We will do much of the work on hydrogen tech in India for the world, says Srikanth Padmanabhan, President, Cummins’ Engines Business, Auto News, ET Auto
Q: How long has this engine platform been under development, and what range of fuels is it designed for?
We have been working on it over the past two decades, mainly to develop an engine platform that can take multiple fuels. Not that the same engine can take multiple fuels, but the same engine platform. If you decide you want to use it for compressed natural gas, or liquefied natural gas, you could do it, or you could do it for hydrogen, biodiesel, and you could also use it for petrol. The idea is it’ll have the same power and torque that today’s diesel provides.
We’ve been working on this for the past several years. But we have just started to introduce the engine, both on natural gas and on hydrogen. And we’re going to do it with petrol also.
Q: What percentage of the engine has to be modified, depending on the fuel that goes inside?
Above the head gasket, things have to change. And below the head gasket, all the components will be the same. This means the box, the cranks, and the pistons will be the same. Above the head gasket the fuel delivery system, turbochargers, and the system to get the particular fuel from the tank to the cylinder head will change.
Q: Would about 70% of the engine’s components, in terms of cost, be common across different fuel options?
Yes. About 70% to 80% of the components will be common, but 25% would be different.
Q: What is the rollout plan of the fuel agnostic engine platform? Is this engine BSVII ready?
We’re going to do this around the globe. We have started introducing this fuel agnostic platform of natural gas engines in China and will introduce it in North America in 2024. We’re also going to introduce a petrol or octane version between 2024 and 2025. And soon after, we’ll be introducing the hydrogen-based engine.
Q: In India as well?
In India as well. This engine that we are seeing here (Auto Expo) is a 7-litre like engine. It will be in India that we would be doing much of the work on hydrogen technology for the world.
Q: Alright. Would it be supplied to any Indian OEM, like Tata?
With Tata we have signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) and we are working on the hydrogen internal combustion engine. We’re also working on fuel cells and battery electric. This will be the first one to come out.
Q: Based on the same fuel agnostic engine platform?
Q: What is the progression, the evolution of commercial vehicle powertrain that you expect towards net zero emissions, or ‘Destination Zero’ as it is said in Cummins?
Destination Zero means that you have to get to zero emissions, right? The powertrain is going to change over time. There are going to be certain markets like the bus market, or markets where you have a depot to bring it back to, like garbage disposal trucks. Those things will start to electrify first because the range is low, they can be charged overnight.
Long haul trucking would probably go more into hydrogen than into battery. In hydrogen, there’ll be two kinds – fuel cell electric, and hydrogen internal combustion. The thing about fuel cell electric is that it is five times more expensive than diesel today. Which means the total initial cost needs to come down.
Q: And what is the approximate cost difference between a hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen ICE engine?
Hydrogen ICE, depending on where it is today, will be about 20%-25% more (than diesel engine) and much less than fuel cell. It’ll be closer to what the natural gas system is today around the world. But the thing about it is that you could start using the fuel, get to know it and build the infrastructure. And this will happen as fuel cell costs go down. Hydrogen internal combustion engine, compressed natural gas, and renewable natural gas, are the things that will come.
The other changes will be in batteries, battery cell structures, charging infrastructures, and improving energy density needs. And then the e-axle. From today’s axle that are mechanical, it needs to be more e-axle.
And the last thing to change is the electronic stuff, which is how you do the connectivity? Connectivity is important for the way you communicate and what do you do when you take it? How do we manage the logistics, infrastructure etc.?
Q: And in all this, will India be a key hub globally for engineering and maybe for manufacturing?
There are a few things that India will be a hub for. Clearly. engineering is something that we have started, we will continue to do that, and manufacturing depends on geopolitical tensions. Then, India as the second source is becoming a common parlance around the world. India will also be a component and supply base, even for the world markets. These are the bits that we know for sure. Over time. I think there will be exports of engines and others from India.