Story & Photos: Bhargav TS

With the formation of the New Energies unit in 2016, Shell is leading the oil and gas majors in investment and vision. It is claimed to be drawing plans to invest up to USD-two billion dollars in renewables, microgrids, batteries, electric vehicle charging, and other emerging technologies every year. Focusing on re-arranging the competitive landscape for clean electrification, the energy giant is said to be looking beyond fossil fuels and chemical businesses, which form a formidable chunk of its revenue currently. Seeking growth through organic and inorganic routes, Shell is said to be reshaping its strategy to build up new businesses around biofuels and electrification. Displaying the GMD OX ‘flat-pack’ truck in India recently to highlight its effort on bridging the mobility divide in India, Shell is tapping the rising demand for synthetic oils. Spending close to about Rs.500 million in terms of R&D every year and having a group of 200 scientists working on the future of technology, according to Mansi Madan Tripathy, Managing Director, Shell Lubricants India, the ‘flat-pack’ truck is being projected as the world’s first all-terrain vehicle of its kind. Claimed to be capable of reaching remote areas, the vehicle speaks about Shell’s investment in clean energy as part of its new emission reduction strategy. A strategy that focuses on reforestation partnerships among others.

Pointing at the emission reduction strategy, the GMD OX ‘flat-pack’ truck is touted as a simple vehicle to maintain. Claimed to be suitable for the diverse and rugged Indian terrain of deep sands, steep hills, marshy lands, and steep river banks, the truck, aimed at hard-to-reach communities in developing regions, could be assembled from a flat-pack kit in less than 12 hours and transported in greater numbers to where it is needed more quickly. An outcome of a global partnership among Shell, Gordon Murray Design (GMD), and the Global Vehicle Trust (GVT), the OX truck is also claimed to be an effort by Shell to empower communities living in the interiors of the country by providing an effective transportation solution. Expressed Mike Brown, Advanced Product and Business Strategy Director, GMD, “We have taken the engine, transmission, driveline, brakes and the off-the-shelf steering box from the Ford Ranger. We have modified the electrical architecture and have a unique expansion chassis body structure. We have integrated the fuel tank, air intake and everything that goes along with it. They are packaged behind the driver seat to have a flexible architecture and to maximise the use of existing OEM components.” “By doing this, we came to conclude that it is the only way to get an affordable solution,” he added. 

The flat-pack design makes the OX truck a first-of-its-kind vehicle, which is simple to maintain and has accessible components apart from fewer parts. Ecologically sound, it is also easy to manufacture as well as build and transport. Speaking on the sidelines of an event, Nitin Prasad, Chairman of Shell Companies in India mentioned that limited mobility would restrict access to basic amenities in remote areas. “Shell is eager to contribute for the development and promotion of effective mobility solutions, and in turn to improve the quality of life of people in areas that are difficult to reach,” he averred. The OX, he added, makes a vehicle that incorporates promising technology, and has immense potential to broaden access to transport possibilities. Stating that they are pleased to partner with GMD and GVT, Prasad announced that they are confident of the OX ‘flat-pack’ truck transforming lives and helping people in remote areas to overcome daily accessibility challenges.

Originating from the vision of Sir Torquil Norman, the founder of GVT, and based on GMD’s flexible iStream technology, the lightweight OX ‘flat-pack’ truck is specifically designed to carry a payload of 1900 kg or eight 44-gallon drums. “The body structure of OX is the key. It has our patented iStream Fibrelight composites, which reduce the weight of the body and allows to carry more load. Lightweighting means, effectively lower emissions and also helps with performance in terms of off-road capability. It also offers a great ride due to the independent suspension. The vehicle is designed to be easy to assemble. The vehicle is cleverly packed into its own chassis, and is completely flat. The focus has always been on low investment and affordability. Most of the truck components are common, which reduces the cost of repair and the cost of manufacture,” said Prasad. Nothing short of revolutionary, according to Prasad, the OX ‘flat-pack’ truck in terms of design has the capability to change the way a vehicle could be bought and transported. The best part of the OX truck is the specific advantages it provides in terms of lead times and overall unit cost. 

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