For CV makers, the bells and whistles reside in tech | The Financial Express

For CV makers, the bells and whistles reside in tech

The CV maker displayed the Starbus FCEV, PRIMA E.55S FCEV tractor, PRIMA H.55S H2ICE truck, and a range of BEVs and LNG/CNG vehicles at the expo. T

commercial vehicle
Like Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland also displayed FCEV and H2ICE vehicles at its pavilion in addition to BEVs, and LNG and CNG vehicles. (File photo)

It’s not all glamour and style at the ongoing Auto Expo with flashy concept cars or new models. Commercial vehicle (CV) players such as Tata Motors, VECV and Ashok Leyland are impressing visitors equally with big technological advances.

While most carmakers are displaying battery electric vehicles (BEVs), flex fuel, fuel cell and hybrid cars, CV makers at the Auto Expo have showcased all possible drivetrains, including burning hydrogen in ICE (internal combustion engine).

Rajendra Petkar, chief technology officer, Tata Motors, told FE that while the play is complex in passenger vehicles (PVs) with carmakers trying select technologies to get to net zero, in CVs one cannot afford to leave any technology behind. “The way CVs have to do their duty (across the nook and corner of the country, spending days in remote areas), CV makers have to offer every technology that is there,” Petkar said, adding: “CNG and BEV are for short trips and last-mile, fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and LNG are for cross-country trips, ICE for areas where there are no charging stations or hydrogen, and so on. We also have H2ICE, in which hydrogen is used in ICE instead of fossil fuels.”

Also read: Auto Expo 2023: SIAM hosts 2nd Edition of the Global Electrification Mobility Summit

The CV maker displayed the Starbus FCEV, PRIMA E.55S FCEV tractor, PRIMA H.55S H2ICE truck, and a range of BEVs and LNG/CNG vehicles at the expo. The two technologies that stand out are FCEV and H2ICE.

In an FCEV, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to produce water and electricity. The electricity is then used to drive the vehicle’s motor and water is the only waste produced. Because electricity is developed by the vehicle, FCEVs don’t need charging support, unlike BEVs.

H2ICE also uses hydrogen, but differently.

Satyanarayanan R Chakravarthy, head of the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development at IIT Madras, told FE that in H2ICE, hydrogen is burnt inside either the compression ignition engine or the spark ignition engine — two variants of ICE — in the same way as diesel and petrol/CNG, respectively, are burnt. “The absence of carbon in hydrogen means that in the exhaust of H2ICE there are zero carbon-based pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons,” he said, adding: “Both H2ICE and FCEV are zero-carbon vehicles, provided the fuel used is green hydrogen (produced by renewable sources of energy).”

Like Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland also displayed FCEV and H2ICE vehicles at its pavilion in addition to BEVs, and LNG and CNG vehicles. Ashok Leyland-backed Switch Mobility focused on showcasing light electric buses for last-mile and mid-mile mobility applications.

Eicher Motors displayed India’s longest electric bus (13.5 metre), FCEV, H2ICE, and LNG/CNG vehicles. Its partner Volvo Group has the Volvo LNG based on diesel-cycle technology that provides 20% improvement in fuel economy over petrol.

An automotive analyst told FE that in addition to electric, alternative fuels like ethanol, LNG and hydrogen are essential to lead the decarbonisation of the CV industry. “The CV industry has a higher carbon footprint than the passenger vehicle industry, and to reach net zero, it has to innovate more,” he said. “This process also has to be profitable, and that means CV makers will keep trying to make the most out of ICE (where investments are already done), as well as experiment with LNG/CNG, ethanol up to 85%, FCEV, H2ICE, and whatever mobility technology exists.”

Also read: Transition to EVs will be much faster than imagined: Tata Sons chairman

Tata Motors has said it aspires to be net-zero by 2045 for the CV business (for the PV business, it targets net zero by 2040). Volvo Group has a 2040 net-zero target.

For reaching net-zero, vehicle lightweighting is gaining traction. CV makers and their suppliers are trying to shave off kilos from vehicles using latest technologies, new material mix, strong plastics and all-new vehicle platforms. One such example is the Ashok Leyland AVTR modular platform, and its FCEV, H2ICE and LNG vehicles built on the AVTR are on display at the Auto Expo.

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First published on: 15-01-2023 at 05:30 IST