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Safe and Sustainable: Blue Energy Motors' LNG Trucks Set New Standards for India's Trucking Industry

Modified On May 14, 2024 12:20 PMBy Dheeraj Nair

Blue Energy Motors CEO, Anirudh Bhuwalka, discusses LNG's pivotal role as a transitional fuel, addressing safety and emissions concerns while shedding light on the future of the transport sector.

Blue Energy Motors addresses concerns about the safety of LNG trucks and transportation

Key Highlights 

  • LNG serves as a promising transition fuel to reduce carbon emissions, especially in heavy-duty commercial vehicles, where alternatives are limited.

  • Blue Energy Motors is pioneering LNG trucks in India, with notable achievements such as huge reductions in CO2 emissions and collaborations with major corporations.

  • BEM addresses concerns about the safety of LNG trucks and transportation, while also clearing the air on research reports suggesting that LNG leads to increased emissions.

Overview

As the world grapples with climate change, the requirement for sustainable mobility solutions has become the need of the hour. To attain zero-emission goals, automakers are shifting their focus to cleaner mobility solutions, including “transition fuels” such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LNG.

An example of an automaker in India focused on utilising LNG as a transition fuel to benefit the whole ecosystem of commercial vehicles would be Blue Energy Motors (BEM).

BEM is a pioneer in India offering the country’s first zero-emission LNG trucks built for sustainability. Recently, these trucks collectively clocked 1.5 crore kilometres on Indian roads resulting in the reduction of over 3000 tonnes of CO2. That’s equal to the CO2 absorption of 1.2 lakh mature trees.

However, certain doubts have arisen globally regarding how sustainable and efficient the process of LNG liquefaction and transportation of the fuel is. These, in turn, have spurred multiple discussions and prompted research and reports on the global impact of LNG, raising valid concerns. To address them and bust the myths, BEM has stepped forward. 

More importantly, the CEO of Blue Energy Motors, Anirudh Bhuwalka, has answered the unanswered questions on LNG fuel in an interaction with TrucksDekho, enlightening us with the facts about the true nature of LNG as a transition fuel. Let’s get right to it. Read on:

Related Link: Here's What A Driver Of A Blue Energy LNG Truck Has To Say About LNG Trucks and Their Performance

Blue Energy Motors claims that in the last year and a half, they have been able to put more than 500 trucks on the road, for major Fortune 500 Indian corporations.

What significant impact have BEM LNG trucks had on India's transportation industry and its customers?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: "In the last year and a half, we have been able to put more than 500 trucks on the road, for major Fortune 500 Indian corporations namely Tata Steel, Reliance, Hindustan Zinc, Dalmia Cement, JK Lakshmi Cement, JSW Cement, JSW Steel, and JSPL, among others. So all the major cement, steel, FMCG, and oil and gas companies have been able to seed BEM trucks in the market.

The whole objective in year one was to seed the trucks in the market because LNG in India is an absolute pioneering act, which we are trying to position for environmental sustainability and enhancing the customer experience. Nobody has done it before. We are the first in the market and we continue to be the first in the market driving this change.

In the first year, the idea was to introduce LNG as a product, as a fuel, and as an ecosystem in the Indian market to enhance the transportation industry. The basic advantage of LNG that we have been pitching to the customers is that CO2 emission can be reduced by at least 30-35% if customers were to induct LNG vehicles.

This is huge because when it comes to the automotive sector and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, there is no technology today which is reducing pollution. So while LNG is not 100% clean, it moves the needle by almost 30 to 40%, which according to me is huge.

Given that India has around 4 million heavy-duty trucks generating close to 350 to 400 million tonnes of CO2 every year, hypothetically reducing CO2 emissions by 30 to 35% through LNG adoption could help reduce 100 to 150 million tonnes of CO2.

So I think that it is one of the biggest reasons why all the major Fortune 500 India Inc. are willing to shift. It can be said that LNG fits in well. Due to such an impact and thanks to the environmental benefits, our LNG truck technology is helping customers enhance the transport industry as a whole.” 

How does Blue Energy Motors' LNG truck technology differentiate itself from other players in the market?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “So far, everybody is in trial stages. Nobody has really launched their truck officially in the market. Having said that, we do know what other players are doing.

When it comes to our LNG trucks in the market, we use spark ignition technology, which is one of the most proven and stable technologies. Any truck which has a spark ignition technology is basically designed for operating on gas. Markets internationally also use HDPI (High-Pressure Direct Injection), but it is a combination of diesel and spark ignition.

However, there are pros and cons to both. Nevertheless, we chose to go with purebred gas technology from ground zero and we have partnered with IVECO, who are pioneers of LNG technology in the world. Their technology is best-in-class. So, we have partnered with them and that is how we are trying to push it.” 

Can you share any success stories where Blue Energy Motors' LNG trucks have made a significant impact on a client's operations?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “I think if you go to any of our customers, whether it is JSW, JK Lakshmi, or any other, the single biggest statement they’ll have to offer would be about the performance of our LNG trucks, how sustainable it is and how it benefits them in terms of profitability.

There are different stakeholders in trucking. The end customer who is deploying the truck is one stakeholder, the person driving the truck is another, and the fleet operator who owns the truck is a third. So, if one were to consider all three stakeholders, our end customer gets to go green at the same cost as diesel, which is huge.

These stakeholders have also noted that the 30% reduction in noise offered by our LNG trucks has significantly reduced driver fatigue, leading to higher productivity.”

Blue Enery Motors CEO asserts that LNG is one of the safest fuels out there in the Indian commercial vehicle market.

Is it safe to carry LNG in compressed fuel tanks of trucks, considering there are concerns among drivers about vehicle safety in accidents or collisions?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “So you have to understand that LNG is one of the safest fuels out there, because, number one, it is not inflammable. Number two, if there is a leak, LNG simply evaporates because LNG is stored at minus 160 degrees. It is a very cold fluid. So the minute it is exposed to the atmosphere, it just becomes air and it just evaporates.

Regarding the concerns among drivers, it is because LNG is a new technology. It is a new fuel. Hence, there are some apprehensions, but as we have seen now, with almost 15 million kilometres under our belt, our trucks have faced accidents on the road, we have gone through the learning curve in pretty much every single instance that you can think about. And touch wood, so far, we have not had any issues with regards to LNG and its safety.”

Related Link: Blue Energy Green Trucks Clock Over 1 Crore Kilometers: Details Of BEM LNG Truck Explained

What are your thoughts on the research by Robert Howarth and Felipe Rodríguez that suggests LNG causes significant emissions?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “First things first, when you look at these international scenarios, and you take three countries, which are the US, Europe and China, where LNG has been there for the last decade or so – there the difference between LNG and diesel emissions is only 10%. And Felipe Rodríguez’s citation of 9% is definitely correct.

However, it is not true for India because it's more than 9%, somewhere around 35 percent. Let me explain why – world over, whether it is US, Europe or China, to carry 50 tonnes of payload or 50 tonnes of load on a truck, they would power it with a 450 to 500 horsepower engine.

Meanwhile, India is the only country in the world where to carry 55 tons of payload, you use 280 horsepower engine-equipped trucks. The minute you are using a lower horsepower diesel engine to carry a higher weight load, your engine is overloaded. But in an overloaded condition using gas such as LNG or CNG, both, outperform diesel by almost 30 to 40% lower emissions.

When it comes to trucks in India, historically, there was no precedence as to how gas trucks are going to behave, we were the first to try it out. We relied on international data and we said that India cannot be any different. We never knew that there would be a reverse power-to-weight ratio condition wherein gas engines will outperform diesel by 35 to 40%.

Let’s take CNG. It has been a runaway success in India. The only question that has been asked for so long is “Why have heavy haulage trucks not moved on to CNG?”. We know that medium commercial vehicles have moved on to CNG and almost 50% market share is covered by CNG-powered intermediate commercial vehicles. However, heavy-duty trucks which contribute to high carbon emissions cannot move on to CNG due to range issues.

So, when you talk about well-to-wheel, when you look at carbon footprint, purely on the Indian truck side, if there is a delta of 35% to 40% on the LNG truck side, obviously on the well-to-wheel basis, there is also going to be a cascading effect since heavy commercial vehicles cannot transition to an effective alternative fuel. Hence, we always maintain that LNG is a transition fuel even though it is not a 100% clean fuel.

Now if you wait for future new technologies to come in and wait for another 5 years, you have already passed the time of generating lower carbon emissions and would already emit 450 million tonnes a year. So, better to get on to this transition (LNG) while new technologies or clean technologies catch up and then finally move to an absolute clean footprint.”

What are the main challenges hindering the widespread adoption of LNG trucks in India, and how can they be overcome?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “With any new technology, awareness is a key factor in improving adoption of that technology. Now, as more and more trucks are starting to get into the market, that awareness is starting to become more common.

Moreover, setting up of refuelling stations is one of the key factors that can help improve LNG truck adoption. So, in one year, we have seen that the number of LNG fuel pumps which was only one in number has gone up to 12 stations. Hence, that infrastructure is starting to get built up. Once the infrastructure builds up and awareness starts to become common, I think the market is going to grow further.”

Blue Energy Motors CEO Anirudh Bhuwalka says that as of now there are zero incentives offered by the government to enhance LNG truck adoption.

What are the current incentives provided by the Indian government to promote the adoption of LNG vehicles?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “As of now, on LNG, there are zero incentives offered by the government to enhance LNG truck adoption.”

Should there be incentives for LNG adoption similar to those for electric vehicles?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “100%. There is no question in my mind about it because while new technologies will find their way forward and come into play, LNG is clearly a game-changer in the short to medium term. In this regard, I have already made representations to the government to provide incentives. I think industries have made recommendations to the government. NITI Aayog has made recommendations to the government to promote LNG, to provide incentives.”

What is the annual production capacity of Blue Energy Motors, and how many units are sold annually?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “We currently have a plant with a production capacity of 10,000 trucks. According to me, it is a substantial capacity for any new technology. Further, in the first year, we have just seeded about 500 trucks in the market. This year, we are expanding the sales volumes. Our target for this year is to do anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 trucks.” 

Anirudh Bhuwalka said to TrucksDekho in an interaction that they want to keep pole position in India. And to that extent, they want to expand BEM's volume base this year.

What is the roadmap for Blue Energy Motors in terms of expanding its LNG truck portfolio and market reach in India?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “I think we have achieved our objectives for the first year. We have successfully seeded the products in the market. And now, this year, our plan is to scale the volumes across the markets and start building some base volumes. Like I said – LNG is a new technology and like any new technology, it takes time to get adopted.

We want to keep pole position in India. And to that extent, we want to expand our volume base this year. We are going to be focused on our product strategy this year and probably expand our product portfolio from next year.” 

How do you think the market for LNG trucks in India will evolve in the next 5-10 years in the context of CO2 reduction goals?

Anirudh Bhuwalka: “I personally believe that if you were to take a leaf out of what has happened in China and China, according to me, is leading the way in heavy duty clean transportation in a very large way, in the next 3 to 5 years, LNG is going to be a good growth story in India. Having said that, I think we will have new technologies such as EVs also coming in and at some stage, hydrogen will also come in.

I do not think there is going to be a cookie-cutter rule where only one technology is going to service the market. You are going to have the presence of multiple technologies co-existing side by side depending upon case-to-case applications.”  

Conclusion

With the impact of climate change, LNG can be considered as a transition fuel for reducing the carbon footprint like rightly mentioned by Anirudh Bhuwalka – CEO, Blue Energy Motors. However, it is important to understand that LNG is not a 100 percent clean fuel. Considering the data and research available, there is still space for development to make it sustainable. 

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