Mumbai: India’s fourth-largest commercial vehicle maker, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles (VECV) Ltd, a joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd and Volvo AB, plans to widen its range of medium-duty trucks that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), according to a senior executive.

During the quarter ending September, VECV will launch a CNG truck with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) up to 14 tonnes, said Shyam Maller, executive vice president, light and medium-duty trucks and buses. This GVW is an industry first, Maller claimed.

GVW measures the weight of the vehicle, in addition to the payload.

On Tuesday, VECV showcased CNG variants of its 4.9 and 5.9-tonne trucks, typically used in last-mile delivery operations by fleet owners. While these are the lightest payload trucks VECV offers, the automaker plans to bring in CNG trucks with higher payloads as the footprint of CNG stations grows, Maller said.

“The footprint of CNG stations run by Indraprastha Gas (Ltd) and GAIL (India Ltd), is increasing predominantly in New Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region), and in parts of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. This growth compels us to look at a range of vehicles with higher tonnage," Maller said.

A greater availability of CNG will impel fleet owners to demand higher tonnage trucks to move longer distances, instead of having lighter trucks cover smaller distances, he elaborated.

Competitors such as homegrown auto conglomerates Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd do not have CNG variants of higher tonnage medium duty trucks. However, Maller expects them to begin developing such products as the “writing on the wall becomes clearer" on the back of the central government’s focus on cleaner fuels, where “CNG will play a very big role".

The market for trucks running on CNG is negligible, but VECV hopes to leverage the “green tax" imposed in the New Delhi-NCR region to drive sales, in addition to the inherent cost advantages offered by CNG in last-mile delivery. Such trucks make up 20% of VECV’s total truck sales in north India.

Diesel-guzzling commercial vehicles entering New Delhi would have to pay an environment compensation charge, informally called the green tax, ranging from Rs700 to Rs2,600 depending on their GVW, according to a Supreme Court order of 2015.

While CNG trucks are more expensive by about 10%, the associated cost of operation is lower by almost 40%, depending on the price of CNG, according to Maller.

“We expect to see a larger market share for the CNG variant of the 4.9 tonner, as it offers double the value at a very low price premium", Maller said, claiming that the product “offers twice the payload as compared to the nearest competitor and has an extra 1.5 feet of load body length".

VECV also offers a range of almost 10 trucks running on liquefied natural gas, in addition to two electric buses, and plans to bring in other variants on existing platforms as the market allows.