'Hydrogen-ICE should be included in auto-PLI schemes': Dr N Saravanan, President and CTO, Ashok Leyland
"We believe hydrogen-ICE is a viable technology for India, given that the entire ecosystem (for ICE remains in place). At the most basic level, it is a proven technology," says Ashok Leyland's Dr. N Saravanan.
The hydrogen-internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which appear to be low-hanging fruit for Indian OEMs, should be included in the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the automobile industry. This is the word coming in from Dr. N Saravanan, President and Chief Technology Officer, Ashok Leyland.
The automotive industry has already made a representation to the government in this regard. Speaking to Autocar Professional, Saravanan said, "We believe hydrogen-ICE is a viable technology for India, given that the entire ecosystem (for ICE remains in place). At the most basic level, it is a proven technology," he added.
So far, Ashok Leyland, Eicher Motors, Pinnacle Mobility, Tata Motors, and Booma Innovative have been chosen to make hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as part of the Rs 25,938 crore production-linked incentive plan for the automobile and auto component industry.
The PLI-Auto plan has two aspects: original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and component. The OEM incentive plan is a sales value-linked plan that applies to all segments of battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Ashok Leyland, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle (VECV), and Tata Motors are all working on ICEs for heavy commercial vehicles that are designed to run on hydrogen.
"Unfortunately, the hydrogen ICE is not a part of the PLI scheme. So we have made representations to the government saying that the PLI for hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric vehicles is good, but it will be better if we also include hydrogen ICE as a future technology," Saravanan went on to say that he doesn't know what the government thinks about the issue.
While the push to include hydrogen-ICE vehicles in the PLI scheme continues, Saravanan is quick to point out that there are currently several available hydrogen fuel-related technologies, each with advantages and disadvantages.
When asked to comment on whether hydrogen-ICE is likely to see greater traction over hydrogen fuel technology, he emphasised that it is difficult to say at this time, as technologies continue to evolve.
However, he noted that the advantage of hydrogen-ICE from a production standpoint is that most Indian OEMs are familiar with ICE technology, and thus it can likely be brought to market faster than hydrogen fuel cells, which is new to most of them. "So there is a comfort factor. Therefore, it sort of probably has a soft spot in most OEMs' portfolios," he continued, before adding that each application needs to be carefully evaluated.
'Still to reach a tipping point for hydrogen to reach exponential growth'
Saravanan says that the situation is still some distance from reaching a "tipping point," even though the government is strongly supporting the move toward hydrogen mobility, with all the right policies and businesses eager to get into hydrogen and its related infrastructure.
While OEMs are working on developing the technologies from the production side, they will be accelerated once there is more proof on the ground, such as investments, the production of green hydrogen at commercial scale, and refuelling stations. So I think it's "wait and watch."
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