Ashok Leyland readying to launch electric LCVs early next year, working on integrating battery swapping says MD Shenu Agarwal

Ashok Leyland is getting ready to launch its electric LCV range in the market, hopefully by the end of this year or early next year.

Ashok Leyland
As per Ashok Leyland, MHCVs have a larger momentum right now

Ashok Leyland is betting big on the demand for electric passenger buses and LCVs. MD Shenu Aggarwal is confident that the CV cycle is set to be longish this on and sees robust demand across 18-24 months.

Please elaborate on Ashok Leyland’s alternative fuel options, especially hydrogen

On the hydrogen front, there are two technologies – one is based on ICE engines and the other is based on fuel cell technology. We think the ICE Hydrogen is a tech that is possible in the near future as it requires less ecosystem-level interventions as compared to the fuel cells.

We are working on both technologies, we are also partnering with not just the players in the technology space, but we are also partnering with technology players and also a lot of customers. For example, we have a tie-up with Reliance, Adani, we also are supplying some vehicles to NTPC. So, I think it is important to work on both sides of the equation when it comes to alternative fuels.

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If you can give a broad overview of the initial responses that you have got so far.

We are in that proof of concept stage. Now maturing of technology basically means that while our technology is ready in the lab, we have to test these vehicles in actual real conditions. That is why we have to partner with the likes of Reliance and Adani and NTPC to make sure we have some vehicles out in the field, where we operate them in real conditions. We take all that feedback and input to our labs and further refine the technology that we have developed.

New alternative fuels would not just require some new technology, but would also require the creation of a whole ecosystem to support it.

What is the percentage share that you expect electric buses and LCVs to command in the next five years?

The electrification of public transport buses is happening at a very fast pace right now. Most of the STUs are coming up with requirements for electric buses, including from Switch. I believe this segment is the first to take off, and it will see real big momentum in times to come, especially aided by this e-mass mobility as a service. The second I guess, segment which would come to the play would be the LCV segment, which is the smaller vehicles, you know. Even Ashok Leyland is getting ready to launch its electric LCV range in the market, hopefully by the end of this year or early next year. When it comes to medium and heavy-duty trucks, I think it is still a few years away. They can’t rely on the ecosystem created for two- and three-wheelers or even cars. So that is still a little bit away. But I think it should start happening within the next three to four years.

How practical is the concept of battery swapping and is it an option for Ashok Leyland vehicles? Do you have any plans for that?

Yeah, battery swapping is something that has been very popular in some countries outside India There are a few companies in India also very focused on bringing this concept to reality. Right now, they are in two-wheeler and three-wheeler segments coming up into you know, maybe into cars later. But I think one or two companies are very confident about bringing this even into the CV industry. So we are working with all these players closely, you know, to see how we can integrate features like battery swapping into our vehicles as well.

ashok leyland

What according to you are the growth drivers for FY24 and what are the key focus areas?

MHCVs have a larger momentum right now. Last year we saw that MHCVs grew by roughly 40%+ while Ashok Leyland grew by 70%+ in MHCVs. We have better tailwinds on the MHCV side right now. Whatever parameter you look at, whether it is the government’s infrastructure spending, policies, pent-up demand that is still there in the MHCV industry, replacement cycle or the ageing of the vehicles/ tonnage moving up, you know, whichever way you look at, MHCVs are poised for a longish period of growth. LCVs might not be that high in terms of growth specifically for FY24. But in the long term, we are optimistic about LCV registering a good quantum of growth.

Last fiscal we saw CVs leading the automotive industry sales but there were a lot of talks about how the pace of growth might slow down in this particular fiscal, so, what is your view?

The pace of growth would certainly come down because as you know the industry was operating at a very low base. Going forward, we are saying that the industry has positive momentum, it will continue to grow both MHCVs and LCVs. The pace of growth would not be the same as in FY23 because already we are operating on a high base now we are very close to the peak of the industry volumes. I personally think that this time the CV industry cycle would be longish. There is a lot of positivity and optimism even in the customers, they see no dearth in demand even for the next 18-24 months. I think this is a good time for the CV industry.

Internationally, what are the specific markets that you are planning to focus on and the overall global strategy?

International business is one big opportunity for Ashok Leyland going forward. You know, when we started, we did a very good job in the markets that we focused on, which are essentially SARC, GCC and some parts of Africa. Our strategy was to be local in those markets so that we can understand those markets much better. In many of these countries, we have local assembly plants, which gives us a lot of advantages, not just in lowering the cost of the vehicles, but also in understanding the market better and working closely with the customers. Now going forward, we also want to focus more on countries in the ASEAN region. That is our next focus area. We have to invest in some product development for international operations as well, which we are doing as we speak. We see that there is potential for Ashok Leyland products in overseas markets.

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First published on: 19-05-2023 at 18:26 IST