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    Tata Motors sees steady rise in CNG vehicle demand


The demand for CNG commercial vehicles is rising at a faster rate since the transition to BS6 emission norms. [image credit: Tata Motors]

by: Shardul Sharma

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Tata Motors sees steady rise in CNG vehicle demand

Tata Motors, one of India’s biggest vehicle manufacturers, has seen an increase in the demand for vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) this year as a result of tighter fuel emissions standards, the vice president for sales and marketing at its commercial vehicle business unit, Rajesh Kaul, tells NGW. Following the introduction of the Bharat Stage 6 (BS6) standard this year, CNG vehicles now account for about 7% of the company's total vehicle sales, versus 4.5% in 2020, he says.

“The demand for CNG-driven commercial vehicles has intensified at a faster rate after the transition to BS6 emission norms and this is expected to continue," Kaul explains. "Key elements that will catalyse this growth in the near future are increasing fuel price differential, improving availability of CNG, favourable operating economics, increased product options, and increasing green taxes and levies."

According to company estimates, the number of CNG vehicles built in India increased by 1.6 times to 30,000 in the 2019-2020 financial year, despite a 30% decrease in total vehicles constructed.

Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from compression ignition engines and spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles. These standards are designed based on European regulations and are numbered as BS3, BS4, BS5, BS6, respectively. The higher the number, the more rigid the standard.

According to the BS6 rules, emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) are to be brought down by a quarter in gasoline engines and over two thirds (68%) in diesel engines. Similarly, emissions of particulate matter – a major cause of serious throat and lung problems – from diesel engines are expected to fall by 80%.

Tata Motors will continue to evaluate its product portfolio based on customers’ need and market demand and accordingly plan development and launch various products including CNG at the opportune time, Kaul added.

The company offers a wide range of CNG-powered vehicles across its small commercial vehicles (SCV), intermediate & light commercial vehicles (I&LCV), and bus range. In the SCV segment, Tata Motors offers Ace Gold CNG while in I&LCV segment, it offers CNG vehicles across a diversity of payloads starting from 6 to 16 tonnage categories. In the buses segment, the bus range includes all weight categories from 4 metric tons to 9 mt, and mostly deployed for transportation of school and staff buses. For urban transportation, Tata Motors offers CNG buses on its Ultra platform. 

Rajesh Kaul. Vice president of sales & marketing, commercial vehicle business unit, Tata Motors [Image credit: Tata Motors]

Hydrogen-based transportation

In the past few years, Tata Motors has been developing cleaner and greener emission vehicles and has been working on the development of the fuel cell technology demonstrator vehicles. The project was part of the Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (TDDP) with the government of India.

Tata Motors collaborated with Indian Space Research Organisation and other institutions for system integration, testing, and certification. The efforts included indigenous development of various aggregates, creation of balance of power-pack, power electronics converters, fuel cell accessories like recirculation blower system for hydrogen and control algorithm for the battery management system and heat exchanger for fuel cell applications to name a few. The team also developed capability in hydrogen handling and on-board storage, along with an associated safety system.

During the development process, Tata Motors set up a fuel cell power system test lab with all the safety measures and acquired the confidence and know-how needed to build fuel cell vehicles. Multiple prototypes of this programme have undergone various evaluations and road trials related to safety, durability, and energy management across the country.

Tata Motors recently announced a partnership with state-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to supply 15 proton exchange membrane fuel cell buses to latter’s research & development centre. Tata Motors and IOC will undertake R&D projects to study the potential of fuel cell technology for commercial vehicles and its deployment in real-world conditions for public transport. The two companies will collaborate to test, maintain and operate these buses in Delhi-National Capital Region with the refuelling of hydrogen, being undertaken by IOCL.

“Increasing air pollutions and carbon emissions across the globe have given a major push for the demand for cleaner, greener, and alternate fuel options. The adoption of hydrogen fuel cells has been expedited as this transition will have a significant impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, long-range heavy-duty vehicles will further benefit due to fast refuelling and higher energy density,” Kaul says.

Some benefits of deployment of hydrogen fuel cells include high energy density, faster fuelling time, and long-range applications which become non-viable with battery electric vehicles due to lithium-Ion battery constraints, apart from being eco-friendlier.

“Moreover, Hydrogen fuel cells do not have emission-related concerns with regards to metal oxide processing and recycling. Lithium-Ion batteries also have concerns about the continued long-term supplies of rare earth materials and the severe constraints of the supply chain. From a pure application and deployment standpoint, fuel cells make sense for trucks and buses, as well as high-end SUVs,” Kaul says.