Connected CVs soon

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CVs in India are speeding down the connected vehicles path.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

The move up to BSIV emission regulations has changed the way technology hereafter will find its way into Indian CVs. The rise in electronic content has opened up so many possibilities, that connected CVs are just a matter of time. Fully autonomous vehicles are still some distance away, the same cannot be said about connected vehicles. The technologies that will help to build a connected CV are already there, and there is no curbing the steady progress. A matter of market acceptance and demand, connected CVs, particularly Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), with an ability to connect to the cloud, will change the way the driver looks at his role. Also set to change is the way a fleet operator and the respective manufacturer will function. Averred Vinod K. Sahay, Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Trucks and Buses, “We are not far from truly connected CVs. It is the cost that has to be justified.” “Regulatory push makes it easier but the challenge lies with the operation getting the price from the consumer. What goes into a CV someone has to pay for it,” he stated.

Linked with infrastructure development and economic standards, connected CVs will find it easier with the elimination of state border checks. Set to spend increasingly less time off the road, and at truck stops, the opportunity to fine-tune the hub and spoke transportation model only grows, as e-way bills turn into an efficient transporter’s tool, the transport industry, to tide over the shortage of skilled drivers, will increasingly turn to connected vehicles. Faster turnaround time and better planning will be attained. Safety will go up, and encourage the consignor to pay more. If this makes it trickier for skill developers that train CV drivers, connected CVs will not replace the driver. They will make him and the ecosystem around him more efficient. According to Jacques Esculier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wabco Inc., connected CVs will soon be a reality. Drawing attention to a new strategy developed by his company in that direction, Esculier stated, “We are piloting lane departure warning system for India.” Wabco has acquired a leader in fleet management solutions in Europe. In India, it has developed a product that is essential to connect the trucks to the ground. It simultaneously gathers information on fuel consumption, driver behaviour, etc., and processes as well as transmits it.

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Considering the availability of infrastructure, or the lack of it, and the road manners, Wabco’s piloting of a lane departure warning system hints at the achievement of a significant stage in the development of connected CVs in India. It may draw from a system that is working successfully in Europe or US, for application in India will require much adaptation.Encouraging Wabco to pilot a lane departure warning system is the way traffic on highway moves. Indian highway driving are getting closer to the way Europeans drive on their highways. But then, it is not just about the lane departure system. The advent of ABS has already indicated the rising use of electronics. With efficiency and safety at the core, electronics is rapidly setting the tone for connected CVs. A Frost & Sullivan report, ‘Global Connected Truck Telematics Outlook 2017’ has stated that the growth of internet and GPS enabled solutions has come to incorporate additional value chain participants such as content providers, application providers (for applications like distracted driving), and wireless providers. Mentioned Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Digital Officer, ZF, that they are looking at many things. Transmissions in CVs for example, that can be connected and monitored to help with remote diagnostics and prognostics. According to ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer, it is about life spent in different ways for the end customer. With the need to comply with occupant safety rising, connected CVs are set to be a reality sooner than later.

Bringing to India a host of technologies like air disc brakes, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), stability control and others, suppliers like Wabco and ZF are striving to ensure that no feature on offer is not adaptable. Stress is on developing functions that specifically address the Indian environment. One development that stands out is Automated Manual Transmission (AMT). It takes away the task of operating the clutch and changing the gears from the driver. Communicating with the engine and the other elements that are electronically powered (ABS, AEB, traction control, etc.) to formulate the right shifting strategy. AMT elevates efficiency, safety and comfort – the three hallmarks of connected vehicles. AMT also adds a dimension to how a connected CV will communicate with the operator and the manufacturer.

For a manufacturer, connected CVs will provide big and valuable data. They will provide data that would help the manufacturer to make reliable vehicles. Vehicles that are smart and profitable. With the time spent on the road by a CV rising, especially in the case of HGVs and long-route buses, the availability of data to manufacturers is helpful in scheduling preventive maintenance, offering quick breakdown support, and in collecting necessary data on vehicle behaviour. For an operator, the connection would ideally indicate where his or her HGV is, about driver behaviour, and more. Offering the driver an opportunity to self evaluate his driving skills, and drive better, a connected CV will also enable a fleet operator to keep tabs; for the insurance company to charge lower premium, or a premium based on wage. Describing connected CVs as a new area of value to the CV industry, and the transportation industry, Esculier averred, “It is a completely new area of value that our industry would provide to fleets.

As connected CVs emerge, the role of the driver will change. He will drive as well as manage the business pertaining to his truck, albeit with the help of his fleet manager until a fully autonomous form is arrived at. If a connected CV will help to lower the insurance premium, a feature like AMT will provide better comfort. AEB and lane departure warning system will improve safety. Telematics will ensure that the operator and manufacturer are informed. The driver, will have knowledge about the route, health of his vehicle, and if he has to alter his driving style or the route. Driver skill development will have to be suitably modified, and dealers will have to modify the way they conduct their business, connected CVs will make an efficient interface that benefits all.

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Multix Maxim

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The Multix seems to blur the line between a small commercial vehicle and a personal utility vehicle.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

On a narrow winding road in the hinterland of Konkan, the Multix came as a surprise. Exiting a blind corner, on a rough country terrain that could hardly qualify as one, the Multix, with five adults and the cargo tray full of food grain sacks, made for an interesting sight. It looked dandy, and capable. It gave an impression of blurring the boundary between a personal utility vehicle and a small commercial vehicle. Introduced in 2015 by Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd (EPPL), a 50:50 joint venture between Eicher Motors and US-based Polaris, the Multix is finding takers for the versatility it offers. The number of Multix sold till date may be a little hard to ascertain, it for certain is showing signs of growing beyond the vision it was expected to live up to. Measuring 3235 mm in length, 1585 mm in width, and 1856 mm in height, the Multix was developed to start a new segment of independent businessmen as buyers. Those, looking for mobility, and a means to fulfill their business needs. Homologated under the category of personal vehicle, and a business vehicle by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), the Multix, states CEO Pankaj Dubey, is a personal mobility vehicle.

Riding on 13-inch dia. wheels, and 155/80 R13 79T tubeless radial tyres, the Multix flaunts a 172 mm ground clearance. Subjected to extensive testing in India and the US of over 18 lakh kilometres, the vehicle borrows from Polaris’ expertise in building ATVs and side-by-sides. The vehicle also borrows from Eicher’s expertise in building two wheelers, tractors and commercial vehicles. Developed to tap a population of 5.8 crore independent businessmen, the Mutix makes a strong case to combine business with pleasure.

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Business and pleasure

The sales of Multix may tilt in the favour of ‘white plate’ personal vehicle, its preference as a ‘yellow plate’ commercial vehicle is rising. Subjected to off-road durability, reliability and safety tests, the vehicle can be registered as either. For commercial application the preference is expected to be for the AX+ variant, which has a kerb weight of 683 kg (GVW is 1150 kg), and is priced at Rs.2.43 lakh ex-showroom approximately. Closer to the original design, and developed with an intention to address the needs of those that will indulge in multiple usage, the AX+, sans the doors, would make more room for passengers. Mentions Dubey, “The original design (AX+) we created was a primary model without doors. On the basis of customer feedback and our research, doors were added. This resulted in the MX.” The doors of the MX are made from Flexituff, a light-weight material that the company has patented. The bonnet of the Multix is also made from this material. It is according to Dubey, highly durable, resistant to rust, and easy to repair. If the AX+ and MX will meet the crash norms that are expected to be rolled out next year, Dubey avers, “It is debate-able to apply passenger vehicle crash norms to a vehicle that has a top speed of less than 60 kmph. Since we have to, we will adhere to the norms.” The MX is priced at Rs.2.82 lakh ex-showroom approximately, and weighs 775 kg. Its GVW is the same as AX+ at 1150 kg.

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On par in terms of load carrying capacity with many small commercial vehicles available in the market, according to Dubey, the Multix, states Dubey, offers a distinct advantage of independent suspension. Termed as Pro-ride, the suspension is made up of hydraulic McPherson struts at front, and double wishbones at the rear. Drive is routed to the rear wheels through a four-speed constant mesh gearbox. Capable of clocking better speeds over less than ideal surfaces should make the Multix appealing to those that transport perishable commodities like vegetables and fruits. Designed to sustain up to 20 per cent more than the specified storage capacity of 418.3 kg, the possibility of overloading is never far away, the vehicle, with the glass partition between the cargo bay and the cab dismantled, can offer a cavernous 840-litre storage capacity. The rear seats are foldable.

If the appearance and dimensions of the Multix make it appear unique, a strong tubular chassis is at the core. The body panels are a combination of flexituff material and steel. Offering unique engineering attributes like Power Take Off (PTO), which is called Xport, and can help power a generator or a water pump among other utilities with the help of a PTO shaft sold as an accessory, the Multix, Dubey elaborates, seeps less than one-litre of diesel per hour. Capable of generating three kilo-watt power in less than five minutes, the vehicle has a 11.5-litre fuel tank. Making for a 12-hour operation for a PTO linked utility, the Multix comes across as versatile. Affected by demonetisation because of high reliance on cash in rural and semi-rural areas, the Multix has turned its attention to urban buyers. Its ability to play the role of a commercial vehicle is drawing attention. The pan-India migration to BSIV has helped ther Multix to look at newer avenues and opportunities, to grow. The move to BSIV triggered a 20 per cent rise in the cost, says Dubey. He mentions, “The incorporation of EGR technology led to an increase in the cost.” Looked upon as an investment by a small businessman, the increase in cost is proving to be a challenge. Buyers are unable to understand the reason behind the cost increase, says Dubey. While new ways are being found to make the buyer understand, EPPL, to ensure a smooth transition, ceased the production of BSIII Multix in Februrary 2017. In March, BSIV Multix production was started. Some BSIII vehicles have been left over at the dealer level. EPPL, states Dubey, is taking care of these.

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Continuous improvement

Made at a modern manufacturing plant at Kukas, Rajasthan, spread over an area of 25 acres, and with an annual production capacity of 60,000 units, the Multix is subjected to stringent quality checks. With stress on continuous product improvement, a cell of 40 engineers, according to Dubey looks into customer demand and feedback. Necessary changes are incorporated to improve the quality and value. To ensure high manufacturing standards, the Multix is built with the aid of robotic weld lines, a modern paint shop, and a final assembly line. It will not be an exaggeration to describe the manufacturing facility to be almost as flexible as the vehicle. Mentions Dubey, the design flexibility of the Multix is a double-edged sword. It makes it highly versatile, but also leads to some limitations, expresses Dubey. He adds, “The roll-cage, which elevates safety, covers 70 per cent of the body structure, also poses certain limitations.” The roll cage is said to pose certain restrictions in making signtificant design changes to arrive at a open-top version, and a single-cab version. “Based on business requirements we will take a call,” quips Dubey.

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Pursuing growth

Financed by leading private and public sector banks, and NBFCs, the Multix is sold through a pan-India network of 76 dealers. Network expansion is underway, and three new dealerships at Delhi, Faridabad and Thane were recently commissioned. EPPL plans to bridge the 100 dealership mark by the end of this year. The target for next year is 150 dealers. Entry into urban markets like Delhi has created a need to offer a CNG version. EPPL is seeding a CNG model, but will take time to launch it. It is perhaps the need to expand the network to CNG markets to offer the right support. Avers Dubey, that a centre close to the customer plays a big role in satisfying his needs.

Having clocked 20 per cent growth last year, EPPL is hoping for a stronger growth this year. It is betting on market reach, and the availability of BSIV model, to enhance the urban thrust. The need, says Dubey, is to be certain. Uncertainty is not healthy for business,” he avers. Eyeing the exports markets of Nepal and Bangladesh, and in discussion for export to central American countries, EPPL is looking at many new avenues of growth. The simple yet dandy workhorse nature of the Multix should make it appealing. Seen in flesh, the Multix, with the front dominated by a steeply rising bonnet, does look purpose-built. The head lamps and parking lamps are recessed, and separated by a faux grille. The bumper doubles up as a moulding that runs along the lower portion of the body.

If the large windscreen with a single wiper adds to the tall-ish looks of the Multix, the overall impression is of a semi-forward cab layout. A rising window-line and wheel arches define the sides, and endorse the wedge-shape. The greenhouse and wheel arches, finished in a shade of black, add a touch of style. The rear is made up of a large trunk lid, held in place by two latches. The tail lamps are built into the rear pillars. Visible under the rear floor, and fitted snugly in the tubular chassis is an air-cooled single cylinder direct-injection G650 W Greaves Cotton engine. It belts out 13.4 PS (9.85kW) of power and 37 Nm of peak torque at 1600-2000 rpm. Power is routed through a four-speed constant mesh gearbox. The PTO juts out of it.

The Drive

The wide opening doors make for easy access. The large windscreen and ample glass area makes for good visibility. The simple dash, made up of a combination of lines, includes an instrument panel containing a speedo, and a fuel and temperature gauge. The gear lever juts out of what could be described as the centre console. The bench seat presents the possibility to seat three people at front. It provides fair amount of support. The rear bench seat can seat three people. The amount of room available is fair. An amount of noise accompanies the starting of the engine. The Multix may not score high in refinement when compared to cars, vibrations are well contained. Moving away from standstill, the Multix may not quickly gain speed, it presents a feel of being a tough workhorse. The tall first cog amply hints at a workhorse orientation. The second and third cogs bring some speed to the vehicle. Good momentum is achieved in the fourth gear. Speeds in the region of 50 kmph are achieved. A race against the clock is not the Multix forte. Rather than speed, the ability of the vehicle to lug impresses. If this make the Multix fit to be a commercial vehicle, its flexible nature impressesive, no less.

The ride is superior to that of a mini-truck. Less than ideal surfaces are displaced with ease. Bad stretches fail to discomfort the occupants. Handling is good, and the steering feels direct and precise. The need for a power steering is felt though. With an impressive ability to maneouvre through narrow spaces, the Multix with a turning radius of 3.93 m, offers 27.8 kmpl mileage under standard test conditions. Offering good fuel efficiency, the Multix costs as much as a small commercial vehicle would. Its tractor-like ability to power utilities through a PTO is an added advantage. The move to BSIV may have increased the price of the Multix, its ability to offer superior flexibility makes it appealing.

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Pankaj Dubey, Chief Executive Officer, Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd.

Q. What makes the Multix stand out?

A. It is targeted at businessmen who can use it for personal as well as business purpose. The vehicle can be used to carry passengers, and to move cargo. With a number of vehicles available in the market for load carrying, we may not be the best, we are however on par with some of them. Offering the comfort of independent suspension all round, the biggest USP of the Multix is the comfortable drive it offers. For those carrying perishable goods, or goods that may get spoilt due to road shocks, the Multix offers a solution. It offers a safe transit for products which are sensitive to bad roads.

Q. What about the load carrying capacity?

A. The payload capacity of the Multix is 450 kgs. Raising it by 15 to 20 per cent would not be an issue. We have come across customers who have claimed to carry 900 kg of cargo with ease. We do not support any form of overloading however, and it should be avoided at all costs for an improved ecosystem.

Q. What led to the development of the Multix?

A. We designed the Multix with a sole objective to serve customers that are looking at multiple usage. The Multix can perform various tasks, and deliver a fuel efficiency of 27-30 kmpl. It is equivalent to that of a two wheeler. When not carrying load, the Multix can be used as a five-seater car. Two-wheeler owners can have a bigger vehicle in the form of the Multix. They can have a vehicle that is comfortable, and saves them from weather changes.

Q. What went into the development of the Multix?

A. Both, Polaris and Eicher, combined their strengths to develop the Multix. Eicher brought in the PTO; Polaris brought in its ability to create a new segment and innovate. The Multix is an indigenous product. Its design is localised. It has been also developed locally. Eicher contributed to its cost effective development too. A Polaris contribution, the Multix employs flexituff material, which keeps the weight down. The contribution of both the partners ensured that the Multix would address the customer requirements. It is designed with a roll cage bar that covers up to 70 per cent of the vehicle area.

Q. The role the R&D played in the development of the Multix?

A. The R&D at Eicher Polaris comprises of a team of 40 engineers that look after product improvement, stimulation testing and development of a number of applications that a customer would like to see in the Multix. The team also looks at finding new solutions based on customer feedback. A lot of development is taking place, and includes an effort to make the Multix lighter, and more capable. The testing of Multix for new applications like transportation of liquids is carried out by the R&D. The R&D division is also developing and testing variants that would better fulfill the changing needs of the customers. There is a demand for open-top vehicle, and for a single cab version. A ‘flexi’ design, there are certain areas that are posing a challenge. The roll cage covers nearly 70 per cent of the vehicle, reducing the rear space. We are evaluating feedback received, and are carrying out feasibility tests based on the business needs.

Q. What is the homologation type of the Multix?

A. Mulitx has undergone homologation as a personal vehicle, and as a business vehicle too, at the ARAI. It can be registered as a yellow plate CV and a white plate personal vehicle depending upon the nature of its application. As for now, the demand for white plate Multix is more than that for the yellow plate. The demand for yellow plate is however rising.

Q. What is the difference between the MX and AX+ version?

A. The original design that we created was the AX. It was to be the primary model. Research and customer feedback however revealed that doors were necessary to better integrate the design. Both the MX and AX+ have similar features. The AX+ is more open and can be used for transport in rural areas where mobility is an issue. Equipped with a PTO, which is called the Xport, a feature that is common to tractors, the Multix could help to operate a number of agricultural units. An energy of three kilo-watts could be generated.

Q. Amid the talk of crash norms implementation, how do you see the Multix faring?

A. The top speed of the Multix is less than 60 kmph. To expect it to meet the norms that are applicable to cars that achieve much higher speeds is debatable. We have to adhere to them, and we will. It is a challenge that we are working on. Many changes, including the move to BSIV emission norms, and demonetisation happened in a short duration. This has brought about an amount of uncertainty, which is not healthy for the business. A number of rules are expected in the next few years, and will call for an amount of work. Both the versions of the Multix are offered with an accessory that turns them into a fully integrated vehicle for secure cargo movement.

What changes has the Multix undergone to comply with BSIV emission norms?

This being a low-speed vehicle makes it more challenging. We have introduced EGR. The exhaust gases are recirculated into the system. To comply with BSIV emission norms, we added various things like the ECU controller as well. The changes have led to a cost increase of 20 per cent. For a small businessman, even a vehicle like this is an investment. It is therefore proving to be a difficult task to make him understand.

Q.Is the demand for an alternate fuel Multix rising?

A. We have not seen much demand for alternate fuels. We have been present in small towns where availability of fuels like CNG is low. After introducing the Multix in markets like Delhi and Ghaziabad, we have started hearing the need for CNG variants. We are not in favour of introducing an alternate fuel version soon.

Q. How many Multix are produced? What is the plant capacity?

A. The Multix is produced at a modern plant at Kukas, Rajasthan. There are robots that carry out welding in the weld shop. The entire plant was developed in-house. The current capacity of the plant is 60,000 units, and can be scaled up to 1.2 lakh units depending on the market demand. Currently, we are producing the Multix in a single shift., which can see increase in shifts. But again, it depends on the demand. We are supported by 104 vendors with whom we are working on cost optimisation.

Q. What was the effect of demonetisation? The changes GST would bring?

A. The impact of demonetisation was felt in rural India since most of the transactions are cash intensive. That was felt for a few months, and continues to be in the the minds of the people. The migration to BSIV has pushed up costs. It is a concern that we and our customers share. The value that the customer sees is not very high. He is not ready to understand the reason that made the same vehicle, which was cheaper a few months back, costly. There’s been an impact, and will continue until people do not understand that price increase was inevitable. To ensure smooth transition, we did not produce any BSIII vehicle in the month of March. We started producing BSIV vehicles instead, and began our supply of BSIV vehicles to the dealers. Our dealers are left with a few BSIII vehicles, and we need to take care of those.

Q. What is your current dealer strength?

A. We have 76 dealers. By the end of this year, the number will rise to more than 100 dealers. We plan to elevate the dealer strength to 150 over the next one year. With BSIV in, we are looking at an all-round growth. We are closely monitoring the markets like Thane, Delhi and Faridabad, which we have just entered. These, we feel, will help us to gauge customer appetite. If Tier-one cities respond positively, we will get a head room to expand our reach. Since after sales support also plays a big role, and customers want a center closer to their area of operation. We are looking at strategies that will help us to address customer needs. All our dealers sell as well as service the Multix. We have also tied-up with a RSA to quickly address a complaint.

Q. What growth are you anticipating? What about exports?

A. This year we are growing at 20 per cent. Our aim is to double the growth next year. There are 13 big towns in India – big business centers, where we were not present. They are now our focus area as far as market reach is concerned. We recently began exporting the Multix to Nepal. We will soon find our way to Bangladesh. We are also looking into inquiries received from central American countries. Talks are on.

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Mahindra Jeeto Minivan

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Mahindra has unveiled Jeeto Minivan to compete in the sub-one tonne people mover segment.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Two years after the Jeeto mini-truck was launched with an ability to spring eight variants and two power stages, Mahindra has unveiled the people mover version of the mini-truck. Aimed at the sub-one tonne small commercial vehicle segment that has the Tata Ace Magic Iris and a host of three wheelers, the Jeeto minivan measures 3341 mm in length, and 1485 mm in width. It can seat up to four people and is available in five trim levels. Identical in appearance to the mini-truck when viewed from the front, the minivan, available as a semi-hard top and a hard-top model, is powered by a 16 hp, 625 cc single-cylinder diesel engine. A CNG version is also offered. It is powered by a 20 hp, 625 cc single-cylinder engine. Expected to profit from the success of the mini-truck, which gained a market share of 22.1 per cent in two years, selling 50,000 units, the minivan is priced at Rs.3.45 ex-showroom, Mumbai.

Offered with a two-year 40,000 kms warranty, the minivan flaunts a 2250 mm wheelbase. Extending the platform’s ability to offer last mile transportation solutions according to Rajan Wadhera, President, Automotive Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, the minivan has its engine located at the rear, and with the drive routed to the rear wheels through a four-speed transmission. Set to provide an efficient, safe and comfortable mode of travel to commuters in the rural and semi-rural areas, the minivan is claimed to offer a mileage of 26 kmpl. With emphasis on low total cost of ownership, the Jeeto minivan, according to Vijay Nakra, Senior Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Automotive Division, is engineered to provide a fatigue-free drive. Designed to be the most spacious in its segment, the vehicle is equipped with (ELR) seat belt systems, head restraints and bucket seats. The semi-forward cab design of the van has been suitably reinforced to protect the occupant in an unfortunate event of collision. Attaining a top speed of 60 kmph, the Jeeto minivan is the third people mover the company has introduced after

the Maxximo and the Supro vans.

Reflecting Russian Truck markets

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Interview

Sergey Alexandrov, General Manager of ITEMF Expo

The commercial vehicle market in Russia has faced intense pressure in the recent past. How is the market placed today, and how does it impact the Comtrans exhibition?

At the start of 2017, there were 8.09 million commercial vehicles registered in Russia. Since 2009, the number of commercial vehicles has increased by over 13 per cent (by approximately 1 million vehicles). Regarding the ‘age’ of those vehicles, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of them were manufactured until 2002. Thus, every second commercial vehicle in Russia is over 15 years old. Notably, over 70 per cent of the overall commercial vehicles in Russia are domestic brands. Of the 8 million commercial vehicles, around 50 per cent are LCVs, 45 per cent are Heavy-Duty (HD) trucks with buses and coaches constituting the remaining five per cent. After the historic peak of new commercial vehicle sales registered in 2012, the market suffered a dramatic downfall in subsequent years, reaching its bottom line in 2015, which was as low as in 2009. The gradual recovery of the economy and the deferred demand since 2015 brought at the end of last year and beginning of this year very promising figures of 40 per cent growth, in the first half year of 2017 compared to the same period, in the previous year.

This upwards trend also reflects at Comtrans 2017 to be held from September 05 to 09, 2017 in Moscow. Compared to 2015, companies have expanded their exhibition booths owing to increased levels of competition. For instance, foreign companies, lost their market share in the last three years compared to domestic Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) producers. The expansion of exhibition areas are on the rise not only due to the current market revival, but also due to the manufacturers’ expectations that the market will continue to grow. Companies which gave the exhibition a miss in 2015, like Volkswagen commercial vehicles, DAF and Hyundai Truck & Bus, are returning to Comtrans this year, a testimony to the revival. Subsidiaries and representation offices in Russia of the European ‘Big Seven’, as well as PJSC ‘Kamaz’, ‘Gaz Group’, ‘Uaz’ are back at the show again. For the first time in the history of Comtrans, PJSC “Avtovaz” will participate in the exhibition. In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe.

What is the medium and long-term outlook for the Russian market, concerning light, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks?

Almost all analysts and our partners are optimistic of growth over the next three years. Most of that is based on revival of the economy coupled with the fleet renewal. Other reasons include preparation for mega sports events (for example 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia) among other state purchase support programs. A broad consensus has forecast a 20 per cent growth for LCVs, 40 per cent growth for HD trucks, and 30 per cent for bus/coach segment. I would not dare to look beyond 2020 owing to the possibility of many factors that hold the potential to disrupt the growth outlook.

How is the service sector around commercial vehicles developing in Russia, with emphasis on keywords like fleet management, telematics, service and maintenance contracts, and drivers training etc.?

The Commercial vehicle market is undergoing a major transformation. Service will be a major developing factor in the industry, influenced by increasing customer demand coupled with stronger competition in both cargo and passenger logistics. It is expected that all OEMs will be competing over the next few years in a bid to better their offerings for all the stakeholders alike: be it drivers, fleet operators or the end customer. We will definitely see more internet-driven solutions both for clients akin to ‘Uber’ like aggregators in the cargo transportation space. The objective will be to increase overall performance and efficiency levels. Russia, owing to its geographic framework is certain to be a great market place, for new and smarter technologies.

How will this development reflect at Comtrans?

The headwinds from commercial vehicle market have dropped with the bottom line in 2015-2016 (showing a 40-60 per cent decline in comparison to 2012). More so due to the strong relations with major market players like Kamaz, Gaz Group among other key international producers giving us the chance to make Comtrans 2017 a grand success. I would like to specially thank the Association of European Businesses in Russia, with a special mention of its CEO – Dr. Frank Schauff for the valuable support extended. As mentioned above, there are so many new trends and recent technological developments of great interest to professionals. It is for this reason that we launched for the first time, a flagship conference – Moscow Commercial Vehicle Summit which is certain to become a recognised platform for exchange of ideas and presentation of strategies among decision-makers and opinion leaders. Comtrans was established in 2000. However, this year for the first time, ITEMF Expo, a joint venture of ITE Group (Great Britain) and Messe Frankfurt GmbH (Germany), has organised the fair.

What are the key changes that one can expect in this edition of Comtrans?

It’s a fact that Comtrans is already a well-established brand known not only in Russia but world over. Therefore, my colleagues and I tried to preserve all achievements of the past, at the same time adding newer elements. Nonetheless, expanding the exhibition area is not an end in itself, equally important criteria for the exhibition to succeed is customer satisfaction. That is why ITEMF Expo always pays a great deal of attention to additional services offered to the exhibitors. From technical support issues on the venue, to cooperation with companies after the exhibition. Notably, in addition to the press-day for the first time ever, we plan to hold a summit on topical issues of the commercial vehicle industry development too.

Another important area of focus is the synergy achieved between exhibitions like MIMS Automechanika Moscow and Comtrans. Requests were received from across companies, for sending them an offer regarding the participation in both exhibitions. It was particularly the case with the companies associated with components and spare parts production both for cargo and passenger vehicles. MIMS Automechanika Moscow has its special section called Truck Competence aimed at promoting companies and their products in the commercial vehicle industry, and we would like such an idea to be developed within Comtrans. Last but not least, one of the factors that contribute to the success of Comtrans is the ‘The Best Commercial Vehicle of the Year in Russia’ contest. An official award ceremony for winners, traditionally held within the framework of the exhibitions Comtrans making it a one of its kind initiative.

Could you hint at the novelties and innovations that visitors of the Comtrans 2017 expect? 

It is often the case that companies prefer to keep a veil of secret ahead of the show when it comes to novelties and innovations. What we know already today is that major Russian OEMs (Kamaz, Gaz Group and Autovaz) will definitely present some new models coming to the market inclusive of some electric vehicles. Scania, MAN and Isuzu are expected to premier for the Russian market too. The press day, which will be on September 04, is complete with press-conferences of all major OEMs. First up will be a press-conference of Uaz, presenting a range of new models. I am confident that after this day, when our press colleagues, journalists and partners enjoy innovations, visitors will be inspired by many products and solutions from a wide number of other companies during the entire exhibition.

With exhibitors from 12 countries, Comtrans is an international show. Apart from Russia, which countries are most represented? 

In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe. Traditionally companies from Turkey, Europe, Germany with the official German pavilion this year are well represented. Exhibitors from Asia will be focusing not only on vehicles but also on spare parts and solutions for the commercial vehicle aftermarket this year.

With all the new technologies, internet and worldwide communication possibilities, don’t you think exhibitions in their current traditional format risk being outdated?

Holding exhibitions is one of the channels for product sales and promotion. Of course, our world is changing, and new technologies are being introduced at a fast pace in the exhibition business. In particular, it refers to interactive technologies which transform communication from the real world into a virtual one. This process certainly holds potential in the near term. At the same time, direct and immediate contact among people continues to be the most important channel given that we are all social beings to begin with. In my view, there isn’t any advanced technology, which can replace real-life communication between people. It is an exhibition, which provides an opportunity to get acquainted personally with all new products of the market under one roof, whereby one can gauge current market trends. That apart, one can get a touch and feel of the products in person apart form getting in to the driver’s and passenger’s shoes. This holds the potential to gain valuable insights on the products on display. Meeting opinion leaders at such a forum is always inspirational. Therefore, exhibitions will always have one undeniable advantage – the opportunity of direct, maximally wide and rapid communication between sellers and their customers, on issues which sometimes take weeks or even months to be settled.

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A double-decker in Paris

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The movie, ‘An Evening in Paris’, found its way to cinema halls in India in 1967. Shot extensively in the picturesque locales of Paris–the French city of love, the Hindi movie starring Shammi Kapoor as Shyam (Sam) and Sharmila Tagore as Deepa Malik alias Roopa Malik (Suzy) depicted a story of two young souls who come in contact with each other quite by accident and fall in love. Travelling to Paris in search of true love, Deepa, supported by her wealthy father boards a rather futuristic looking Paris tour bus in an effort to get rid of the pesky romeo who is no other than Shyam. How Shyam lands there is a mystery, and their-in lies the plot of many a Hindi movies. Shyam follows Deepa onboard the bus, operated by Groupe Cityrama. Shyam’s perseverance pays off – He and Deepa fall for each other. The Paris tour bus turns out to be platform for a life changing event.

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At a time when ‘tail fins’ were in vogue as far as the design of automobiles was concerned, Groupe Cityrama is known to have engaged French coach-builder Currus to create a futuristic looking double-decker bus. Currus responded by building a double-decker bus on a Citroen U55 truck chassis. Called as the Citroen U55 Cityrama Currus, the double-decker bus, painted in a shade of red, white and blue (looks monochrome in the movie), was pressed into service in Paris in the 1950s. Flaunting styling elements like the faux wire-strike knife positioned atop the center of the driver’s windshield, and an extensive use of glass, the double-decker bus proved to be quite popular with the people of Paris. If the curved glass windows made it easy to catch a good view of the sights in Paris, a substantial portion of the side walls and roof were made in glass too. The bus also flaunted a transparent glass roof on the upper deck, which was quite rare at that time. The transparent glass roof could be taken off during summer. Enough to make people wonder if it came from outer space, each seat of the Paris tour bus was equipped with a Paris voice guide system in eight different languages. In service till 1965, the srangely attractive Citroen U55 -based city tour bus was powered by either a petrol or a diesel engine. The six-cylinder, 4.5-litre indirect injection diesel engine of the bus developed 73 hp. It was the first big Citroen (Type 45) engine to have not been derived from Citroen car engines! The rolling chassis was made available in either axle configurations, and in different wheelbase specifications. Making for a memorable city-tour experience, the Citroen U55-based city tour bus, plying the boulevards of Paris, made for a larger than life sight in the movie with Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore riding it.

Dearman hybrid bus completes trials

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Running on diesel and liquid nitrogen, the Dearman hybrid bus has successfully completed rigorous trials.

Team CV

A revolutionary hybrid bus that runs on both diesel and liquid nitrogen, powered by the UK-developed Dearman engine, has completed rigorous trials, bringing it one-step closer to the road. Expected to accelerate the use of liquid nitrogen for primary power, the hybrid bus – CE Power – has turned out to be the world’s first commercial vehicle of its kind to be powered by liquid nitrogen. Built by engineers at Horiba Mira as part of an Innovate UK consortium, the bus utilises alternative propulsion to address urban air pollution challenges and features a high-efficiency, zero emission Dearman engine, powered by liquid nitrogen, alongside a conventional diesel engine. The hybrid system enables the bus to reduce noxious tail-pipe emissions, improving local air quality. With the Innovate UK consortium comprising of leading leading industry, academic and local and national governmental organisations like Dearman, Air Products, Cenex, Coventry University, Horiba Mira, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Productiv Ltd, and TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), the CE Power uses a hybrid propulsion system to reduce emissions during acceleration.

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As part of a bus’ drive cycle, acceleration traditionally has a heavy impact on the diesel engine as it moves away from standstill. The engine can produce vast amounts of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions, which are harmful. As the Dearman engine produces none of these harmful emissions, it will enable the bus to continue to frequently stop to unload and pull away from a bus stop without expelling the same level of damaging pollutants. Whilst driving at 20 mph or below, the liquid nitrogen, stored in a low pressure insulated cylinder is warmed up to the point of boiling, at which time it creates enough pressure to drive the multi-cylinder Dearman engine. Once the bus reaches 20 mph, the diesel engine will kick in. It is at this speed that the bus requires less effort from the engine to operate.

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Completed at Horiba Mira’s engineering facilities and Proving Ground in Nuneaton, UK, recently, the trials included components and full system testing along with an engineered drive cycle to simulate a standard bus route with a variety of stops. Expressed Martin Watkinson, Technical Lead on the project at Horiba Mira, “The hybrid nature of CE Power demanded a sleek systems integration process. Our engineers worked to ensure the liquid nitrogen system operated seamlessly and safely with the diesel engine, in addition to carrying out the whole vehicle thermodynamics modelling and the overall vehicle control and testing.” “The completion of trials paves the way for the use of liquid nitrogen more widely in the automotive sector, and takes the UK one step closer to stamping out harmful emissions for good,” he averred.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The benefits of using liquid nitrogen over an electric hybrid bus include a much longer life, local production and easy refuelling. Batteries, which power many of the UK’s electric hybrids, require changing several times over the course of a bus’ lifetime, whereas the liquid nitrogen system will last the lifetime of the bus. Liquid nitrogen can be produced locally without the need for neodymium or lithium, which are both used by motors and batteries, and sourced from overseas. Refuelling liquid nitrogen can take a matter of minutes, and enables the bus to return to the road in a short timeframe. Mentioned David Sanders, Commercial Director at Dearman, “As the UK wrestles with dangerous levels of urban air pollution, a bus that runs on ‘thin air’ represents a significant breakthrough. The Dearman Engine has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of both buses and HGVs, reducing fuel consumption and cutting pollution. Crucially it can provide a cost effective alternative to other emerging zero emission technologies, whose environmental performance if often offset by complexity and cost. This successful trial could be the first step towards rolling out a British innovation to the streets of the UK and around the world.”

Automatic braking as standard

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Volkswagen has made autonomous emergency braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans.

Team CV

With the potential to reduce the number and severity of accidents, Volkswagen has made autonomous braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans. Proven to have cut third party injury insurance claims by 45 per cent, autonomous emergency braking for van drivers and fleet operators means lower costs, and less downtime, courtesy fewer crashes. Using radar, which is built into the front end of the van, the system, named Volkswagen ‘Front Assist’, recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front. To ensure safe stopping in dangerous situations, the system first warns the driver with audible and visual signals of a vehicle in front, driving slowly or suddenly braking, and of an associated risk of collision. It simultaneously prepares the van for emergency braking by applying the brake pads and alerting the brake assistant. If the driver fails to react to the warning, a one-off short jolt of the brake in the second stage indicates the looming danger of a collision. The brake assistant’s responsiveness is further increased, and if the driver steps on the brakes, full braking power is made available immediately. If the driver does not brake strongly enough, the ‘Front Assist’ increases the braking pressure to the required level, so that the vehicle comes to a stop before reaching the obstacle.

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Front Asist’ also includes the City Emergency Braking function. This function provides assistance at speeds below 18 mph. If a driver fails to see or react to an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the speed of any collision is reduced. It even prevents the vehicle from running into the obstacle. Looked upon as the most significant development in vehicle safety since the seat belt, autonomous emergency braking systems are said to have the potential to save more than 1,000 lives and 120,000 casualties over the next 10 years. Said Sarah Cox, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, the move aligns with the company’s endeavour to produce safe and reliable vans. “Technology is advancing, and we are continually seeing more and better ways to keep drivers safe on the road,” she mentioned. Peter Shaw, Chief Executive at Thatcham Research, said, “Volkswagen are the first manufacturer to fit AEB as standard on all its vans in the UK. With a year on year rise in deaths and serious injuries involving vans, this technology can help to avoid such happenings.” He drew attention to a 2015 study by Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP, which showed autonomous braking leads to a 38 per cent reduction in real-world rear-end crashes.

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