Ravindra started more than 24 years ago in industries very different than Natural Gas, developing a unique ability to get into a new industry quickly grasping the idiosyncrasy of it, definitely more by default than by design.
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Hexagon reached India through the LPG market for domestic cylinders. A good friend of Ravindra, told him that the CNG business was going to be the difference for Hexagon, in a moment when CNG is only talked about in Delhi, around 2010. He insisted that the LPG business is driven by the government and it was going to be a commercial challenge. But Natural gas is a different industry and it is going to be different.
After a while Ravindra understood that even when type 4 cylinders were not a priority for car manufacturers or customers, he set a goal to himself in bringing the first type 4 composite cylinders in India.
The steel industry of course is a challenge for Agility and Hexagon, but the experience of Ravindra was key to get an idea of the industry when around 2011 with one of the first presentations made by him, he stated that the only way to enter the CNG industry in India was through the Long Distance Buses.
It is a huge challenge. First, the stations were not there, and then not even the buses engines were ready to work more than 6 hours on CNG. There was no chicken, nor egg, nor a pan
In 2017-2018 Agility enters with a proposal of offering a complete fuel system solution to a customer. Specifically, in the Indian market, the solution could be specifically designed to every customer, no matter the fuel technology being CNG, LNG, H2, Electric, Propane, Hybrid, or any fuel you want. The approach is not to sell a specific technology, but selling a concept. A complete subsidiary was then created, and Agility India started its first development.
50% of the Indian CNG market requirements comes from the OEMs, led by Maruti Suzuki, and the remainder 50% is from the aftermarket industry, mostly voiding the warranties from its new vehicles.
If any manufacturer feels that CNG aftermarket conversions might not be as good as the rest of the product, Agility can offer their solutions as they do in the American market, and manage the conversion in an extremely professional way to finally offer a warranty on their product. These decisions are already being put in place.
Medium and Heavy-Duty Agility can work together with the manufacturers to design full systems, where the efficiency levels are much higher than other competitors.
Rooftop mounted buses use 8-9 cylinders of 80-90 liters, for a total 720-liter capacity. This whole system can weigh 1.1 Tons with type 1 cylinders. That could totalize maybe 250km range. Here the full body is required to be designed specifically to withstand that additional load. And when crash tests are carried out, the demands are much higher.
The equivalent design with Hexagon/Agility products will be only 2 type-4 cylinders with the same 720liter water capacity and the weight of that system will be around 300kg, saving at least 700kg from that initial design.
The comparison points for any company interested in an CNG storage fuel system considers these 3 points.
At this point, Ravindra considers that in many cases, considering all these aspects, Composite Cylinders can be cheaper than steel.
To have a clear view of how the Indian market got to the place it is right now, it’s important to go back about markets like Pakistan, Bangladesh or Iran which grew at an impressive pace compared to India. In those countries, the gas price was considered at local gas price levels and that created a huge demand and growth.
Today, if you look at this country’s markets (besides Iran), they have to import most of their natural gas at international prices,bringing the market to a halt in those places.
The Indian NGV market was created by a supreme court order. In the late 1990s a mandate was issued that stated that all public transport must run only on CNG. That opened the market in that area, and in other areas, it was merely a commercial decision.
Natural gas contributes to around 6% of the energy basket in India. By 2030, India is committed to a stretched target of 25%, converting the Indian economy into a gas-based economy.
In the automotive segment, since 2017 all vehicles in India must be Euro 4 compliant. Now April 1st, 2020, all vehicles will have to be Euro 6 compliant, meaning a huge jump in emission restrictions. For example, Euro-VI grade fuel contains 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur as against 50 ppm in Euro-IV fuels. This will increase costs of liquid fuels, and also its maintenance costs, and will make CNG even more attractive. Some companies will even increase its CNG powered vehicle production by 100%.
For Ravindra, Long-Distance buses will play a big role for India. CNG or LNG might be suitable depending on the case, depending on the vehicle. Moreover, with several LNG stations being built at this moment, the rapid pace will continue for many more years.
We’ll continue this interview on Part II of this Episode.