Has methanol finally got its due?

Going by the Department of Science and Technology’s report for February, it is clear that the government is growing serious about a clean fuel that has been asking for attention for some time — namely, methanol.

Eight of the 18 points under ‘technology development’ relate to reviews of methanol projects. They include utilisation of methanol and di-methyl ether in automotive engines using advanced combustion modes; production of ultra-pure hydrogen from methanol for fuel cells; and the development of an electronically controlled high-performance, hot-surface, methanol-powered ignition engine. Cut through the jargon and the message is obvious: Mainstreaming methanol is high on priority.

This is significant because it shines a light on an alternative for electric vehicles, particularly for heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

There are sharply divergent views on battery-powered big trucks. To illustrate, Satya Chakravarthy, professor of aerospace engineering, IIT Madras, who is the convenor of the multi-institute National Centre for Combustion Research and Development, is convinced that with the existing technologies, battery-powered long-distance big trucks are infeasible — simply because the battery pack itself would weigh about 7 tonnes, needing more power to carry it.

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