Reliance, Ashok Leyland in talks for engines running on H2

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is in advanced talks with Hinduja-owned truck and bus maker Ashok Leyland for the development and supply chain of hydrogen-powered engines, said two people aware of the development.

As a first step under the plan, Leyland will retrofit an existing fleet of 45,000 trucks, which RIL has contracted to ferry refined products and other marketing goods, with fuel-cell engines so that these vehicles can use green hydrogen instead of diesel, the people said.

Reliance is planning to produce green hydrogen at its Jamnagar refinery facility from 2025. As technology evolves, it is looking to expand the supply of hydrogen to the larger automotive market, including for buses and cabs.

Partnership Details Being Finalised

This could mean similar tie-ups with other automakers, or widen the scope of engagement with Leyland, said one of the people, speaking on the condition of anonymity as the business plans are still in private domain.

It is not clear as yet if RIL would, in future, tie up with cab aggregators like Ola or Uber.

Details of the structure of the partnership, potential equity contribution and capex are being finalised between RIL and Leyland, the people said.

RIL and Ashok Leyland did not respond till press time Wednesday to queries emailed by ET on Monday evening.

“RIL has reached out to Ashok Leyland for the development of these engines. The plan is to use these engines for the fleet of trucks RIL uses and, of course, going forward expand this to the larger automotive market,” said one of the people. “Currently the plan envisages retrofitting the engines of these Ashok Leyland fleet of trucks before moving on to the fleet of other service providers. These retro-fittings would take place across Ashok Leyland’s truck workshops in the country.”

RIL already has a working relationship with Leyland wherein the truck maker trains drivers for RIL’s supply chain segment. RIL has three driver training schools in Gujarat. Leyland is RIL’s key vendor when it comes to truck supplies.

A year ago, Nitin Seth, a former chief operating officer at Ashok Leyland, took over as the chief executive – new mobility at RIL.

Seth was among the key architects in forming the electric vehicle arm, Switch Mobility, at the country’s second-largest truck maker. He has more than three decades of experience in the automotive space.

Sources said, as India is prioritising green hydrogen as a potential solution to decarbonise industries and transportation, RIL wants to take the first mover advantage in the transport segment. Also, since the company would be a key producer of green hydrogen going forward, it is interested in establishing an ecosystem for the fuel, generating a critical mass.

Green hydrogen is the cleanest form of fuel when produced through renewable sources of energy. This August, at RIL’s AGM, Ambani had unveiled his plan to shift to green hydrogen with an aim to start the transition by 2025. “Reliance is not new to hydrogen. We are one of the largest producers of grey hydrogen globally… We aim to progressively commence transition from grey hydrogen to green hydrogen by 2025, after proving our cost and performance targets,” Ambani had said.

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