Reflecting a positive upshift, Busworld 2015 underscored the changing needs of the bus industry and bus buyers, but not without highlighting the need for one million buses to address the connectivity gap.
The Busworld 2015 reflected a positive upshift in the bus CV segment. Held at Mumbai, and organised by Belgium-based Busworld International in association with Delhi-based Inter Ads Exhibitions, the sixth edition of the fair succeeded in bringing together OEMs, coach builders, tier suppliers and various other component manufacturers. Supported by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), International Road Transport Union (IRU), ICAT and the Association of Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU), the biennial event attracted over 60 exhibitors. In his inaugural speech, Dider Ramoudt, President, Busworld International, announced that his was a company with a mission. Advocating the need to move to cleaner burning engines, Ramoudt said, “Adopting the prime minister’s scheme Clean India, there is a requirement for an ecological, sustainable transportation, including electricity, hybrid and other mediums. The bus industry the world over has bright potential. It will grow to 6,64,000 numbers in 2018 from 5,12,000 units in 2013, of which India and China will contribute 50 per cent.”
Mentioning that there are 62 State Transport Undertakings (STU) with 1.5 lakh buses that move 1.583 million people, P S Ananda Rao, Executive Director, ASRTU, expressed the need to reduce congestion, pollution and accidents by Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system and high capacity buses. “Over the costlier option of Metro and Mono-rail, it is the bus that can connect villages which are currently unconnected. One-million buses are immediately needed in addition to 7.5 lakh buses present. To address the potential for rural connectivity through JNNURM, there is a need for 50,854 buses at 600 buses per 10 million rural population,” he stated. Stressing upon the next year to be very promising for the CV industry, Rao commented that there is high head room for growth.
Describing Busworld as a Belgian concept that was launched in 1970, Karl Vanden Bossche, Consul General, Consulate of Belgium, said that India has the best prospect for growth with the average population aging 25 years. Pointing at rising tourism, which will give birth to the need for transportation, and is good for ‘Make-in-India’, the Consul General stressed on the need for a FTA. “The FTA with the European Union has been happening for the last eight years,” he added. “The Industry led by IRU can support Modi to meet the demanding challenge of providing sustainable mobility,” averred Janusz Lancy, President, IRU. Chief Guest, Diwakar Raute, Minister for Transport, Government of Maharashtra, stressed on the need for low cost buses with the best technology and comfort. He also touched upon the concept of inland waterways promoted by the transport minister at the centre, Nitin Gadkari.
OEMs emphasise on technology and comfort
Displaying the only ethanol powered city bus in India that operates in Gadkari’s constituency Nagpur apart from the ‘made-in-India’ Metrolink premium inter-city coach, Scania reiterated its commitment to promote biogas and ethanol as an eco-friendly transportation solution. Said Anders Grundstormer, MD, Scania India and SVP, Scania Gropu, “We are not just selling a bus, but the idea of an city which wants to run on an environmentally friendly fuel, made in India. Nagpur will be a role model city in India.” Stating that his company will deliver 55 buses in 2015, and is expected to deliver 400 ethanol or biogas buses by 2016. Grundstormer averred, “There will be two product launches this year and more next year. In all, we will have five product launches for India in the coming year and the half.” A ‘surprise-entry’, SML-Isuzu displayed three key buses from its range. All three, including a small executive bus and a large executive bus, are aimed at staff transportation, and intra or inter-city executive travel. The mid-sized bus is based on a versatile platform with an ability to double up as a city-bus for an STU.
Coach builders make for an exciting show
Yet another city bus that managed to grab attention at the show, and that too from a coach builder was the the integral construction 12 m city bus. This low-floor bus, built by Bangalore-based Veera Vahana Udyog, is powered by a 6.7-litre Cummins engine and an Allison 3000 Series automatic transmission. Attractive looking, with good fit-finish standards, the city bus, according to K Srinivas Reddy, MD, is undergoing homologation. It is fitted with ZF axles sourced from Germany, and has a local content of approximately 85 per cent. The Mammoth bus by Alma Motors, an MG Group company was developed and conceptualised in partnership with MAN Trucks India. A landmark achievement according to Anil Kamat, Executive Director, MG Group, the Mammoth is powered by a 220 hp 6-cylinder MAN (front) turbocharged engine. Equipped with air suspension, ABS, cruise control, and EM-Secure (Emergency Management – Secure) that makes evacuation safe and panic free, in case of an emergency situation, the bus is aimed at addressing the evolving customer, passenger and driver needs. Measuring 12 m in length, the Mammoth is fitted with 22.5-inch tubeless radial tyres.
One of the oldest coach builders in the country, Automobile Corporation of Goa Ltd. (ACGL) displayed a range of buses based on the Tata Motors platform. ACGL built 4,951 buses last year. Of these 3,000 were exported, which would account for 75 per cent of th total buses built. Reflecting ACGL’s export thrust to the markets in Africa and the Middle East (Qatar especially) was a left-hand drive school bus. The one beside it had the front and rear fascia made of pressed steel. Panels pressed at ACGL’s plant at Jejuri near Pune are welded together at the Goa facility to arrive at the pressed steel fascias. If an executive inter-city bus built for Pune-based Penosh drew attention, it was the ‘G-Duck’ amphi-bus, painted in a shade of bright yellow, that stood out. Designed by Advanced Amphibious Design (AAD), a USD 3.5 million company with operations at Goa and Honolulu (Hawaii) according to Miles Needham, Chairman & President, the G-Duck is powered by a 130 hp, 5.8-litre Cummins turbodiesel engine with a 6-speed gearbox and a four-wheel drive mechanism. If the specs seem to indicate that this vehicle has drawn a fair deal from Tata’s 1212c 4×4 truck, a power-take-off arrangement from the centrally mounted transfer case powers the propeller at the rear. Weighing about 10-tonnes the amphi-bus will find use with Goa Tourism said Needham. Leveraging AAD’s experience to build amphibious buses and AGCL’s expertise to build customised buses, six G-Ducks, capable of seating 32 people each, have been ordered.
Suppliers make their mark
Lamilux India displayed its existing range of products as well as the new high-impact FRP material with 48 per cent glass for use in bus body construction and reefer truck construction. Said Dr. Cosima Klinger-Paul, MD, “The market has risen beyond the level of whether FRP (or GRP) material will succeed, and is now keen to know if newer applications are possible.” She added, “The market for FRP is exploding.” Allison Transmission (India) displayed an interesting cutaway of the T270 automatic transmission that does service in many buses in India. Hubner Interface Systems India, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Germany-based Hubner Group, displayed an articulation system for buses. It finds use in a vestibular bus. Starting local manufacture at a facility in Bangalore, the company, said Makarand Shahane, Director, Hubner India, believes that there is a substantial support for articulated buses in the country. “It nearly doubles the carrying capacity over that of a 12 m bus,” he added. Piyush Uniyal, GM – Business Development, RMG Polyvinyl India (Wonderfloor), averred that though cyclic in nature, the transport industry is growing.
Describing India as a big market with small bus manufacturers that make five to six buses a year, Uniyal said that his company offers a wide range of flooring solutions to the bus industry. On display were the new generation transport flooring solutions called traction flooring, and the traditional flooring solutions called the embossed flooring.
Michelin India displayed the 295/80 R22.5 tubeless radial tyre for city bus application. It also displayed the 295/80 R 22.5 X Multi Z tubeless radial tyre for inter-city buses. A France-based company that invented radial tyres and manufactures radial tyres only, Michelin truck and bus radials, said Sanjeev Chawla, Country Manager – OE, Defence and Alternate Channels, are earning an image for quality and long life. Eberspaecher Suetrak Bus Climate Control Systems (India) has introduced a new, air-con system for mid-size buses, which facilitates easier fitment and servicing. K P Singh, Director – India, averred, “India will be the global hub for the new mid-size bus AC, powered by a 300cc compressor from Valeo.” Stressing on a long-term business strategy, the Indian operations of the company, said Singh, are stabilising. Eberspaecher acquired Carrier globally in 2010 except the American operations, marking its entry into the bus air-conditioning business.
Songz Automobile Air Conditioning Co. displayed a large bus and small bus air conditioning system. Said B S Arora, GM – Business Development, India, Songz Automobile Air Conditioning Co. Ltd., “We are also looking at offering lower priced air-conditioning system variants of the seven systems we currently offer by doing away with less used features to better address the needs of the customers.”
Subros Ltd. displayed its 18 and 25 kW bus ACs system targeted at the mid-size segment. Panjak Mehra, DGM and AM, Exports and Marcom said, “In recent time there has been an increase in demand for ACs in school buses and the staff travel segment which has pushed growth in this segment. To cater to this demand we came out with the 18 kW bus AC unit last year.” He added, “We launched another 25 kW unit to cater to this segment in early 2015.” Offering a full range of bus ACs starting from 4 kW going up to 36 kW, Subros has added a 45 kW unit set to be launched this year which will go into the low floor intra city bus segment.
Harita Seating Systems showcased a modified version of its bus passenger seating system Utthara, which was launched specifically for markets in North India. It also displayed the Magnum P1 with 3-point seat belts, which finds use with OEMs like Scania and Volvo in India. Said Avinash Sinha, Sr. Engineer, Sales and Marketing, Harita Seating Systems Ltd., “Our products are made as per Indian environment and conditions and we have close to 90 models of just bus passenger seats.” Apart from premium luxury buses, Harita supplies seating systems for standard and semi-deluxe range of buses.
Kalyani Maxion Wheels displayed its range of steel wheel rims. The company’s portfolio ranging from 13-inch to 24-inch for tubeless and tube-type applications. “Our major revenue comes from tubeless wheel rims. We are pioneers in manufacturing tubeless wheel rims,” stated Kaushik K Doshi, Deputy Manager, Marketing. “Basically our 22.5” x 8.25” wheel rims for buses are quite popular,” he added.
Supported by seminars that delved on subjects like urban mobility for smart cities, BRT, coach tourism, fire safety, driver training, intelligent transport systems including electro-mobility, and thus cleaner, safer and effective bus and coach services, Busworld 2015 was successful in its endeavour to bring the bus industry closer and expose itself to the new innovations, technologies developed. Technologies that would help to mitigate risks, enhance comfort, reliability and comfort of bus transportation systems. Busworld 2015 was successful to a good extent in projecting the image of its organiser, which Ramoudt explained as a missionary for sales of sustainable transport. The road ahead is challenging, but also of growth. This was amply transmitted by the participants and the visitors.