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      Toyota’s Flex-Fuel Prototype : Everything Which You need to Know about World’s First BS6 Stage II-Compliant Flex-Fuel Vehicle

      Toyota unveiled a prototype of the Innova Hycross with a flex-fuel hybrid powertrain, its first car in India and one that the Japanese carmaker claims is the world’s first BS6 Stage II-compliant flex-fuel vehicle.

      Toyota had display an import Corolla flex-fuel hybrid sedan as a pilot project in 2022.

      This pilot project was initiate as part of a government-led push to commercially deploy this technology, which is already in use in markets such as Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

      About Toyota Innova Hycross Prototype

      The Toyota Innova Hycross flex-fuel prototype has a 2-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine with an electric motor, the same as in the hybrid version of the standard Hycross.

      Toyota claims the prototype can run on petrol with more than 20% ethanol blending that is currently mandate in India and that its performance would be at par with the standard Hycross hybrid, even with ethanol-blended petrol.

      Also Toyota says, it will achieve low carbon emissions “on a comprehensive well-to-wheel basis”.

      Like the standard strong hybrid variant, the Toyota Innova Hycross flex-fuel prototype would run 60% of the time in the electric vehicle mode using energy store in the battery pack.

      As of now, many units of the flex-fuel prototype will be test in India.

      The next steps include further finer calibration, homologation (process of certifying that a vehicle is roadworthy), and certification.

      A flex-fuel vehicle typically has an internal combustion engine (ICE), but unlike a regular petrol vehicle, it can run on more than one type of fuel, or a mixture of these fuels.

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      The most common versions use a blend of petrol and ethanol or methanol.

      Flex-fuel vehicles such as the prototype Toyota Innova Hycross can run on blends of ethanol that are far higher than the current standard 20% mix (E20).

      This can be done possible by equipping the engine with a fuel mix sensor and an engine control module (ECM) programming that senses and automatically adjusts for any ratio of designated fuels.

      Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari earlier said that the flex engines push is part of the broader strategy to cut dependence on import crude in the medium-to-long run.

      How Toyota Innova Hycross and other cars work?

      Most components in a flex fuel vehicle are the same as those in petrol-only cars.

      But some special ethanol-compatible components are require to adjust to the different chemical properties and energy content in ethanol/methanol, such as modifications to the fuel pump and fuel injection system.

      The ECM is also calibrate to accommodate the higher oxygen content of ethanol.

      The hybrid engine of the type use in the Toyota Hycross would have separate spark plugs, piston ring tops, and valves to render them more corrosion-resistant, and a modified catalyst in the exhaust system to lower hydrocarbon emissions.

      The vehicle’s fuel filter and fuel lines have also tweak.

      According to IHS Markit, as of 2018, there were more than 21 million flex-fuel vehicles in the US, but Brazil was the biggest market and leader in this segment.

      Pros and Cons of Flex-Fuel

      The use of ethanol blending sharply lowers harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur, and carbon and nitrogen oxides.

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      Blending will also help cut oil imports to fuel vehicles.

      But, flex-fuel cars typically take a 4-8% hit on fuel efficiency when using ethanol for motive power.

      So, while fuel economy is generally lower with increase levels of ethanol (engines are optimised for petrol), many flex fuel vehicles have improve acceleration performance when operating on higher ethanol blends.

      Another problem with ethanol blending is that source crops such as sugarcane are usually very water-intensive.

      As per NITI Aayog report, in 2019-20, more than 90% of the ethanol produce in the country came from sugarcane, which is also a politically important crop in states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

      The National Biofuel Policy 2018 envisages a 2025 target of 20% blending.

      Countries like Brazil can be flexible on the degree of the mix depending on crude prices, varying it when energy prices rise like they did after the Ukraine war, the precondition being that the vehicular fleet has equip to adjust to this varying fuel mix.

      In Brazil, about all cars are require to be able to handle fuel blends with a minimum of 22% ethanol, and the state-own oil company Petrobras is mandate to buy ethanol and dispense the mix at retail pumps.

      As a result, almost no light vehicle in Brazil runs on pure petrol.

      There is also a government subsidy to narrow the price gap of higher ethanol blends, in order to make the proposition viable.

      This is a factor that would have to be consider as India steps up its fuel blending plan.

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      Advantages of Ethanol Blending

      The ethanol mix in petrol in India went up from 1.53% in 2013-14 to 11.5% in March 2023.

      This has help to cut the oil import bill by an estimate Rs 41,500 crore in the last eight years. In 2020-21, ethanol blending enable a reduction of 26 million barrels of petrol, resulting in savings of Rs 10,000 crore, as per official estimates.

      The expect implementation of E20 by April 2025 is estimate to result in annual savings of Rs 35,000 crore in India’s oil import bill.

      To overcome the challenges of lower fuel efficiency of flex-fuel vehicles, electrified flex-fuel vehicles are being introduce, which offer the advantages of both a flex-fuel engine and an electric powertrain, as in the case with the Hycross prototype.

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