Hydrogen Intelligence SA, a Paris-based group company of electric vehicle maker Omega Seiki Mobility (OSM), has developed green hydrogen-powered three-wheelers that it plans to commercially produce in India next year.
“We will be running these vehicles for 500 kilometres on the Lemans racetrack on February 2 at an event in Paris,” Uday Narang, cofounder of Hydrogen Intelligence, told ET. “These have been developed by our team of French engineers.”
The India subsidiary of Hydrogen Intelligence plans to make a batch of 100 such three-wheelers by September for an extensive pilot run in various states in the country, Narang said.
Subsequently, it would commence commercial production at an upcoming new facility in Chennai in early 2025, he said. The plant will have an initial capacity to make 5,000 vehicles per month, which will be doubled in the second year of operation, he added.
The development is expected to complement the government’s National Green Hydrogen Mission that aims to make India a global hub for production, use and exports of green hydrogen.
So far, automakers in India have been considering electric and not hydrogen as the most preferred solution for small commercial vehicles like a three-wheeler to switch to zero emission technologies.
Truck makers such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, though, are actively considering this fuel option for long haulage, heavy duty applications and have been running pilots of their hydrogen-powered trucks at ports and refineries for some time now.
Hydrogen Intelligence is presently in talks with private equity investors in the US and Europe to raise $25 million.
The Paris-based firm plans to sell its three-wheelers in India at about Rs 6 lakh each.
While this is about Rs 2 lakh higher than a battery-operated three-wheeler, the total cost of ownership would be much lesser and one can recover the initial cost at a shorter time span, Narang claimed.
For one, battery-operated vehicles (BOVs) need to replace their batteries – which cost one-third of the vehicle – every three years, he reasoned.
Also, BOVs’ batteries typically need to be recharged after every 100 km. In the case of hydrogen-powered vehicles, “the operator doesn’t need to fill the tank for 3 to 4 days”, Narang claimed.
While several top public and private companies including Reliance Industries, Tata Group, Adani Green Energy and NTPC are investing in green hydrogen plants, the fuel is not yet readily available in the country.
On how the company plans to run these vehicles after the pilot runs in India in the absence of hydrogen-dispensing infrastructure, Narang said, “Someone needs to take charge. These vehicles will act as a catalyst of change… Till a few years back, no one thought electric will catch up so fast.”
He said Hydrogen Intelligence will engage with state governments and various stakeholders including Reliance and Adani for the adequate infrastructure support required.
Bringing disruptive technologies is the only way a startup like Omega Seiki Mobility (OSM) can take on large manufacturers like Bajaj Auto that controls 70% of the market, Narang said.
OSM currently sells electric three-wheelers under the brand Charge+ and is in the process of launching a passenger carrier version of the same in a few months. It targets sales of 8,000 e-three-wheelers in the domestic market in 2023-24.