The S7 is SML Isuzu’s star performer

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Launched in 2012, SML Isuzu’s S7 has been a star performer. It is also one of India’s favourite school bus.

SML Isuzu launched the S7 in 2012. Capable of seating as much as 50 people, the mid-size bus has been drawing attention for its modern appearance. Powering the bus is a 101 hp, 3.5-litre four-cylinder CRDI engine. It could be had in BS III or BS IV emission compliance mode. Springing new variants that are capable of accommodating 15, 19, 24, 25, 30, 40, and 50 people, the S7 has over the years turned out to be a star performer at SML Isuzu. It is perhaps the most versatile among the range of products the company offers. It is also the most popular as well as the most selling; the S7 school bus especially. The other forms that the S7 is available in, include a staff bus and a XM cool series bus, which is aimed at executive travel. Based on three wheelbase sizes – 3335 mm, 3940 mm and 5100 mm respectively, the fully-built S7 could be had with air-conditioning too. With many school bus operators choosing air-conditioned buses on the demand of parents, it should not come as a surprise if one sees an air-conditioned S7 school bus. The S7 school bus, as the three models – S7-3335, S7-3940 and S7-5100 – may suggest, have different wheelbase, and thus differ in length and seating capacity.

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A modern school bus

Painted in a bright shade of yellow as per the rules laid down by the ministry of transport, the S7 school bus follows a design idiom, that maximum space in a bus should be made available to the people travelling in it. Boxy the S7 looks. It also looks modern. The school bus logo at the front and the rear distinguishes it from the other S7 variants. Exhibiting good fit and finish standards, the front is made up of a large windshield. The surrounding portion is finished in black. If the large, near vertical windshield facilitates good vision of the driver, large mirrors further facilitate the driver’s vision. The driver can now see what is in the vicinity of the bus; on either side and at the rear. Below the large windshield, the grille has headlamps on either side. They are built into a silver-painted strip across the corner. It is this bit, and the SML logo, which make this bus stand out in the company of other school buses, by other commercial vehicle manufacturers. While the window rails extend along the side, and ensure safety, an emergency door at the rear right facilitates evacuation in an unfortunate incidence of a collision. At the rear, the tail lamps are also built into a silver-painted strip, albeit vertically arranged and placed at either corners.

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Climb into the driver’s seat, and a spartan dash draws attention. It contributes towards the modern look of the bus. The instrument console consists of a large speedo dial. It is flanked by front and rear (brake) air-pressure dials. Below them is the fuel and temperature gauge. Situated on the vertical bank to the right of the panel are a few switches. One of them is the headlamp levelling switch. The console surface is made of faux wood, and adds to the impression of good overall standards of fit and finish. The engine is placed besides the driver. It is longitudinally arranged with the drive going to the live rear axle via a 5-speed synchromesh manual transmission. While attention is drawn by the moulded roof and the neatly built interior, a door on the left facilitates low step entry. The flooring is of the modern, anti-skid variety. Also ensuring safety are the grab handles attached to each seat along with bottle holders. The hatrack has been so designed that it hardly intrudes into the passenger room.


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Aiming at new application areas
Fueling SML Isuzu’s aspiration to double the market share to 15 per cent by 2019 is perhaps the new application areas small and mid-size buses are coming to find. The demand for mid-size buses to improve connectivity in the rural areas under JnNURM II scheme is growing. The emergence of AMRUT is also expected to facilitate the growth of small and mid-size buses on feeder routes. The company delivered 270 buses recently to the Chandigarh State Road Transport. It has received orders from various state transport undertakings including the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Chattisgarh Road Transport Corporation and others. SML Isuzu has also received orders from the defence sector.

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Thrust on development

The alliance with Isuzu has enabled SML to strengthen its brand image and launch modern platforms in the cargo and passenger carrier segments of increasingly higher GVW. Technology sharing has led to an upgradation of R&D facility in order to meet regulatory demands in the area of emissions and safety. With CRISIL affirming that prospects of CV industry in India as positive, and Novonus, a market research firm mentioning in its report that the Indian bus market is growing at a CAGR of 9.36 per cent, and is expected to surpass the USD 10.34 million mark by 2020, it may not take long to understand the fact that SML Isuzu is strengthening the pipeline at both the ends. At the product end as well as at the sales and service end. It has thus far invested in 120 dealers, 18 authorised service centres and 18 spare parts distributors.

Modern manufacturing at Ropar
SML Isuzu’ plant at Ropar, 40 km from Chandigarh, has an installed capacity to manufacture 18,000 trucks annually in a single shift. The capacity can be hiked in response to a rise in demand for trucks in the 5.2-tonne to 12-tonne GVW. The bus plant is in close proximity to the truck plant. Demand for fully-built buses facilitated its rise. The plant has a capacity to build 4000 bus body units annually. While the R&D facility is in the vicinity, SML Isuzu bus plant can manufacture 15 units in a single day. The plant is currently operating at 50 per cent of its total capacity. The strategy to setup own bus body building plant rather than let buses be built by specialists is paying off. The facility setup with the help of the Japanese partner has enabled the company to stay ahead of the tightening emission regulations as well as the bus body norms. After postponing for three more months, the government, begining August 01, has implemented the Bus Body Code. SML Isuzu’s buses have been AIS 052 and AIS 063 norms compliant for more than an year now. While demand for other services like GPS, etc., expected to rise, SML Isuzu is already in a position to offer GPS services, speed governors and more.

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Exports

India is not the only market SML Isuzu is concentrating upon. It has expended its reach to the SAARC region; to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In Nepal, SML Isuzu commands a 10 per cent market share. The aim is to double the market share by FY16 on the basis of aggressive marketing activities and new product launches. In the LCV and ICV segment especially. Products include school buses, tourist buses, etc. SML Isuzu has already launched the S7 school bus in Nepal. The S7 staff bus will follow.

Considering the changing paradigms in the transport industry, and driven by the need to comply with stricter regulations and tackle other challenges, SML Isuzu is gaining market share. Its aim to double its market share by 2019 does not look like an exaggeration. Its S7 range of buses are finding new takers. Buses aimed at the executive travel market are also finding more takers. A reflection of progress is had from the fact that in 2015 the company sold two-lakh units. With reforms initiated by the central government in the area of smart cities, infrastructure and industrial sectors, the demand for quality commercial vehicles like the S7 is only expected to grow.

Going green

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The focus on emission control technologies is growing, especially in the case of commercial vehicles.

A 54-year old truck operator, Satpal Singh is a worried man. Operating a 11-year old Tata 1618 truck to ferry goods from Delhi to Mumbai and back, Satpal Singh’s only source of livelihood looks like is in danger. The National Green Tribunal recently issued orders to ban diesel vehicles aged over 10 years from plying in Delhi citing their ability to pollute. Satpal Singh is one of the many truckers who are suddenly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their means of livelihood seems to be caught in the cross currents of the polluted air that is claimed to induce many ailments respiratory or otherwise in the Delhi population. In its report released last year, WHO named Delhi as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The advantage derived by the conversion of all public transport vehicles, an estimated 1,00,000, to CNG following an Apex court order in 1998 seems to have been lost. The suspended particulate matter in Delhi region is claimed to be nearing the 1995 levels, which led to the first generation emission reforms steered by the judiciary.

Judiciary driven reforms are welcome, as are also those enforced by the executive. The need to go green cannot be refuted. However, it needs to be backed by a long-term plan that is all inclusive and an outcome of a deep understanding of the technologies that are instrumental in helping to build sustainable, environment friendly automobiles. Speaking at an event in Mumbai in February 2015, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping said, “Pollution is a big problem for all Indian cities. Second, we are importing petroleum products, coal and gas, and are spending a lot in doing so. Our government is working closely on assessing the reach of biofuels and other sustainable fuels. The first bus using ethanol has been plying in Nagpur for the past three months, and it has been a success till now. We are also in the process of experimenting with biodiesel and bio-CNG. It is that time for the economy and country, when we should give the highest priority to alternative and sustainable fuels. In all this, we also want to promote our ‘Make in India’ campaign and utilise the home-grown technical know how to meet our demands.”

The ethanol powered bus from Scania has been plying in Gadkari’s constituency, Nagpur, since November 2014. Another 55 such buses are claimed to have been ordered by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. A modern, air-conditioned low-floor design, the ethanol bus is Euro-V emission regulations compliant. Bharat Stage (BS) emission standards are closely modelled on the European (Euro) emission standards, the difference limited to some test cycles. Until the implementation of BS III, Indian emission standards followed the Euro standards fairly closely. That was until April 2010. However, since then the gap has been widening. Euro-VI emission norms rolled out in Europe in September 2014. In India, BS IV emission standards were rolled out in 13 cities including the National Capital Region (NCR) at around the same time. The nationwide roll out of BS IV emission standards is yet to take place. This is claimed to have happened because the state owned refineries were finding it difficult to supply the required quality of fuel to regions other than the 13 cities. At an event organised by CV magazine in Mumbai in January 2015, Vinod K Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland Ltd, said, “It is not the (auto) industry that is lacking in terms of technology, the need is for quicker implementation from the government.” He added,“Nobody is saying no to change. In the next two-to-three years, the regulatory changes will start. We have been supplying BS-IV compliant vehicles in 13 cities, so it is more about the nationwide availability of BS-IV fuel. This will cost the government a capex of Rs.50,000 crores.” Explained a Society of India Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) official, that even though India is all set to witness nationwide BS-IV emission norms implementation, automakers have been asking for the roll out of BS V emission norms by 2019. The timeline slated for BS V roll-out was earlier 2020.

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Industry is keen

Ambuj Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is known to have said that the government is gearing up to hold discussions with all stakeholders to decide on BS-VI emission standards roll out. Industry leaders seem keen. The industry will however need to make the necessary investment, upgrade their facilities and reach out. Stated Friedrich Boecking, Regional President, Diesel Systems, Bosch, that enough time for development is required if the industry needs to move from BS-V to BS-VI norms. It will take some time for vehicle and engine manufacturers to develop technology specific to Indian roads and driving patterns. This concerns vehicles – commercial vehicles especially, that run on diesel fuel. The Euro V emission compliant Scania city bus in Nagpur runs on ED 95 grade of Ethanol. The BYD city bus at Bangalore runs on electricity; is a zero emissions vehicle. It was during the Commonwealth Games at Delhi in 2010, that Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland supplied six and two CNG hybrid buses respectively. Ashok Leyland is planning to launch the Versa electric bus in India as part of its Optare product portfolio.

The right time

Industry experts are of the opinion that now is the right time to move to a higher emission standards. Oil prices are at a lower level than they were last year. Crude oil prices are still hovering around the USD 60 per barrel mark. When the fuel prices bounce back, it will prove to be beneficial, they claim further. Despite the auto industry willing to roll out vehicles with appropriate technology quickly, the challenge is likely to be at the refinery stage, where large investments may be needed to turn out fuel with an even lower content of Sulphur. Sulphur content in BS V is 10 ppm. In BS IV fuel it is 50 ppm, and in BS IV+ fuel it is 40 ppm. To curb pollution there is a need to move up to BS V emission standard swiftly. Also, since India has been following the Euro emission standards with a time lag, adapting or application engineering products that are already available in the European markets may be useful, without investing heavily, and in a manner that is time consuming. In fact, OEMs and their suppliers are keeping a close eye on the possible developments. Expressed James Verrier, President and CEO, BorgWarner, “Technologies that have been successfully applied in Europe will find their way to India. In the next couple of years, BorgWarner will launch derivatives of such products, which will undergo application engineering, testing and validation at the local level.” Averred Oerlikon chief executive officer of drive systems, Dr. Bernd Matthes, “Frugal engineering will be a part of our approach for expansion in India. Moving forward we will also open our engineering centre in India to ensure that we tailor our products for specific requirements of the market and customise them.”

In pursuit of clean air

If the successful conversion of Delhi’s city buses to CNG, and also those that run in Mumbai is an indication, it is not the dearth of technology or its application that is stalling the move to more stringent emission standards in a pursuit for cleaner air. It is also not that the auto industry is not willing. In fact, the Indian auto industry is more than willing. It will however have to be taken into confidence before the decision to move up is taken. Remarked Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, CVBU, Tata Motors, “Our Jamshedpur plant is currently manufacturing vehicles complying to BS IV emission standards. It can be fully geared up to manufacture vehicles complying with BS V and BS VI emission standards when required in the future.” A big change to BS V and BS VI emission standards will mark a move to SCR systems, and bring into play additional componentry and associated costs. Not a deterrent for Indian OEMs in any way; many of them are exporting Euro V and Euro VI emission compliant commercial vehicles. At the 2014 Hannover show, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles displayed a Euro V FUSO FJ 2528 R truck that is made at its Chennai plant. Opined Erich Nesselhauf, CEO and MD, DICV, “We are capable of manufacturing Euro IV to Euro VI emission compliant vehicles in India. The question is, what do we want? Since India has more engineers, it is time that some innovative technologies come out of India rather than merely following the developed markets.” Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, expressed the need to replace old commercial vehicles with new, more cleaner and efficient vehicles to curb rising pollution levels.

Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on public roads

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Daimler Trucks became the world´s first manufacturer to be granted a road license for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on US highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world´s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard. I am proud of this extra-ordinary achievement by the Daimler Trucks team,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometers and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
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The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

ElectroMech cranes build modern commercial vehicles

ElectroMech is offering hoisting solutions for the commercial vehicle industry.

ElectroMech Material Handling Systems (India) Pvt. Ltd. has a significant presence in the automobile industry. The company specialises in hoisting and material handling solutions, and is based at Pune. With a wide range of solutions to offer, from a simple hoist to heavy-duty double girder cranes, ElectroMech employs a wide range of technology, which helps it to ensure that its hoisting and material handling solutions find use on the automotive shop floor. Aimed at the automotive shop floor are solutions like electric wire rope hoists, single girder and double girder, electric overhead travelling (EOT) cranes, gantry and semi-gantry cranes, jib cranes, wall travelling cranes, goliath cranes, under slung cranes, as well as special purpose cranes such as stacker cranes and tunnel mucking systems. Many of these also find use in the commercial vehicle industry. Reveals Tushar Mehendale, MD, ElectroMech (India), “Our cranes and hoists are supplied to diverse industries including automotive, construction, general engineering, heavy engineering, oil and gas, power, railways, ship building and steel.” Delving into details, Tushar draws attention to EOT cranes, and their use in handling press components, dies, chassis and cabins, etc. EOT cranes, he adds, also find other applications in manufacturing plants and infrastructure projects.

ElectroMech, according to Tushar, has achieved significant traction with commercial vehicle manufacturers like Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra and Volvo Buses India. “More than 100 ElectroMech cranes are in operation at Tata Motors plants in Pune, Lucknow, Pantnagar and Ahmedabad. They are being used for a variety of applications such as sub-assembly of multiple parts (chassis, axles), paint shop, assembly shop, stockyards, etc. Two material handling cranes deployed at Volvo Buses, Bangalore, are used to handle the bus bodies. At the factories of Mahindra and Mahindra in Mumbai and Pune, 11 ElectroMech cranes are used to handle the dies along with several smaller cranes on engine assembly line,” elaborates Mehendale. Leveraging its presence in the auto industry, and its ability to offer them the right solutions, ElectroMech, says Mehendale, is set to handle bigger challenges such as integrated handling on press shops, body shops, paint shops or even the entire automotive plant.

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Since cranes perform diverse roles in assembly shops, metal press shops, and other manufacturing processes, it is imperative that their application is understood. “Press components, typically require double girder cranes ranging from 35 metric tonne to 50 metric tonne to precisely position themselves and have a smooth movement. Our cranes, with micro-speed facility in all motions, ensures this,” claims Mehendale. An additional auxiliary mechanism is installed on the crane, if it is used for die handling, especially for the die tilting process (for maintenance or changing dies). “For die inter-bay transfers, we recommend die transfer trolleys because they are the safest way to handle dies for linear movements,” he avers. Lighter applications (up to two metric tonne) like cabin drop and chassis handling, requires tandem motion or synchronous motion of the hoists. A typical lifting of the two light cabins or chassis will be achieved with two hooks placed to an adjustable hook position. “Each application requires custom planning, engineering, installation and maintenance solutions that respond to the changing needs of the automotive industry,” asserts Mehendale. ElectoMech ensures that the solutions they provide are designed to address the requirements of the clients. This process enables ElectroMech to not only provide exact solution, but also to help in increasing efficiency and productivity.