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Tata Motors to bring out LNG-fuelled buses

Tata Motors to bring out LNG-fuelled buses

 

Tata Motors became the first company in India to introduce liquefied natural gas-fuelled bus in Kochi recently. As it awaits a final notification from the government recognising LNG as an automotive fuel, the company sees a big market for these vehicles, especially in coastal areas with good connectivity to LNG terminals. 

Speaking to Business Standard, Ajit Jindal, head, engineering, commercial vehicles, passengers, said LNG could be used as an alternative fuel to diesel. 

The firm had been looking for this option for some time. Tata already has CNG-fuelled buses. “Today, we have a large fleet of CNG bus. But the projections on adding CNG vehicles is limited to Delhi, where there is a Supreme Court order in place. The recent order of the National Green Tribunal will give thrust. Even in markets, like Surat and Pune where CNG is available, sales have not picked up,” said Jindal. 

Besides LNG, India’s largest commercial vehicles manufacturer, recently signed a contract to supply 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Series Hybrid Electric Bus with Full Low floor configuration, with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

Tata Motors brought in CNG convertors for light commercial vehicles. Jindal, however, pointed out one of the issue with CNG is the range or the distance it can run with one fill. If the number of cylinders is increased then the dead load goes up and the payload comes down. “It also leads to frequent queuing up at filling stations. So, we decided that LNG was one solution which could increase the density per kilogramme of fuel by two and a half times.” If with 100 litres, 16 kg of CNG can be filled up, in case of LNG it is 40 kg.

Moving towards gas power, will help in lowering emissions and ensure better fuel efficiency, due to high energy density of LNG, providing for a longer range at more than 700km in one filling. LPG powered vehicles also ensure better Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) characteristics for passenger comfort.

Though initially the government was promoting LNG use for industrial use, it is now doing for automobile as well. There will be increased availability of LNG in the country through imports. China too is on similar path and has more than 1000 LNG vehicles now.

In terms of cost, the running cost of LNG vehicle will be 30-40% cheaper than diesel but this will primarily be in coastal areas. The cost of LNG may increase in the hinterland. 

The cost of LNG bus itself will be similar to CNG but will more expensive than diesel because LNG will require cryogenic tank. The fuelling system will be different from diesel. 

The government is working on regulations for setting up dispensing station. “We have been working with the gas companies to get regulations in place. We now have authorisation to do testing on a wider base,” said Jindal. 

The gas selling companies are more comfortable to supply LNG within 500 km of coastal areas but there is also a proposal to move LNG in barges on the Ganga. Besides, the government is planning energy corridors. Proliferation of LNG will be in keeping with direction for COP21 goals, said Jindal.

At Kochi, capacity utilisation of Petronet LNG terminal was low but it is expected that once gas-based bus are introduced, it will be higher. The plan is to start with 100 buses in the city. With this, Kerala will be the first state to explore trial run of LNG-driven technology.

Besides LNG, India’s largest commercial vehicles manufacturer, recently signed a contract to supply 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Series Hybrid Electric Bus with Full Low floor configuration, with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).