Chennai start-up Aerostovilos looks to break the alliance between hydrogen and fuel cells

M. Ramesh | Updated on: Nov 29, 2021

The company would need $4 million (₹30 crore) to make the product market-ready

Aerostrovilos Energy, the Chennai start-up in which Tube Investments of India recently picked up 25 per cent stake for ₹3.46 crore, is set to break the marriage between hydrogen and fuel cells in vehicles.

While hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas for fueling internal combustion vehicles, ‘fuel cells’ is the route that the transport industry is taking.

But Aerostrovilos has other ideas.

The company is testing its prototype small gas turbine, which is meant to produce electricity on-board a truck—just like fuel cells do. However, while the fuel cell costs around $1,000 a kW, Aerostrovilos’s CEO, Rohit Grover, aims to sell a gas turbine for a tenth of that price.

Besides, the fuel cells demand very highly pure hydrogen, like 99.999 per cent, whereas the gas turbine is okay with 70 per cent.

Gas turbine to power e-vehicle

Aerostrovilos is readying a gas turbine which can run on diesel, natural gas or hydrogen, or a mix of these, to produce power to drive an electric vehicle. Eventually, when the fossil fuels would go, the vehicle would be hydrogen-fuelled, but without a fuel cell. The architecture includes a battery between the turbine and the motors, to serve as a buffer for storing energy.

In a chat with Business Line today, Grover and the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Pradeep Thangappan, said that vehicle manufacturers were interested in the company’s offering. The company’s system is soon to be tested on vehicles of Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors.

How expensive is Aerostrovilos’ system? At present, at a conservative estimate, a vehicle run by gas turbine, battery, motor combination would cost around ₹55 lakh—which is pretty expensive—but “scale is an important piece in the puzzle,” says Grover. If 10,000 vehicles are manufactured, the cost would come down to ₹30 lakh a vehicle.

After the investment from TI, Aerostrovilos wants to go in for another round of funding—this time from private equity or venture capital players. Grover and Thangappan said that the company would need $4million ( ₹30 crore) to make the product market-ready.

Published on November 29, 2021

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