and simple, from coal.

Firms are continuously improving the power storage capacity of the EVs. Simultaneously, EV charging infrastructure is seen as a major opportunity and fast charging stations are cropping up across urban areas. At this juncture, the question on whether the EV is truly ‘green’ is of relevance. Many charging stations run off grid power. India’s grid power is largely fed by power plants that use coal as the energy source. The promotion of solar power at all scales has led to marked increase in its availability and there could be locations where this can be utilised for EV charging making it a truly ‘green’ proposition. But a majority are not. So, is there an alternative?

One alternative is in the form of power from biofuels. India has adopted multiple nation-wide programs on mission mode to address basic issues related to better living and livelihood for its citizens. One of them, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, has encouraged and sometimes forced the adoption of better waste management and waste processing. One method is biomethanation – conversion of organic waste to renewable fuel in the form of biogas. At large scale, biogas can be purified and converted to BioCNG and using this as an automotive fuel is driven by the SATAT initiative (Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation). At the other end, at an institutional level, using organic waste generated within the premises, one method of compliance to Solid Waste Management rules is to generate biogas in-situ. Biogas generation at this scale is used to supplement the use of fossil fuels like LPG/PNG in cooking within the premises.

Biogas powered EV charging stations

A recent installation in Haji Ali, Mumbai is the best example for an EV charging station powered by Biogas generated from a Biomethane plant located alongside the charging station. In this particular EV charging station in Haji Ali, the diesel/petrol is replaced by Biogas, a green fuel alternative. Purified biogas is fed into a genset that has been designed to use biogas as fuel, which in turn produces current. This renewable power then becomes the input to the EV charging station, which supplies renewable energy to charge the electric vehicles.

The transportation sector is going through a massive turn of transformation, where slowly but steadily, combustion engines are being replaced by sustainable, electric engines. This entire concept would become truly green only when the source, the electricity to power these hybrid automobiles is also generated in a green manner.


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