The Indian government has published the guidelines for its 4.96 billion rupee ($60m) programme to fund pilot projects using hydrogen for heavy-duty road transport.

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The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will, in addition to nominating an agency to tender for funding for pilots, designate certain routes “hydrogen highways”, along which the government will support the rollout of infrastructure for H2 production, distribution and refuelling.

India only installed its first hydrogen refuelling station in the latter half of 2023, starting operations for its first H2 bus during the same period.

At the time, oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri described green hydrogen as the future of the country’s transport, while admitting that current costs for H2 would have to fall.

The planned tender for pilot projects will be broadly split into two halves, although a budget for each has not yet been published. The first will focus on using hydrogen to power trucks and buses, both via fuel cells and internal combustion engines. The second will support the development and deployment of H2 refuelling stations.

However, the guidelines also suggest that pilot projects to blend green hydrogen-derived synthetic fuels such as methanol or ethanol into existing fossil supply could also be supported.

The pilot programme will also only cover the capital cost of new technologies, with the expense of producing green H2 explicitly excluded from its support.

Funding awarded through the tender will be provided in stages, with only 20% available upfront. Instead, 70% of the government cash will be available according to predetermined project milestones, with the final 10% only provided on completion of the pilot.

The pilot projects are also expected to be completed within two years, with an option for a six month extension “on the basis of adequate justification”.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy will sit on the steering committee for the programme and monitor spending.

The government this month also published its guidelines for pilot projects using hydrogen in the shipping and steel sectors. Guidance for the another four billion rupees ($48m) allocated for unspecified pilots, which could include power generation, is yet to be released.