Volvo Bus Corporation announced the appointment of Suresh Chettiar as Business Head of Volvo Buses, South Asia & Vice President, Volvo Bus Corporation effective January 01, 2018. Suresh most recently served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the region and replaces VRV Sriprasad, who is said to have opted for an early retirement. “I am happy to welcome Suresh to this role. Suresh brings with him over two decades of Volvo Bus & Volvo Group experience having held senior leadership roles across functions. I thank Sriprasad for having led the organisation with distinction over the past four years and wish him the best in his future endeavours,” stated Akash Passey, Chairman, Business Board of Volvo Buses India and Senior Vice President, Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation. In a career spanning over two decades with Volvo Group in the Indian bus and commercial vehicle industry, Suresh has held senior leadership roles across functions at Volvo Buses in India, and managed the successful introduction of Volvo Group’s UD branded buses in India. “Volvo Buses is well-positioned to serve customers in this dynamic and large market. We have built significant assets during our journey so far and that provides me a great platform to develop the next phase of our growth journey. The Volvo brand has a strong position in India and South Asia and reflects the highest standards of quality and safety. While drawing on our industry leading global competence, I hope to build on the technology and people strengths within the region,’ said Suresh Chettiar.
Ashok Leyland, announced the appointment of Sanjay Saraswat as the Senior Vice President & Head of Global Buses. Mr. Saraswat joins Ashok Leyland with close to 30 years of experience spanning across manufacturing, sales, service, network development and marketing. A mechanical engineer from IIT Delhi (1988 batch), he replaces Mr. T. Venkataraman who retired in October 2017. In this role, Mr. Saraswat will lead the Global Buses business unit and will report to the MD, Vinod Dasari. Vinod K. Dasari, Managing Director, Ashok Leyland, said, “We are delighted to welcome Sanjay Saraswat to Ashok Leyland. He brings in-depth industry, market and cultural experience to the Company’s leadership team. His exceptional knowledge of industry trends combined with his cross-section of business experience will be of tremendous value to the Company.” Sanjay Saraswat, Senior Vice President & Head, Global Buses of Ashok Leyland said, “I am excited to join the incredible team at Ashok Leyland. This brand has been doing some amazing work and delivering great results. I look forward to working with all the members who are shaping the future of our industry.” Sanjay Saraswat joins Ashok Leyland from Bajaj Auto, in Pune, where he was the Vice President for Sales Operations and was heading sales planning, field service, service planning, network development, logistics, and special projects. He has had an extensive exposure and significant learning across functions in Bajaj Auto Ltd., where he joined as a Graduate Engineer Trainee in 1988.
Bollywood movie, Chalte Chalte, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherji features a Ashok Leyland truck. Released in 2003, the movie is a romantic drama with Shahrukh Khan playing the role of a small truck fleet owner, and Mukherji playing the role of an aspiring fashion designer. From Greece, Mukherji stays with her aunt in India, and has her life well organised. In comparison, Khan’s character is of a person who lives a happy, albeit carefree life. Living life on his own terms, Khan and Mukherji meet quite by accident in the movie. Mukherji nearly crashes her car into Khan’s truck, a Ashok Leyland Comet Gold truck. The two get off to a rocky start. Shahrukh tows Mukherji’s car as it lands in a ditch. As she gets down to shout at Khan, she forgets to pull the parking brake! Past many twists and turns, and a bit of romance and a ride in the truck, the two get married. They don’t stay happily ever after however. Instead, they get into a habit of arguing. Things get bad as Khan sees his business suffer. A happy ending is eventually arrived at, but not without reflecting upon the ups and downs in the life of a truck fleet operator.
The Ashok Leyland Comet Gold truck that features in the movie was launched in 2001. A 4×2 haulage truck in the 16-tonne GVW segment, the truck is powered by a six-cylinder, 6.5-litre AL 402 H series turbo diesel engine. The engine produces a maximum power of 136 PS at 2400 rpm, and is mated to a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission. Employing pressed steel G45 FES without reinforcement, which helped to keep the kerb weight low, the Comet Gold came to be known for the higher payload it could offer. The suspension of the truck consisted of semi elliptical multi leaf springs all round. Power steering was offered as an option. Equipped with a fully floating single-speed hypoid gear at the rear axle, the front axle of the truck was made up of a forged ‘I’ section reverse elliot type beam. Built robust, the Comet Gold found use in cement and road construction segments.
Q & A
Helene Mellquist, Senior Vice President, Volvo Trucks International
Interview by: Anirudh Raheja
Q. How do you look at the Indian truck market?
A. India is one of the most exciting markets that we have seen. It has good growth potential. Five years back, we penetrated the coal mining market. This was done through a 24×7 operation, and a close relationship on the service side. We have 8×4 trucks that go back and forth all the time. They deal with coal loading and unloading. We provide service support right next to the site. There are one or two mechanics depending upon the site. Efficient and extremely competitive in terms of business operations for the coal mine owners, we have got a strong foothold. We enjoy a strong position there. The market is however minuscule. The heavy duty truck market in India is just 2000 units. It climbs to 3000 units in a good year. Finding a foothold with the premium trucks that we offer, we are looking forward to a position where we can contribute. We do 1,200 units in the (Indian) market. Many things depend upon the legislature and the governments, and what they will do. While the government is investing a good deal in green energy, coal production will be doubled as India is already importing a lot of coal. It will be nice if the Indian coal is put to greater use. It will remain an area of growth for us.
Q. What is happening at the Hosakote plant?
A. We are assembling trucks at Hosakote with local content in them. We do as much as we can, and which will make sense for us from a business point of view. We are looking at new segments after the decision to introduce GST was taken. Developments are taking place in the construction segment. In it, we have seen a couple of breakthroughs at the premium level. This makes sense for Volvo Trucks. Irrigation is an avenue we are looking at. It makes sense for us. Quarrying is another area where we are present in other markets. We are targeting this area in India as well. What is important for us, is to build an infrastructure. Both, India and China, are progressing fast in the area of e-business. China has managed to develop a network of roads pretty quickly. India is still lagging behind. The good news is that India has already chalked out plans for logistics corridors. When such an infrastructure is in place, different subsidies can be given away. Volvo trucking can be a part of this development in India too.
Q. Is the lack of infrastructure a big hurdle?
A. It is. If one looks at the infrastructure today, there are so many trucks standing in a queue on the road. It is not healthy for trucks like Volvo. For Volvo trucks, it is important to clock a good up-time and offer best productivity. The payback period will otherwise stretch for much long. If a tractor is standing still in the city, waiting to get somewhere, then it becomes difficult. Having good logistics corridors is beneficial.
Q. How do you plan to change the perception of a mining truck provider in India?
A. I think it is about competency. We have competence in construction sector the world over. We have competence in particular in the mining markets of the world. It is an essence of what we can provide in the construction industry. For perception, there’s up-time for productivity and product reliability among others for our customers.
Q. Are the lower localisation levels proving to be a hurdle?
A. I think the localisation levels are actually good. We will localise as long as it makes sense in terms of profitability. Volvo Eicher PowerTrain (VEPT) is already supporting Volvo Trucks with engines for its medium-duty trucks. Heavy-duty engines are sourced from Europe. Using such engines in our trucks in India could make sense, but there are investments that have been done with confidence. It therefore makes sense to do them here. As volumes grow, things could change quickly. We are constantly looking at optimising our costs and invest in the best place. A place that will benefit our customers. We can always optimise our production facilities.
Q. What do you think should compel an operator to buy a Volvo truck?
A. Our commitment to keep our trucks on the road, and have them running all the time should compel an operator. We invest in real competitiveness. We had a target of selling 100 units this year on the construction side, and we have already sold over 60 units in first half of the year. It shows that we are already exceeding our targets.
Q. What could you do to push those figures up?
A. We need to sell more. We need to get more people on the ground. We have an internal saying, ‘feet on the ground’. Inline with the saying, we want to be counted upon in the long haul segment as well. We want to, find new segments together with our customers. We want to match up to their expectations with our products in those segments. We want to sell well. We are confident of marketing activities intensifying in the construction segment. We are doing that with our joint venture partner VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) in India.
Q. Is India’s reputation as a price sensitive market slowing you down since your trucks are premium?
A. We go where we feel that we can provide the best value to our customers. We are where we find the right segment, and where it makes sense. More and more customers in India are realising that is it not just the sticker price that serves. Upon operating a truck over the years, they have come to realise that the total cost of ownership translates into a sensible deal for them. From us, they get a fuel efficient, and safe truck. They get driver training. All these make a good investment.
Q. How is it in Europe?
A. In Europe, our presence is 60 per cent. We have a strong foothold. Our market share in India is minuscule right now. The total market is also minuscule. It is growing nevertheless. We are seeing many other markets go through a similar situation. We are seeing the European segment getting more and more popular. We are offering a product that has a highly competitive lifecycle. This is in comparison to having a cheaper truck with higher cost of maintenance through out its lifecycle. When you talk about construction activities booming, it is not just the number of projects increasing, it is also about the size of the project increasing. With government stipulating the time to finish a project, there is much demand from contractors to increase productivity. This shift has contractors looking for more productive solutions. It is here that the value proposition a Volvo truck offers, comes into the picture.
Q. Would you look at turning your Indian assembly operation into an export hub?
A. We are already doing that with Eicher as a part of our joint venture. As far as the Volvo brand is concerned, there is a need for higher volumes. Before it makes sense to export, we need higher volumes. It is one thing that we constantly talk about internally. We are trying as much as we can. When it will make sense, we will do it.
Q. What are your current levels of investments in India?
A. Volvo Group is present in India through many businesses. We have set up a facility at Hosakote, which is almost 20 years old. We have a joint venture with Eicher, which marks a significant investment for the Group. VEPT is another significant investment. It is the same in the case of on-site service setup where Volvo Trucks is directly involved. Volvo Construction Equipment also has a strong presence. The joint venture with Eicher is one of the few such ventures in the industry that have been successful. Both, in terms of investments and profitability. The collaboration environment that we have is very good. It is progressing very well. The brand positioning of both the brands is complimentary.
Q. India will soon progress to BSVI emission standards. How do you look at it?
A. I think it is an excellent move. We are fully ready for it. As a global company we have to deal with different legislations in different countries. Since we have the technology, we have an edge when it comes to emission norms. We have a competitive advantage. BSVI emission standards will increase the costs. Sophisticated engines will need good quality fuel. The price increase during the move up to BSIV from BSIII has been up to seven per cent. The upper limit is ten per cent. This is not a substantial increase that can topple the customer’s economics. In fact, it is a commitment to the society.
Q. What are the global trends in the trucking industry that you see?
A. When I travel around the world, it is electromobility that comes to mind. The trends are about electromobility, about automation and connectivity. Those I think are the real big trends. We are witnessing a paradigm shift not only in trucking, but in the automotive industry overall. Platooning for example is about automation, and connectivity is so much about software. We have a business unit that works in tandem with all those software companies, collaborates with them, and buys from them depending upon the type and the need for knowledge. The business unit also looks at startups, and the kind of entrepreneurial knowledge that can be had into a big company. Out of four hundred startups, only one will succeed. It calls for constant evaluation. A gold mine could be found somewhere. We scan the market for startups because it would not need us to develop everything in-house. There’s a lot about connectivity, and what one could provide to the customer. A lot is happening in the digital space right now. Our customers could benefit from it. We want our customers to benefit by capturing the beneficial developments in the digital space.
Q. What led to the decision of discarding manual transmission?
A. It was productivity and efficiency of the truck. Today, 95 per cent of our trucks employ I-Shift automated manual transmission globally. Beginning September, we would have stopped the production of manual transmission in Europe. This will be followed by various other markets. We also have powertronics which is completely automatic for very tough operations. In India too, every truck that we will sell will have an I-Shift AMT gearbox. There’s been a strong pull for it from the customers as well. And, this is not just in India. India is in-line with the global trend.
Q. India has been facing driver shortage. Would that compel you to introduce sophisticated technologies?
A. There are two ways to look at the situation. One is that we always provide drivers, training. Drivers of our customers are trained by us. Where ever we deliver a truck, we ensure that the drivers should understand and know how to drive it. We ensure that the drivers are skilled to operate technologies our trucks are equipped with. The second is automation. That is a little away. The possibility is of delivering trucks that can operate with ease in confined areas, without drivers. We currently have in terms of automation, technologies that support the driver, and not what replaces him. Anything beyond is a speculation.
Q & A
Isbrand Ho, Managing Director, European Auto Sales Division, BYD Europe B.V.
Interview & photo: Ashish Bhatia
Q. What is BYD’s plan for India?
A. For BYD, India has been an encouraging market. It is a market that is fast evolving. The dynamics of the Indian market are no longer a drop off point for used buses. The resale value of used diesel buses dropping by 10 per cent over the last one year (FY2016-17) is a clear indication of the Indian market fast evolving.
Q. With the push for electric vehicles growing, do you see diesel engine ceasing to exist?
A. The EuroIV, EuroV, EuroVI engines mark an improvement over the previous engine generations. To me, the development looks like a ‘band-aid’ approach. There is little doubt that diesel vehicles are a baggage for an Original Equipment Manufacturer. They continue to emit. I remember that during a discussion at Paris, one of the diesel OEMs, opined that diesel is the right approach in comparison to electric propulsion technology. We, on the contrary, rooted for electromobility.
Q. Isn’t BYD one of the few OEMs which manufactures electric batteries?
A. A battery is like ‘Intel inside’ for an electric vehicle. The way computers cannot run with the Intel processor, an electric vehicle cannot run without a battery. There has been three to five per cent increase in energy density every year. This implies that even if the price of a battery remains the same, there is an indirect three to five per cent reduction in the overall cost of the battery. Given the rise in demand for batteries, we expect a decrease in price of up to five per cent. It is more than ever before. Looking ahead, we are certain of the advantage of economies of scale.
Q. What is BYD’s presence in Europe like?
A. You would have noticed that we showcased the 8.7 m electric mini-bus at Busworld Europe (Kortrijk) with a travel range of 200 km on a single charge. It is in-line with the needs of our customer base today. Our customers are looking for shorter buses. Based on their feedback, we have come to understand that a 12 metre buses may not be feasible anymore. Earlier the operators used to convert a Sprinter to suit their needs. Now, they are coming to find the mini-bus ideal for operating in cities, and over narrow roads. Unlike the mini-bus, the Sprinter failed to serve the purpose of many operators. With 13-inch dia. wheels, it rode like a truck. Not only is the BYD’s new mini-bus a bus in the true sense, it also rides like one, and is comfortable. Our European buses are engineered to be flexible.
Busworld Europe 2017 was held for the last time at Kortrijk, Belgium, on October 20-25.
Story & Photos: Ashish Bhatia
Opening its doors to the stakeholders of the bus industry the world over, the 24th edition of Busworld Europe 2017 was held for the last time at Kortrijk, Belgium, on October 20-25. With temperatures hovering between 16 to 20 degree Celsius, visitors from the warmer regions of the world were in for a pleasant surprise. Kortrijk was never this warm some frequent visitors were overheard saying. If comments like these hint at global warming, they also point at the need to cut down emissions, and deploy greener mobility solutions. As if in response to this, the highlight of Busworld Europe 2017 was a diverse display of safe, efficient and green buses. Held over an area of 51,240 sq. m, Busworld Europe 2017 attracted 37,241 visitors. The premier show attracted 376 participants. Expressed Mieke Glorieux, Exhibition Director at Busworld, that the fair was moving to Brussels from the next edition. With the 24th edition of Busworld to be held in Brussels, participants could look forward to occupying twice the exhibition area of what they have been availing at Kortrijk. Despite expanding over an artificial pond to accomodate as many exhibitors as it could, the organisers were compelled to turn down the request of 90 companies.
Reflecting upon the most recent and the best in buses, Busworld Europe 2017 had 231 vehicles in exhibitor stalls. With more buses than coaches on display, the biennial show, for the first time, put on display 80 vehicles outside the premises. Said Glorieux, “We have had an overwhelming response from exhibitors. We have had 90 companies on the waiting list. We ran out of space to the tune of 10,000 sq. m. We have lost an opportunity.” Hoping that they will run short of space at Brussels as well, Glorieux stressed upon a healthy growth Busworld has been enjoying show-after-show. At the core of the Busworld exhibitions that are held the world over, including India, Busworld Europe continues to be the most popular. It reflects upon the changes the bus industry the world over is going through like no other. Highlighting sustainable mobility solutions and last mile feeder solutions, the organisers of Busworld Europe 2017, in association with UITP (International association of public transport) organised an International bus conference to advocate the benefits of public transport. The introductory session of the conference delved upon electrification of buses and coaches, and how the same could be mass produced. Drawing attention to research and innovation projects like ‘ZeEUS’ and ‘Ebsf’, the conference focused on ‘true’ sustainable mobility solutions. Over 450 delegates attended the conference.
The Busworld Awards night (erstwhile European Coach and Bus Week) saw leading bus and coach manufacturers win awards across various categories. The Irizar i8 coach won the Coach of the Year 2018 award. VDL Citea Slfa Electric won the ‘Sustainable Urban Bus 2018’ award. Iveco Crossway LE Natural Power won the ‘Sustainable Intercity Bus 2018’ award. Setra S 516 HD/2 won the ‘Sustainable Coach 2018’ award. MAN Lion’s Coach won the prestigious award in the coach category. Mercedes-Benz Citaro hybrid of Daimler buses won an award in the bus category. Iveco Crealis and MAN Lion coach won award under the ‘comfort’ category. The design label award was won by Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/2, BMC Neocity and MAN Lion coach. In the area of safety, the Tourismo M/2 and Citaro hybrid won awards. In the ecology category, the VDL Citea SLF-120 Electric and Yutong E12 won an award each. Alstom Aptis won the innovation award.
The India Day marked a round table conference at Kortrijk. Discussion centred on India’s passenger mobility, and attracted bus and coach industry stakeholders. Ananth Srinivasan, Senior Consultant – Mobility, Frost & Sullivan, expressed that the mobility market in India is booming. “There’s huge potential,” he mentioned. Drawing attention to the opportunities that global manufacturers could tap, Srinivasan averred, “The liberal policies of the Indian government are boosting the bus and coach industry growth. This is particularly the case with staff and school bus segments.” Drawing attention to a 2014 report sourced from the Planning Commission, ‘Transporting India – a 2032 projection’, Srinivasan said that the Indian bus and coach market peaked in 2000. After experiencing a dip in 2014, sales have continued to pick-up, and are largely driven the staff and school bus segment, he said. By referring to a recent study by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures (SIAM), which expects growth to continue for the next three years, Srinivasan mentioned that growth is expected to follow policy changes in the run up to Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Attributing demand in the Indian bus and coach market to inter-city transport space, Srinivasan expressed that inter-city fleet replacement (with State Transport Corporations at the fore-front) accounts for 20 per cent of the market. School, labour and sub segments amount for 15 per cent, he informed. Bucking the trend of cyclic demand, Srinivasan stated that operators are buying buses even during the off-season period.
Describing the bus and coach market trends in India as positive, Akash Passey, Senior Vice President, Business Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation, expressed that they are yet to see actual industry growth. “The challenge,” said Passey, “is to transition from high volumes to high quality.” MG Group executive director Prakash Kalbag stressed on the market’s progression from building bodies on truck chassis to building bodies on dedicated bus chassis. He drew attention to the government encouraging standardisation. Remarked Kalbag, “Bus building has been brought under the Central Motor Vehicle Act.” A Scania Group representative averred that the bus and coach market in India is yet to take off in terms of safety and quality.
MAN Truck & Bus
Under the ‘Mobility of Tomorrow’ theme, MAN Truck & Bus AG displayed five buses at the Busworld. The Lion coach was the highlight of the display. The Lion coach is now available in 13 m length, and can seat six more people. Powering the coach is a 460 hp (D2676 LOH) six-cylinder diesel engine. Complying with ECE R66.02 safety standards according to Jan Aichinger, Vice President, MAN Truck & Bus AG, the Lion coach offers ‘efficient cruise’, ‘efficient roll’ and ‘attention guard’. MAN also displayed the Lion Intercity and City Hybrid.
With electromobility and safety as a theme, Volvo Bus Corportaion displayed a 12 m 7900 electric bus with the OppCharge charging system. The bus offers superior operate-ability, courtesy a higher battery power (three times more) of 250 kWh. The earlier model came with a 150 kWh battery pack. Offering a host of charging options, the 7900 electric bus reflects on the direction of bus technology development. Premiering ‘Thinking Bus’ tech (about how a bus can think and learn from its surroundings), Volvo showcased dynamic steering technology, pedestrian and cyclist detection technology, and bus docking solutions. Highlighting its intention to test electric articulated buses in Gothenburg, Hakan Agnevall, President, Vovo Bus Corporation, expressed that Euro5 and Euro6 technologies are the most sustainable from an environmental, financial and social point of view.
The theme at Daimler Buses was safety, economy and comfort. The company premiered the Citaro Hybrid urban 12 m two axle bus; Tourismo right-hand-drive high-deck touring coach (two and three-axle); left-hand-drive Sprinter City 45 13-seat mini-bus. The Setra S 531 DT double-decker bus (Top Class 500) also debuted at the fair. Showcasing active brake assist and pedestrian detection tech, Daimler announced Omniplus, a service for Mercedes-Benz and Setra buses. Said Martin Biewald, CEO, EvoBus, that Omniplus supports efficient fleet operations. Biewald expressed that they are looking for higher localisation in India.
French high-tech start-up company EasyMile displayed the EZ10 electric driverless shuttle. Autonomous, and capable of operating within a precinct or confined area, the EZ10 is aimed at last mile connectivity. The EZ10 is powered by an electric asynchronous motor fed by a Lithium-ion (LiFeP04) battery. Capable of attaining speeds of up to 40 kmph, the shuttle, measuring four-metre in length, has no steering wheel nor a front and rear. Either end of the shuttle can act as a front or the rear. Capable of changing the direction of travel, the EZ10 can accommodate 12 passengers (six seating and six standing). Easymile claims that the EZ10, since 2015, has been deployed at more than 50 sites, in 14 countries across Asia, North-America, Middle-East, and Europe.
Emphasising on alternate fuel technologies like natural gas, bio-gas, ethanol, biodiesel, and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Scania showcased the 12.9 m HVO ‘Touring HD’ bus; 14.9 m bio-gas ‘Citywide LE Suburban’ bus; electric ‘Citywide LF’ bus; 13.2 m biodiesel/HVO ‘Interlink LD’ bus, and a 12.8 m HVO ‘Interlink HD’ bus. Keen to offer tailor-made solutions to address the needs of different markets, Christian Levin, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Scania, mentioned that they want to make public transport safe and attractive.
Elctric bus torchbearer, BYD unveiled an electric midi-bus for the European market. First of its kind from BYD, the midi-bus will be made in Hungary, and measures 8.7 m in length. Capable of accommodating 58 commuters, the low-floor midi-bus has a travel range of 200 km on a single charge. Other than the midi-bus, BYD displayed the 12 m ebus (first BYD vehicle built 100 per cent in Europe). Announced Isbrand Ho, Managing Director of BYD Europe, that others will find it hard to match their integrated supply chain. Stressing upon his company’s design prowess and capability as a battery manufacturer, Ho said, “Anyone without their own battery design capability will find it hard since battery is at the core of an electric bus.” Managing to carve out a significant presence in Europe, BYD is invading numerous global markets with a promise to offer green mass mobility solutions.
MAN subsidiary, Neoplan displayed the Classic Skyliner double-decker touring coach. It is celebrating 50 years of success, and has found 5000 takers in various markets. At the Busworld, Neoplan announced the delivery of the 5000th Skyliner. Displaying a 13 m long two-axle Neoplan Tourliner, which is aimed at business travellers, Neoplan revealed that it will commence series production of 100 per cent electric city buses in 2019. Mentioned Jan Aichinger, Vice President, MAN Truck & Bus AG,“We will unveil a pre-series bus version of a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), and test a demo fleet with various European operators.” “In India,” said Aichinger, “we are waiting for a strong business case.”
China-based Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co., Ltd., premiered a 12.1 m electric bus called the E12. Capable of travelling 320 km, the E12 is powered by a 324 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Accommodating between 23 and 37 people depending on the variant, the E12 makes an attractive bus. Apart from the E12, Yutong also displayed an electric inter-city 12.3 m bus called the Ice12. It has a 270 km drive range, and seats 59 people. It is powered by a 258 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Yutong also displayed a Euro6 12.2 m long T12 grand tourist coach.
Anadolu Isuzu launched the Novociti Life, a new generation low-floor bus that addresses the travelling needs of disabled people and elderly passengers. The 9.5 m Visigo coach the company displayed, measures 9.5 m in length and contains Mobileye Shield Plus, an advanced collision avoidance system. Displaying the Citiport, Citibus, Novo Ultra and the Turquoise, Anadolu Isuzu attracted a good number of visitors to its stall. It is anticipating big bus market to pick-up. Expressed Tugrul Arikan, GM, Anadolu Isuzu, “We want to build an export championship title in the midi-bus segment. We are targeting 60 export markets by 2020.”
Iveco showcased a new generation Daily mini-bus. Available in school bus guise, inter-city bus guise and tourist bus guise, the Daily mini-bus, in tourist bus guise, measures 7.4 m, and is powered by a 180 hp three-litre Euro6 diesel engine. Iveco also displayed the next generation Daily Tourys, Daily Line and Daily Start. The Daily mini-bus Blue Power range that the company displayed is powered by a natural gas engine. The electric version offers a range of 100 to 160 km with two or three high density sodium nickel chloride batteries that are combined with high-power ultra capacitors. On display were the Iveco Crossway 14.5 m low-entry city and an inter-city bus powered by a Cursor 9 diesel engine. Iveco also displayed the upscale Euro6 Evadys coach, and the Magelys.
Turkish bus and coach builder Temsa unveiled a MD9 tourist coach and a LD SB Plus school bus. It also displayed the TS45, and the flagship Marathon bus. Apart from the HD 12 and MD7 Plus, the company showcased an electric bus called the Avenue Electron. Competing in most segments on the basis of a diverse product range, Temsa, said Acar Kocaer, International Sales Director, is aiming at a 43 per cent rise in exports by the end of this calendar year.
VDL Bus & Coach
VDL Bus & Coach (VDL) showcased the 12.7 m Citea LLE, 14.1 m luxury Futura double-decker (FDD2-141) and the MidCity midi-bus. Also displayed was a 18.1 m VDL Citea SLFA Electric articulated bus aimed at the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system. The VDL Citea SLF-120 Electric bus measures 12 m in lenth, and is a low-floor concept bus for urban use. The Citea LLE-99 Electric is a low entry 9.9 m bus with a start-stop function, and an integrated regeneration system. Suitable for city and regional operations, the Citea LLE can avail of rapid charging infrastructure. Despite proliferation of electric technology, VDL is confident of diesel engine technology continuing to play an important role in the future.
Sileo GmbH showcased a 12 m Sileo electric S12 bus with a travel range of 400 kms. It is powered by a 300 kWh battery pack, and can accommodate 108 passengers. Claimed to consume 0.7 to 0.8 kWh per km, the bus, with an efficiency level of 98 per cent, could be charged by plugging in. Capable of a top speed of 75 kmph, the Sileo is equipped with Standard Charging Technology (SL), which includes a mobile device to charge a single vehicle. The Dynamic Charge Matrix (DCM) technology enables the charging of 10 vehicles simultaneously. The 18 m S18 bus that Sileo displayed, has a 400 km range, and is powered by a 450 kWh battery pack. It can seat 136 passengers, and consumes 1.1 to 1.3 kWh per km. Sileo, at the show, also showcased energy efficient heating and air conditioning solutions for the electric bus range.
Solaris Bus & Coach
Solaris Bus & Coach premiered the fourth generation Solaris Urbino 18 electric, Solaris Urbino with a serial hybrid drive, and Solaris Urbino 10.5. The Urbino 18 measures 18 m in length, and is a vestibule bus. It is fitted with a 240 kW central traction motor, and has a battery capacity of 240kWh. Charged by plugging-in or via a pantograph, the vestibule bus can seat 140 passengers. The Urbino hybrid bus uses a BAE HybriDrive, and can recuperate kinetic energy under braking. The Solaris Urbino 10.5 is powered by a 209 hp Cummins ISB6.7E6C engine, and measures 10.5 m in length. It can seat 23 passengers.
Displaying the i8, which won the ‘European Coach of the Year’ award, Irizar also showcased the 6s and i4H (hybrid). It also displayed a 12 m (ie) electric city bus and a 18 m (ie) trambus electric. The new virtual cockpit that Irizar displayed with a 12.32 inch dynamic display attracted a lot of attention. Keen to offer custom made coaches that provide the driver a comfortable working environment, Irizar is working on new engines. It is also working to optimise cooling, and on a new steering pump to achieve superior fuel savings. The company’s emobility subsidiary is working on integrated electromobility solutions. The new plant Irizar has commissioned in Spain, will build 1000 units per annum.
Van Hool of Belgium manufactures approximately 1,400 buses and coaches, and as many as 4,000 commercial vehicles annually of which 80 per cent are exported. It offers a complete range of buses for public transport for international markets, ranging from a 9 m midi bus to a 25 m double articulated low floor bus. At Busworld, Van Hool unveiled a 18.6 m Exqui.City electric trambus (Glider vehicle) in the presence of The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillar Nuala McAllister. Designed for Belfast, the Exqui.City combines the flexibility of a bus with efficiency of a tram. It can accommodate 107 commuters, and has a range of 120 km. Van Hool also displayed a 14 m version of Exqui.City. Both the trambuses are engineered to run on electricity or hybrid (diesel-electric and CNG-electric) propulsion systems. The electric version is equipped with a 215 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Van Hool also displayed the TX11 Alicron, TX16 Astron, TX17 Altano, TDX27, EX16 M, EX15 H and EX17 H at the Busworld.
Cummins Inc. reiterated its ambition to become a powertrain provider of choice. The engine maker displayed diverse solutions – from diesel hybrid to fully electric powertrains. A fully electric powetrain that Cummins displayed, could be employed in either a full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or a Range Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV). A REEV combines battery power with a compact engine generator, and is aimed at buses that ply over longer distances, and well beyond the availability of city charging. A battery pack of three enclosures (210 kWh) can provide a zero-emission range of up to 135 km in REEV. Evaluating battery lease programmes apart from the production of complete powertrains and ancillaries by 2019, Cummins is also looking at opportunity charging technologies.
Sri Bhagiyalakshmi Travels is banking on fleet standardisation among other new and non-traditional ways to grow.
Established in 1989 by G Dayalan, Chennai-based Sri Bhagiyalakshmi Travels (SBLT) is banking on sound management practices, fleet standardisation and regular route reviews to grow. Looked upon as a ‘one-stop’ shop for all travel and tour arrangements, SBLT has grown to posses a fleet of 700 vehicles from two omni buses in 1989. Doubling the business to four omni buses in 1993, the company entered the corporate sector in 1996. Setting new customer satisfaction benchmarks through out its journey, SBLT continues to constantly focus upon service quality, periodic employee re-training, software and hardware upgradation. With a turnover of Rs.110 crore per annum according to D. Maran, son of G Dayalan and the managing director of the company, SBLT has come to employ 1500 people.
With branches at Annanagar, Koyambedu (CMBT), Poonamallee, Sriperumbudur and Parrys in Chennai, SBLT, according to Maran, has grown on the faith of its loyal customers and on referrals. “To build on a fundamentally strong base and keep growing, we are banking on pioneering ideas on fleet standardisation and route review among other key metrics,” said Maran.
Exploring markets outside India, SBLT is looking at taking the pilgrimage tour route. Already offering tour packages to popular pilgrimage and historical destinations in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, SBLT, with semi-sleeper, sleeper and air-conditioned buses in its fleet. Out of the fleet of 700 vehicles that SBLT has, 600 vehicles are of the Ashok Leyland make. Expressed Maran, “Plying all over Chennai, our fleet is particularly known for its daily trips to regions like Peravurani and Ramnad among others.” Conducting ‘Hi-Tech’ daily bus trips across South India – to destinations in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from Chennai, SBLT has Volvo premium buses in its fleet too. These are in the 24-, 35- and 54-seater form, and help to serve diverse customer needs. Apart from the premium Volvo buses, the company also has Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) of Swaraj Mazda, Tata Motors and Force Motors make in its fleet. It has smaller vehicles like Tata Sumo, Toyota Qualis, Toyota Innova, and Chevrolet Tavera too. Reflecting SBLT’s ability to address a diverse variety of customers, the fleet is adding a dimension to standardise. Having come to command a reputation for providing solutions as per the client need, the company, mentioned Maran, has made a name for itself in the corporate sector. Multi-national companies like Foxconn India Ltd., EID Parry (India) Ltd., Honeywell Electrical Devices and Systems (I) Ltd., Technical Stampings Automotive Ltd., Machellan Integrated Services India Pvt. Ltd., Hexaware Technologies Ltd., MMM Academy of Medical Sciences, Injecto Plast Pvt. Ltd., PHC Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., Addision Pvt. Ltd., SSL TTK Ltd., Reliance Infocomm Ltd., and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., have come to avail of SBLT services, said Maran.
If a clientele like this provides impetus for growth, SBLT is looking at non-traditional ways to manage the business. To scale up the operations is important, averred Maran. Touching upon the opportunities and challenges that lie in front of the company, Maran stated, “Transportation has come a long way in the country. It has improved. However, the field is fast changing. Key metrics like passenger comfort, pattern of journey, fleet network, technology and communication are undergoing a massive change. The need is to find new ways to keep growing.” Stressing upon the need to work the key metrics to attain a successful working model, Maran opined that much depends upon the transport policy. “Like the Goods and Services Tax (GST), there is a need for a single passenger transportation tax across the country,” opined Maran. He drew attention to notification 128 (10) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, which emphasises on seats in tourist buses and speaks of push back seats and footrests. Of the opinion that the national notification could benefit the industry if the provision for sleeper berths are permitted, Maran explained, “The rule today states that sleeper coaches with national permits are illegal.”
Targeting point-to-point travel and staff transportation segments, SBLT, to attain growth, is looking at active government intervention. “Government intervention is necessary to develop infrastructure like roads and well equipped terminals,” stated Maran. Drawing attention to the rising demand for electric vehicles, Maran said that a move like this could actually turn out to be more profitable for a company like his. “Such interventions over a period of time will make it all the more lucrative for companies like SBLT to upgrade their fleet. We are open to procuring fully electric buses and play a role in the transport ecosystem to help lower the carbon footprint,” signed off D. Maran.