Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries plans to convert almost 5,000 of its own trucks to operate on a hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) in just a few months, according to media reports.

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An unnamed senior executive at Reliance, which is owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, told Indian website Autocar Professional that the company plans to have all H2 ICE units fitted by mid-2024 — a wildly ambitious timescale that would only be feasible with the resources afforded to a company of Reliance’s size.

All of the trucks will be used by Reliance — which is an oil & gas producer, energy generator and petrochemical refiner, as well as having a media arm — for its own business operations, the official said.

The report comes just a year after Reliance unveiled its first hydrogen truck, retrofitted in collaboration with Indian truckmaker Ashok Leyland and billed at the time as India’s first domestically-produced H2 internal combustion engines. After getting the first engine up and running in 2022, the company has spent the last year carrying out “advanced tests” on the technology in trucks at Reliance’s plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.

However, it is not clear whether Reliance and Ashok Leyland have developed the H2 engine technology themselves, or whether they are buying in from a third-party supplier.

“We have had near zero downtime in the trials and we have found that H2 ICE powered hydrogen trucks are three times more efficient than diesel,” the senior company official said. “We will start introducing these in our fleet before rolling out the entire ecosystem for a hydrogen powered economy.”

US engineering giant Cummins and Indian industrial conglomerate Tata have already announced plans to spend 35.4 billion rupees ($426m) to jointly build a massive factory in India that will produce up to 4,000 hydrogen internal combustion engines per year.

The pair have not reached a final investment decision on the factory, and there is no information available on when it will reach commercial operation, although Tata has been carrying out its own lab tests on H2 ICE technology.

The Reliance executive said that, so far, six tonnes of green hydrogen has been delivered to the Jamnagar site for the truck tests, although it is not yet clear how Reliance plans to fuel 5,000 trucks with green hydrogen before a single large-scale production project comes on line, or a refuelling network.

They added that the company has been receiving green hydrogen supplies from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), most likely referring to automakers working with renewable H2 for testing purposes.

In future, however, Reliance plans to set up its own refuelling stations on major road freight routes in India — such as Mumbai to Delhi — with the aim of enabling trips of 1,500km in the H2 truck.

The company has also outlined plans to invest $10bn in new energy projects.

Hydrogen Insight reached out to Reliance Industries but had not received a response at the time of publication.