Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched E20 fuel at 84 retail outlets of oil marketing companies (OMCs) in 11 states/union territories earlier this week at India Energy Week (IEW) 2023 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, as part of the government’s ethanol blending roadmap. Among the mid-size sport utility vehicles (SUVs) sold in India, Hyundai Creta, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, Skoda Kushaq, Volkswagen Taigun and MG Astor are already compatible with E20 fuel.

What is E20 fuel?

E20 fuel is petrol blended with 20% ethanol. At present, OMCs sell petrol blended with 10% ethanol. While E20 fuel has been currently introduced at 84 retail outlets, the government is aiming to attain a complete 20% blending of ethanol by 2025. For this, OMCs are setting up 2G-3G ethanol plants, which will facilitate the progress.

E20 fuel – Benefits

According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, ethanol production capacity has increased six times in India since 2013-14. This has not only augmented the country’s energy security but also resulted in several benefits, including a reduction of 318 lakh metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and foreign exchange savings of around Rs 54,000 crore. From 2014 to 2022, there has been a payment of around Rs 81,800 crore towards ethanol supplies and a transfer of more than Rs 49,000 crore to farmers.

According to the rating agency ICRA, ethanol blending would reduce vehicular emissions, strengthen energy security, help reduce oil imports and conserve forex reserves. Besides, other benefits include controlling excess sugar supply in the country, as nearly 65% of total ethanol production comes from molasses-based distilleries.

E20 fuel – Challenges for auto companies

ICRA Senior Vice President and Group Head Shamsher Dewan pointed out that the readiness of the auto industry and the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to meet E20 blending norms is unlikely to be a major challenge.

“No major design changes are required from a vehicle standpoint except material recalibration, and the impact on the vehicle cost is expected to be less than 1% in the case of passenger vehicles and about 2-3% in the case of two-wheelers. While no major capex is envisaged, changes in engine designs and after-treatment systems apart from the material selection will be key to meeting the norms,” Dewan said.

E20 fuel – Impact on vehicles

As vehicles transition from the E10 to E20 compliant design, loss of fuel efficiency is expected and this would increase the total cost of ownership. “However, OEMs are looking at technological improvements like light-weighting to offset the impact,” Dewan said.

Also, operating E10-compliant vehicles with E20 fuel would result in the corrosion of certain engine components. So the corroded parts will have to be replaced.

E20 fuel – Mid-size SUVs compatible with E20 fuel

So far as the mid-size SUVs are concerned, Hyundai Creta is now E20 fuel ready. It has two petrol engine options — 1.5-litre MPi naturally-aspirated and 1.4-litre Kappa turbo GDi.

The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara comes with two engine options — 1.5-litre intelligent electric hybrid and 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol. E20 fuel can be used with both engines.

The Skoda Kushaq and the Volkswagen Taigun have 1.0-litre turbo petrol and 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine options. Both of them are E20 fuel-compliant.

The MG Astor also has two petrol engine choices — 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated and 1.3-litre turbo petrol. However, only the 1.5-litre petrol unit of the Astor is E20 fuel ready.

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