Homegrown SUV major Mahindra & Mahindra, which has been a diesel powerhouse with the bulk of its products being traditionally diesel engine vehicles, is now gearing up to take a lead in alternate powertrains for its product portfolio.
The company is among the first in the industry to have a range of electric vehicles across segments being sold in the country. The recent reduction in GST rates for lithium-ion batteries among other things, also sees fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to be taxed at 12 percent, down from the previous 28 percent, which comes as a boon to alternate fuels.
In an interaction with Autocar Professional today, on the sidelines of the reveal of the Marazzo MPV brandname, Dr Pawan Goenka, managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra, confirmed that the company has been working with fuel cells for the last 7-8 years, but does not expect the technology to see big traction in India for the next 1-2 years.
Dr Goenka welcomed the reduction in the GST rates on fuel cell vehicles, perceiving this as a hint from the government. “The announcement of fuel cell vehicles to be taxed around 12 percent in GST is a very meaningful announcement and something that was not known will be announced. In a sense, it is setting the direction, because today there are no fuel cell vehicles even for the companies who are leaders in fuel-cell technology; they too are not yet ready to launch fuel-cell vehicles even outside India.”
Dr Goenka said that this could be a possible pre-indication on “where the government is thinking we are going to be, and where we need to put our focus on.” He feels the government is making a statement that it will be supporting the technology. And since there are no fuel cell vehicles available today, the OEMs can take advantage of the support if they start working on fuel cell vehicles now.
As the industry looks towards introduction of alternate fuels – petrol, diesel, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, fuel cell and electric among others, Dr Goenka mentioned a recent recommendation by the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) to the Supreme Court to make buses in Delhi switch to H-CNG (Hydrogen – CNG) in the next two to three years.
Incidentally, Mahindra & Mahindra was one of the five OEMs who were part of a pilot project titled ‘Usage of new and renewable energy prospects for cross-cutting technologies’. The project partners included the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and Indian Oil Corporation (IoC). The pilot study carried out tests on different blends of Hydrogen-CNG to select the optimised ratio for engine modification for the finalised blend. Mahindra’s Bolero SUV and Champion CNG three-wheeler were part of the study. “This (commenting on the project) was to develop buses and three-wheelers and we are going to relook at it to see if it makes sense for us to move that towards commercial production,” hinted Dr Goenka.
A CII-NITI Aayog report ‘Action Plan For Clean Fuel’ suggested that H-CNG can be used as a fuel for heavy duty engines after minor engine optimisation. The test results with buses on a pilot scale indicate that on average, there is a 29 percent reduction in CO emissions and 13 percent reduction in methane and total hydrocarbon (THC) emissions whereas the specific fuel consumption is 2-3 percent lower than CNG.