Biofuel dream comes true for India

Biofuel dream comes true for India

With bioethanol and biogas now approved for use as fuel in India, Scania sees a big future for buses powered by these fuels. A pilot plant for 100 biofuel buses in Nagpur will help show the way ahead.

Of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 13 are found in India, and over 600,000 Indians die as a result of air pollution every year. It comes as no surprise then that the Indian government is showing strong interest in Scania’s focus on biofuels and sustainable transport solutions.

Krister Thulin is Director Presales and Marketing at Scania India. “We have the products and services needed to reduce India’s enormous environmental problems,” he says. “We can transport people efficiently and with minimal environmental impact in buses that can be run on ethanol and biogas. At the same time, we can create jobs thanks to the fact that these biofuels are produced from waste and residual products.”

Krister Thulin has worked for over three years for biofuels to be classified and approved as vehicle fuels in India.

Krister Thulin has worked for over three years for biofuels to be classified and approved as vehicle fuels in India.

Approval of biofuels

Over the past three years, Thulin and a number of colleagues from Scania India have patiently discussed biofuels with the Indian government and local authorities. The goal – to have biogas and bioethanol classified and approved as vehicle fuels in India – has now been achieved, and a large pilot facility for 100 bioethanol and biogas buses will be built in the major city of Nagpur.

“At the beginning of 2012, I attended numerous conferences looking at India’s environmental problems and I realised that that there was a unique potential for biofuels,” Thulin says. “The country is home to 18 percent of the world’s population, growing urbanisation, and enormous amounts of waste and wastewater that desperately needs to be managed. Currently, 94 percent of all solid waste and 72 percent of wastewater goes untreated straight to waste tips, into nature and down into the groundwater.”

At the same time, the import of oil and natural gas is by far the biggest burden on India’s national budget, with costs rising fast.

India’s fast growing urbanization creates major environmental problems and the government wants to proceed with Scania’s focus on commercial vehicles running on biofuels.

India’s fast growing urbanization creates major environmental problems and the government wants to proceed with Scania’s focus on commercial vehicles running on biofuels.

“That’s why the initiative for local, sustainable fuel is so highly sought after by the Indian government,” says Thulin. “And through our work with sustainable fuels for India, we’ve shown that there are solutions for this problem.”

Local waste becomes transport

Scania’s solution and message to India’s decision makers has consistently been “local waste to local fuel for local transport”.

“In this way the production of vehicle fuel doesn’t compete with food production, but instead waste and wastewater or residue from sugar production is converted to fuel,” Thulin says. “In this way, we are able to solve one more problem for India, stopping the burning of waste or dumping of waste and untreated wastewater into the natural environment, as is the case today.”

“A dream project”

The biggest breakthrough for Scania’s biofuel work came when Indian People’s Party, Bharatiya Janata, won power at last year’s parliamentary elections. The new Indian Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Rural Development, Nitin Gadkari, is passionate about biofuels and has described Scania’s ethanol bus investment in Nagpur as a “dream project”.

Nagpur is located in the Indian state of Maharashtra and has 2.5 million inhabitants. Scania is working with the transport department, local authorities and the Swedish development fund Swedfund to build the ethanol and biogas facility here.

India’s first ethanol-powered bus in Nagpur will now be joined in the city by some 100 Scania buses running on ethanol and biogas.

India’s first ethanol-powered bus in Nagpur will now be joined in the city by some 100 Scania buses running on ethanol and biogas.

“This will be a state-of-the art, model facility in Nagpur, where we’ll show what can be done from start to finish: waste in and bus transport out,” says Thulin. “We’ll show that it works and that it’s cost effective, and we’re expecting to have numerous visits, both from other cities in India and from other markets in Asia.”

A holistic solution

In parallel with this, Scania is holding discussions with Nagpur Municipality Corporation about getting a large plot of land where a depot can be built for 100 buses – 50 running on ethanol and 50 on biogas. The depot will handle the fuelling for both fuel types, have space for drivers, and capacity for servicing and cleaning buses overnight.

“One idea is to operate this first depot ourselves to show that it’s possible,” says Thulin. “This is solution sales to the highest degree: a holistic solution on the bus side.”

Scania’s development in India is currently proceeding very rapidly. It’s frequently said that in a few years India will be one of Scania’s five biggest markets. Thulin believes on the bus side of things, it’s ethanol and biogas that will help achieve this.

“I believe that in five years, we will only sell biofuel city buses,” he says. ”We may also have a few hybrid buses in India, but these will be of the biofuel type. And depending on how quickly the infrastructure for biofuel can be built, it will also be possible to have a large proportion of the tourist bus and medium-distance transport vehicles also using biofuel. I also think that we’ll also see a bigger role for biofuel trucks in city transport roles, for example garbage trucks and distribution vehicles that are powered by biogas and ethanol.”