Promising all support to the automobile industry, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday encouraged automakers to introduce flex-fuel engines in India on a large scale to promote alternative fuel in alignment with the government's 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' drive. To encourage alternative fuel, the government has decided to allow automakers meeting certain criteria to set up own fuel pumps, provided they sell green fuel too, Gadkari said, asserting that carmakers could easily introduce flex engines on par with Brazil, the US and Canada if they could leapfrog from BS-IV norms to BS-VI.
"Government has taken a decision that the companies with a worth of more than Rs 250 crore can start their own petrol/diesel pumps but the condition is that they should have alternative fuel pumps also," Road transport minister Gadkari said addressing SIAM's 60th annual convention 2020 'Rebuilding the Nation, Responsibly' through video conference. Gadkari, who also holds the MSME portfolio, said the vision was to make the Indian automobile industry number one manufacturing hub in the globe and cut on huge annual crude imports bill to the tune of Rs 7 lakh crore by promoting alternative fuel.
Wondering when automakers like BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Suzuki could manufacture flex-engine vehicles for the US, Canada and Brazil, Gadkari asked why couldn't they start production in India. The minister urged the industry to come forward in this direction. "We are going to increase the production of biofuel given (there is) surplus foodgrains. I request you all to bring in flex-engine technology which is a proven technology and already your brand companies are using all these technologies in Brazil, in USA and in Canada. Why are they not starting this in India. Think about it. Only a filter has to be used," the minister said.
Alternative fuel like ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, electric and bio CNG besides LNG was the fuel for future and should be promoted, he said and added a roadmap was being readied for fuel policy. "We will try to bring an integrated fuel road map defining phase-wise introduction of different options and supporting infrastructure," he said and reiterated that there were initial hesitations during leapfrog to BS-VI emission norms too but this could be implemented through industry's commitment.
Gadkari said the government has fixed the standards for hydrogen fuel cell and electric and urged automakers to employ the profitability earned through conventional carmaking in research and innovation in this direction too which he said could result in larger exports and employment generation. "We need your cooperation in alternative fuel choices. We have plans to take the ethanol economy from the present Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore," the minister said and added that the government is allowing the making of ethanol from surplus rice and foodgrains.
Alternative fuel will minimise pollution which is a huge concern, he said. On battery standards for electric vehicles, the minister said: "I want to assure we will not compromise with the quality and standards. We will specify the quality and standards. We will not allow inferior products." The minister also emphasised the need for reducing logistics cost and expressed hope that through multiple steps and laying off 22 green expressways, it will be reduced.
"These are difficult times due to COVID-19 pandemic. Tough times do not last, tough people do," he said and added that the government is aware of its impact on automakers but at the same time is committed to fast track recovery from coronavirus outbreak and acknowledged industry's enormous contribution to nation-building and creating employment." Government is keenly interested to support industry, to increase their productivity, he said and urged them to increase exports.
He said the government was open to ideas and suggestions from the industry regarding rules and regulations to improve the sector. He said world-class infrastructure creation was going to support automakers and added that Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai expressway was scheduled to complete in two years, reducing the travel time between both the metros to 12 hours.
Work is underway on seven other expressways, he said and added that road-building pace has reached 30 km a day from only 2 km in 2014.