Indian commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland has laid out its roadmap for alternate fuel technologies that it is working on, and according to it, the company is focusing on the hydrogen platform for its medium and heavy size vehicles.
This makes it different from other automakers such as Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, whose EV plans have largely revolved around battery-based EV technologies.
This is likely because Ashok Leyland operates in the long haul and heavy truck market, where battery technology may not work.
According to the company's road map -- to be announced at an investor conference today -- the company has battery-based EV models only in 3 out of the 8 categories of vehicles in operates in.
Commercial vehicles are divided into four categories based on size -- light, intermediate, medium and heavy. They are further divided into trucks and buses, giving a total of eight categories.
Of these, Ashok Leyland currently has electric options only in three categories -- two in trucks (light and intermediate) and one in the bus segment (medium).
According to the company's roadmap, it is currently in the process of finalizing two more categories of battery EVs -- light buses and intermediate buses.
The remaining four categories -- medium trucks, heavy trucks and long-haul buses -- will not get battery-based EV technology.
Instead, the company is working on bringing out hydrogen-based variants of these vehicles.
Ashok Leyland is planning to offer hydrogen internal combustion engine (H2 ICE) and fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) versions of its long haul buses and trucks as well as medium and heavy trucks.
The company doesn't seem to have made a choice between the two technologies and its roadmap shows that work on integrating these technologies into its vehicles is 'in progress'.
The reason Ashok Leyland appears to be prioritizing hydrogen over battery-electric for long haul applications is likely range and refueling requirements.
Long haul transport often involves travelling hundreds of kilometers consistently. Most battery-electric trucks today have ranges less than 300km on a single charge, which is insufficient for long routes.
Refueling large battery packs also takes hours.
In contrast, hydrogen fuel cell trucks can achieve ranges comparable to diesel while refueling hydrogen takes minutes - similar to diesel. The higher energy density of hydrogen versus batteries is more suitable to meet the range demands.
Given long haul transport is essential for goods movement in India, Ashok Leyland is strategically tapping into hydrogen propulsion to offer cleaner vehicles without sacrificing productivity or usable range. Hence the greater emphasis on FCEVs and hydrogen ICE options for the long haul category.
However, India is yet to get Hydrogen fuel outlets. Several companies, such as Reliance Industries and Adani Group, are working on this.