Exclusive: Ashok Leyland CTO says company eyeing hybrid tech for small CVs | Autocar Professional

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Chennai-based Ashok Leyland is exploring the development of hybrid technology for small commercial vehicles, to cater to the demand for intercity applications, Dr. N. Saravanan, President and Chief Technology Officer of the company told Autocar Professional on the sidelines of an industry event.

Saravanan stated that they are developing modular platforms that can accommodate hybrid powertrains in addition to other fuel options like diesel and CNG. The hybrids provide an intermediate solution to transitioning to electric while using existing fuel infrastructure like diesel or CNG. 

“I do see hybrids in commercial vehicles. We are exploring it in small commercial vehicles; that seems to make sense,” said Saravanan before adding that it should be seen from the perspective of decarbonisation and fuel economy. “The idea is to see if we can bring the cost structure low enough,” he continued.

Saravanan sees both diesel and gasoline hybrid options as possibilities for small commercial vehicles, depending on the application and market segment. “Diesel hybrids we have to see,  or maybe, say, there is an option for gasoline hybrids in pickups or smaller trucks,” he continued.  

Ashok Leyland’s Executive Chairman, Dheeraj Hinduja, previously announced a new multipurpose platform for small trucks within the next two years. Elaborating this further, Sarvanan noted that this platform will be adaptable for various fuel types, including gasoline, CNG, hybrids, and electric vehicles, among others. 

The development should also be seen in the context of an IIT-Kanpur study on the life cycle analysis (LCA) and total cost of ownership (TCO) of a hybrid vehicle vis-à-vis an EV and its ICE counterpart, the GHG emissions for hybrids were found to be lower than those of EVs and ICE vehicles in India. The study — supported by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) — also found that the emissions over the vehicle life cycle (presumed at 200,000 km) of a hybrid were 27.5% lower than those of an EV and 28.1% lower than those of an ICE vehicle, from a cradle-to-grave perspective.

GHG emissions during the manufacturing of the vehicle were found to be the highest for an EV — 41.17% higher than those emitted during the making of a hybrid — whereas those of a hybrid were 14.7% lower than their pure ICE counterpart. While the emissions for ICE vehicles were found to be lower than EVs in this context, they lessened for EVs after a certain distance travelled.

Amidst hectic lobbying by some of the Japanese OEMs, the Indian government, which earlier remained adamant about the adoption of pure EVs, now seems to be softening its stand. The Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari,  has urged the finance minister to reduce the goods and service tax on hybrid vehicles to 12 percent, as per media reports. Recently there have been reports that the government is considering a lower tax structure on hybrid vehicles powered by a petrol engine and an electric motor.

India currently levies a goods and service tax (GST) of 28 percent on vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, including hybrids, and 5 percent on electric vehicles. However, with the inclusion of cess, the tax on hybrid vehicles is over 43 percent, depending on the model.

Gadkari said that at present there is a 5 percent GST on electric vehicles and a 48 percent GST on hybrids. That number seems very unfair, as hybrids, although not as clean as EVs, are far better for the environment than purely internal combustion-based vehicles. The Union Minister has said that this number should be reduced to just 12 percent soon as he intends to promote the sale of hybrid and electric vehicles, the report said.

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