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ES Ranganathan Explores Ethanol as a Viable Alternative to Electric Cars in India; Cites Pros, Cons, and Potential

As the world grapples with the pressing need for sustainable transportation, both ethanol and electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as promising alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. In India, the conversation is gaining momentum, with ES Ranganathan, a prominent voice in the energy sector and the former Managing Director of IGL advocating for a closer look at ethanol as a viable alternative to electric cars. 

Ethanol and Electric Cars: Sustainable Transportation Alternatives

“Ethanol, a biofuel derived from renewable sources such as sugarcane, corn, or biomass, has long been used as a fuel additive in gasoline (E10). Its potential as a standalone fuel (E85) is now being considered more seriously,” mentions ES Ranganathan. On the other hand, electric cars, which run on electricity stored in batteries, have become synonymous with the future of green transportation, gaining traction globally for their promise of zero tailpipe emissions.

India has been making significant strides towards EV adoption, driven by government initiatives and policy frameworks. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme, along with various state-level incentives, underscores the country’s commitment to electric mobility,” says ES Ranganathan. Despite these efforts, the adoption rate of EVs remains modest. High initial costs, limited charging infrastructure, and range anxiety are major hurdles. Additionally, substantial investments are required in battery technology and renewable energy sources to ensure the sustainability of electric vehicles.

Ethanol: An Emerging Contender

Ethanol presents a compelling case as an alternative fuel. Derived from renewable agricultural sources, it is already integrated into India’s fuel supply through the E10 blend. “Moving towards higher ethanol blends or even pure ethanol (E85) could further reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Ethanol combustion results in lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels, potentially offering cleaner air and a reduction in health-related issues caused by air pollution,” says ES Ranganathan. 

Moreover, increasing ethanol use can help India reduce its dependence on imported oil, enhancing energy security. With the country’s vast agricultural base, ethanol production could also support rural economies and create new job opportunities.

Challenges in Ethanol Adoption

“However, ethanol is not without its challenges,” says ES Ranganathan. He further adds, “Scalability of ethanol production is a significant concern. Large-scale production requires substantial agricultural land, which could compete with food production, raising concerns about food prices and security.” The impact on water resources and biodiversity also needs careful consideration. Additionally, developing an infrastructure for ethanol distribution and ensuring compatibility with existing vehicles would require considerable investment.

Both ethanol and electric vehicles offer promising pathways to sustainable transportation in India. While electric vehicles are celebrated for their zero-emission potential, the challenges of high costs and infrastructure development cannot be overlooked. Ethanol, with its renewable nature and potential to support rural economies, presents a viable alternative or complement to electric cars. However, issues related to scalability and resource competition must be addressed.

ES Ranganathan’s advocacy for ethanol highlights the importance of diversifying India’s approach to sustainable transportation. By considering a range of renewable energy options, India can better navigate the complexities of its energy needs and environmental goals. Ethanol, alongside electric vehicles, could play a crucial role in achieving a greener, more sustainable transportation system for the nation.

Tags: ES Ranganathan, Electric Cars in India

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