Mumbai: Tata Motors Ltd, which had launched the country’s first compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet, is planning to commercially roll out eco-friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG) bus by April next year.
The company had made a pilot-run for the nation’s first LNG powered bus in Thiruvananthapuram last week and hopes to launch first in Kerala. The company had unveiled the first LNG truck at the Delhi Auto Expo 2014. “If all goes well, we are planning the commercial launch next April. We are working overtime to get regulatory approvals including those from Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI)," Tata Motors engineering head Ajit Jindal said. He, however, denied the plans that the company has inked an agreement with Kerala.
“We have not signed any agreement with Kerala as yet or any other state. Kerala is keen to place an order for 1,000 buses with us and we have offered to make 10% of that (100) to be LNG-powered," Jindal said. He said these fully-built buses will be produced at its Lucknow plant, where it makes the CNG buses also, and the body will be built at its Dharwar plant. “Going forward, if the demand is good, we can also offer just chassis," he said.
When asked about the advantages of LNG over CNG in terms ownership cost for a customer, he said there is no significant cost advantage over CNG, but coastal states can gain considerably from fuel transportation cost. From the point of view of diesel, the gains are huge as cost of ownership will be cheaper by around 30%, while acquisition cost may be higher by Rs4-5 lakh, he added.
In terms of ease of usage, the LNG buses offer a great advantage over CNG variants as the dead weight of a CNG cylinder and that of a cryogenic cylinder is huge apart from very low filling time, he said. “With a full tank, an LNG bus can run as much as 700 km in one filling, while a CNG bus can at best deliver just about 200 km per cylinder," Jindal said. He also said an LNG-powered bus (Tata LPO1613) is lighter in weight compared to buses powered by conventional fuels and has enhanced levels of payload.
Jindal said they have not spent too much on developing this bus which will be sold initially as fully built units of 9 meters or 35 seaters, and 12 meters or 50 seaters, the engines are same as that of its CNG buses.
About fuel supply, Jindal said the company is talking to Petronet LNG Ltd and Indian Oil Corp. Ltd to set up special filling stations. But again, he said, no agreement has been reached between them. From the emission side, LNG being a cleaner fuel can reduce greenhouse gases by 30% than diesel. If it places an order, Kerala will be the first state to explore trial run of LNG-driven technology, he said.