Going green

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Article by: Anirudh Raheja

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. 

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.

Alternate technologies

Dr. Bernhard’s comment puts the spotlight on modern commercial vehicles. Diesel powered or those that are powered by other means. To turn the ethanol dream into practicality, Scania has been helping the local manufacture of ethanol from molasses as well as farm waste. Scania has been pushing for biogas powered commercial vehicles as a way to greener environment. While Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation sources claim that the BYD bus has come with a guarantee of 10-years of battery life, industry sources claimed that electric vehicles may not work out to be as effective as say the ethanol powered bus. Electric vehicles are also claimed to come with a baggage. The baggage of electricity they consume being produced by thermal plants that are considered to be one of the most polluting. But, then the availability of CNG is limited to a few cities. Ethanol is not commercially available yet. As part of its commitment towards ethanol and biogas commercial vehicles, Scania recently announced that in association with the development financier of the Swedish state, Swedfund, it is establishing a partnership to develop the production of biogas as an automotive fuel in the Indian city of Nagpur. The biogas will be produced from digested sludge from one of the city’s wastewater treatment plants in collaboration with local companies. Nagpur is participating in the Indian Government’s initiative to improve the environment and transport systems in the country’s 100 largest cities. According to Industry experts, India occupies third place in terms of global carbon dioxide emissions, and these emissions are expected to double in the next few decades. In line with the country’s continued urbanisation, the quantity of waste produced in the cities is also increasing.

The Indian Government is working actively to improve the environment and accessibility in 100 large cities in the country. The initiative is called Smart Cities, and for the same, the government has approached international companies that would invest in technologies and systems that can promote the development of sustainable cities. Sources close to Scania said that the production of biogas from waste in major cities and residual products from agriculture represents an important part of the solution to India’s problems with air pollution, waste management and the cost of imported energy. Outlining his company’s plan, Anders Grundstromer, MD, Scania India, on the sidelines of the bus plant inauguration at Bangalore said, “Once we are able to produce Ethanol ED 95 in India from agricultural waste, we will also be focusing on wet ethanol. With 95 per cent ethanol and 5 per cent ignition improver, we can reduce CO2 emission by 90 per cent when compared to a diesel bus”. 

Supporting infrastructure

Adoption of alternate propulsion technologies is made successful only by the supply of the required infrastructure. Simply OEMs cannot make it successful. Nor just the suppliers and other elements of the auto industry. For use in diesel commercial vehicles, Castrol recently responded with a Vecton RX fuel saver oil, developed especially for Tata Motors. The lube promises a long drain interval and a reduction in hydrocarbons. Shell also launched Rimula T5 E 10W-30 engine oil in association with Tata Motors. It is of the semi synthetic variety, and promises better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Nitin Prasad, Managing Director, Shell Lubricants India, said, “As we move through generations of emission standards from Euro II to VI, there has been a huge change in the level of collaboration required between engine makers, OEMs and lubricant manufacturers. We need to have end-to-end solutions and everything has to start at the initiation of the design stage rather than at the end of it.” Aware that the need for new technologies will emerge over time, suppliers are focusing on their ability to respond quickly. They are thus adopting lateral measures for expansion.

Dr. Wilfried Aulber, MD and CEO, Roland Berger, opined that it is important for them (suppliers) to stay focused as there is still scope of improvement at Tier 2 level of component manufacturers. “It is true that OEMs should demand products that make them stay ahead of the curve yet understand their needs when it comes to expanding horizons. Component manufacturers in India are not lagging behind in terms of technology, and are in fact fully geared up to serve demand for high end products,” he added. The valve train parts Ghaziabad Precision Products supplies to Volvo Eicher Powertrain find use in Euro V and Euro VI engines of 5-litre and 8-litre capacity. These engines are exported to various Volvo locations around the globe. Sourcing parts locally for Euro VI compliant engine made at the Pithampur plant has been helping the Volvo Group to cut down costs by 25 per cent as against the costs it would incur at Europe.

With a supporting infrastructure, which could be in the form of an ethanol production facility, a clean electricity source, appropriate technology providers, lubricant providers, etc., the need, claim industry experts, is to ensure a complete deployment of emission standards across the country rather than in a phased manner. Low sulphur fuel is expected to be available by 2017. Until then, the full potential of emission technologies as well as that of the regulations may not realise. Not to the fullest. It is actually the government that will have to drive the change. It has initiated measures like National Air Quality Index to create awareness in people against rising pollution. However that is not enough. The need is to uniformly roll out emission norms without losing site of the advantages alternate technologies offer. The need is also for the government to install the necessary infrastructure. Only then will the term ‘Going Green’ will have found the right mention. 

Nextmotive breaks cover

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act enacted by the Government of India in 2006 defines a Small and Medium scale Enterprise (SME) as the one whose investment in plant and machinery exceeds Rs. 25 lakh, but not beyond Rs. 5 crore. In case of a medium scale enterprise, the investment in plant and machinery exceeds Rs. 5 crore, but not beyond Rs. 10 crore. In an obscure lane on the road to Lavasa from Pune, an SME called Conex AvioAuto Pvt. Ltd. is located. It is claimed to be the third largest commercial tool room in the country. Commencing operations in 1999, it traces its origin to Nexus A.E.S., which was established in 1991, to sell machine tools and service them. Providing turnkey engineering and manufacturing solutions for the sheet metal industry, which include Body-In-White (BIW) engineering projects for Ashok Leyland’s G90 cabin and the TVS three-wheeler body, Conex AvioAuto has also catered to the needs of CV makers and tractor manufacturers like Tata Motors, Mahindra, John Deere, Force Motors and Piaggio. 
Conex AvioAuto’s ability to offer sheet metal engineering solutions to OEMs had its founder and managing director, Avinash Belgamwar (also the MD of Nextmotive Pvt. ltd.)dream of making an automobile. To become an OEM. Revealed Avinash Belgamwar, “As a tool room we face ups and downs. We saw it as an opportunity to work on other fronts. We thought of producing sub-assemblies for tier 1 suppliers. We gave up the thought after it was found that their margins were on a decline.” “It was at a meeting in 2005, which we decided to hold in the open at Sinhagad fort, to chalk out a road map for the next five-to-six years, that a plan to produce an automobile took shape,” he added. The plan to produce an automobile was also helped by the comment of an Italian friend that was playing on Avinash’s mind. On a business visit to Pune, Avinash’s friend did not seem to like the state of the diesel passenger three-wheelers. To him they looked unsafe, unrefined and polluting. “We chose a four-wheeler over a three-wheeler. We undertook such an activity because we felt that we had the knowhow, and because we had the right people. We approached NID, Ahmedabad for styling,” mentioned Avinash. 

Work began in earnest with the establishment of Nextmotive Motors Pvt. Ltd. in 2005 as a subsidiary of Conex AvioAuto. An SME embarked on the journey to become an OEM. “We went slowly as we did not want to take chances. The ladder frame of the first prototype comprising rectangular and tubular sections was made in-house. The development team included Karam Singh, N S Babu, YSP Rao and R M Srivastava as consultants. Karam Singh brought with him the experience of developing prototypes at Tata Motors. Design chief, N S Babu having retired as Tata Motors’ ERC head, took upon himself to guide the design team, including styling and design of dies, fixtures, components, etc. YSP Rao brought with him the expertise to design cabins. R M Srivastava brought with him the experience of testing and certification of vehicles, having worked with Tata Motors earlier. He co-ordinated with ARAI for certification and variant type approval activities. “We went to ARAI in 2011 and got the approval in the first go. Frontal crash test, roof crush test, etc.,” said Belgamwar. Three products have emerged over the years of work (a fourth model, a 2-tonne truck named Alite is in the pipeline). Avia with a 1.25-tonne payload is at the beta stage of development, and is powered by a 2-litre Isuzu derived 55 hp diesel engine from Avtec. This engine, according to Avinash, was used in the Hindustan Motors Winner. In Avia, the engine is placed longitudinally with the drive going to the rear through a (American axle supplied) live axle. Front includes a unique twin strut suspension that is being patented. A BS4 diesel engine of Peugeot lineage is also under consideration.

The smallest, the Atom, with a 0.88-tonne payload, is powered by a 510cc, single-cylinder 10 hp diesel engine from Greaves Cotton. The main stay is the Across. Available in two variants, HD and 870Di, like the Atom, it is a front-wheel drive design. A transversely located 871cc, 2-cylinder direct-injection 17 hp diesel engine from Greaves Cotton (found on Piaggio Ape Truk earlier) routes power through a 5-speed manual gearbox and a transaxle. The engine is a bit noisy. However, an amount of work on NVH in co-ordination with ARAI according to Pramod Shashtry, General Manager – Sales and Marketing, Nextmotive Pvt. Ltd., has ensured that not much of it filters into the cabin. Vibrations are well contained.

The engine’s location under the seat has ensured that the cabin is spacious, and with an accompanying sense of room. Any difference in power delivery or response over the rear-wheel drive Ace is not noticeable. We drove the Across on the hilly road to Lavasa (see box). The drive would also help to better understand what Avinash claimed, that the front-wheel drive design of the Across and Atom curbs transmission losses and aids packaging. Also ensures good response and superior fuel efficiency. ver the Across and the Atom, the Avia will get ‘power’ brakes and power steering. Supporting the three products are tier suppliers like Gabriel, JK Tyre, Apollo Tyres, Exide, Bosch, Rane Madras and Rane TRW, K G Foam, Pricol etc. Stating that he has put his experience of batch production to work in this project, which he learnt while working on the T70 tank at Chennai, Avinash explained that they had a big debate about the drive orientation. A conclusion was drawn that up to 1,000 kg GVW, it does not make a difference if the vehicle is a front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive. “Front-wheel drive improves fuel efficiency. We also looked at the French vans, which are mostly front-wheel drive designs,” said Belgamwar. Homologation of Atom and Avia is yet to take place.

Due to commonality of parts, it should not take long expressed Avinash. All three share the same cabin. The loading trays differ in dimensions, and are, like the cab and chassis, made on the same line. All three, the chassis, cab and tray are made in-house. Nextmotive has invested in laser welding solutions, leveraging its ability to provide BIW solutions to OEMs. While Atom and Across share the frame, except for dimensional changes, the frame of Avia is different. Atom and Across run on 12-inch dia. wheels whereas the Avia runs on 14-inch dia. wheels. 

The production facility is a mix of line layout and a functional layout. One look at the production facility, and it is clear, that the next step is expand-ability. The next challenge thus would be to expand successfully. The investment according to Avinash on this project is Rs. 50 crore. Supporting the project is a design team that is based at the company’s design centre at Amravati. Avinash opined that it is the high attrition rate at locations like Pune, which drove him to his hometown Amravati to set up a design centre there. Subjected to a grueling test schedule of over three lakh km before going to ARAI for homologation, the SCVs were supported by the design centre. The design centre also supported changes, big and small, to ensure that the end result was a robust product. Apart from the export markets of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the Across is finding its way into newer markets of Africa. Over 120 units have been imported till date to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Orders for customised vehicles (including a passenger carrier and a mobile canteen) are being addressed too. Explained Avinash, “We went to the export markets first as we wanted to prove ourselves. Success in these markets would give us the confidence to enter the Indian market.” 
Aware that the Indian market is a demanding market, in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Nextmotive entered into an arrangement with distributors
that also market Hero MotoCorp and Eicher products. The Sri Lankan distributor is a Parsi gentleman called Tito. He drove the Across for an amount of time. Only after he was satisfied did he give a plan for 30o units over a period of five to six months. This would amount to 3 per cent market share in a 1,000 unit strong Sri Lankan SCV market. As an SME, to manufacture a vehicle is a brave attempt. To think of making it grow is by no means less challenging. Avinash is keen to see the numbers climb up to 500 units per year. This will amount to five per cent of the market share in Sri Lanka. The next step would be to capture a 10 per cent market share. Stating that the Mahindra Maxximo is giving a tough fight to the Tata Ace in Sri Lanka, Avinash opined that specific application vehicles is what his company is comfortable doing (at the factory level) rather than pursue volumes. The takt time of 30 minutes for each station is indicative of this stratergy. 

Claiming that the body and chassis are subjected to CED coating, which makes them salt spray resistant for 800 hours, Avinash averred, “Even the bodies and frames of custom application vehicles are CED coated.” He added, “Since we provide customised solutions at the factory level, the buyer does not have to deal with corrosion issues resulting from aftermarket activity.” For its dealers (and distributors), Nextmotive has developed a software for part numbers and drawings. They have been advised to stock a minimum inventory of two sets. Well aware of the growing aspirations and expectations of the owner-operator buyer of an SCV, Nextmotive will be entering the Indian market in this fiscal. As it makes a successful foray, areas like aesthetics, fit-finish, etc., would have been looked into, and addressed. This would also include the suppliers, and their ability to support the project. Apart from expand-ability, Nextmotive is working towards constructing a robust marketing and support network. Avinash and his team are inclined to not leave a single stone unturned to realise their dream. That of turning into an automotive OEM from an SME.

The first impression is of the vehicle being tall. The ground clearance of Across, at 220 mm, is claimed to be more than that of the market leader Ace. Climbing into the seat, from behind the wheel, the driver is greeted to a good view ahead. The minimalist dashboard with a centrally mounted instrument cluster fails to impress. The inconsistent panel gaps may not matter much to a CV buyer, but will need to be addressed nevertheless. The driving position is high and comfortable, and accompanies a feeling of the cab being roomy and airy. Turn the key and the BS3 direct injection motor wakes up to emit a distinct diesel clatter. It is loud no doubt, though not very intrusive considering the current offerings in the category. First and second cogs are very tall and ensure take-off rather than achieve good speed. Third gear is where some speed is achieved, followed by more speed achieved in the fourth gear. Third and fourth gears offer a good combination of speed and the ability to lug. There was hardly any steam by the time the fifth gear was engaged on a hilly stretch of road. This cog could however help in achieving good efficiency on level roads. 

During the drive, the Across came across as a dandy and comfortable SCV. It behaved well over some of the broken roads in the region we subjected it to, displaying a good ability to tackle the undulations without resulting in an utterly inferior ride. It responded well to the inputs, and the fact that it is a front-wheel drive, did not make for a noticeable difference in the way the power was routed to the wheels. The way 40 Nm of torque was put to use. Evoking a feeling of being modern and well-engineered even though there is a need to work upon factors like aesthetics, features, and fit and finish, the first impression was positive. The braking feel, comprising discs at front and drums at the rear, was progressive. The ‘non-powered’ steering felt light and precise, and even at speeds in the region of
50 kmph. The top speed of this SCV is 70 kmph. If the pictures draw a similarity with the Tata Ace, in actual, subtle styling differences make the Across look different. 

As mentioned at the onset, the Across looks bigger than it really is, and with an ability to deliver more load. Getting under the skin of the Across reveals that the two – Ace and Across, are quite different even though they are aiming at the same category. Ace has a rear-wheel drive mechanical configuration. Across has a front-wheel drive layout. Powering the Ace is a 16 hp, 702 cc two-cylinder in-direct injection diesel engine positioned longitudinally. The Across’ 17 hp engine is of the direct-injection variety and located transversely. Claimed to have a near 50:50 weight distribution over the two axles, the Across, parked besides the Ace surprisingly does not look as big or burly. It is perhaps the expanse of the windscreen and its curvature that makes it look big. Also, unlike the Ace, turning the key to the off position does not kill the engine of the Across. A lever on the dashboard has to be pulled. It is a distinct reminder of the fact that a direct-injection diesel engine is located under the seats. 

Tata Super Ace Mint for those who aspire

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
Targeted at the aspirational lot among SCV buyers, the Super Ace Mint also carries the responsibility to keep the buyer in the family.Over the overtly familiar Ace, the Super Ace Mint draws a different impression. It looks bigger and more premium. Not quite the pick-up, which could be had with a 4×4 system and personalised, but not very far from it either. The clear distinguishing feature is the metallic shade it is available in. The Super Ace Mint is 4340 mm long and 1858 mm tall. With a loading deck (the longest in its class) that measures 2630 mm in length and 1460 mm in width, the Super Ace Mint could be had in five metallic shades. Weighing 1,250 kg and offering a payload of 1,000 kg (1-tonne), this Small Commercial Vehicle (SCV) draws a comparison with the Ashok Leyland Dost. It does not take much time to warm up to the Super Ace Mint, which Sandeep Kumar, Head – Sales and Marketing (SCV and Pick-ups), Tata Motors, is keen to describe as refined in all respects. Featuring an independent strut type suspension at front and semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension at the rear, this CV, apart from the Ace nomenclature does not share anything with the Ace or the Ace Zip. Addressing changing aspirations of an SCV buyer, Kumar mentions that the Super Ace Mint is about performance, speed, features, payload and lower operating costs. “Aspirations are changing, and this vehicle offers car-like interior and metallic colour. In fact, the sale of metallic colour model amounts to over 60 per cent of the overall sales,” he adds.More features, premium feel & ergonomics

Climb aboard, and a modern dashboard greets the driver. The instrumentation is basic, but a centre console, which is also partly an enclosure for the engine, draws your attention. The engine is longitudinally positioned on the ladder frame with the drive going to the live rear axle. The ladder frame has 2.5 mm thick, long member and a 124 mm x 63 mm cross section to help with a tough built. A carpeted interior with fabric seats has an uplifting effect over the Ace’s rather functional interior. The seats come with head rests and a reclining mechanism. “We have been pioneers in SCVs. We did a cost benefit analysis and decided to offer features like head rests, which do not cost a bomb,” says Kumar. Drawing attention to features like power steering, a four-way reclining seats with head rests, and made of fabric instead of rexin, Kumar mentions that the Ace Zip is offered with a music system from Blaupunkt. “People appreciate this feature,” he states. Refuting a claim about blurring boundaries between SCVs and Pick ups, Kumar mentions that the Super Ace Mint is about performing various payload tasks and therefore the need for performance, lower operating costs, efficiency, etc. “While decals make a difference to an SCV buyer, for us it is about identifying the gaps and niches and provide a solution. It is about addressing geographic gaps, application gaps, etc.” Settling down to a steady idle, it is the good refinement levels that strike. The seating position is high and commanding. It is also comfortable with a good view ahead. It is clear that ergonomics has been looked into. It is also clear that Tata Motors wants to keep the customer in the family by offering him a plethora
of options.

More for lessThe Super Ace Mint is capable of carrying more payload mentions Kumar. He adds, “We do not want our clients to indulge in over loading practices. It however remains a possibility, and it may be difficult to detect in such a class of vehicles.” Stressing upon the speed and power of the Super Ace Mint, Kumar explains that this vehicle can ply over longer distances, like, from Mumbai to Aurangabad, or from Mumbai to Nashik. Compared to the Ace, this SCV feels more responsive and refined on the move. The Super Ace Mint presents the impression of being modern and capable. The credit for a compliant ride over a variety of road conditions should go to the front independent suspension. This forward control pick-up breaks away from the assumption that a truck, big or small, should have leaf spring suspension all round. That for many, is the biggest facilitator for a tough built and load carrying capability.

Over the Super Ace, the front suspension of the Super Ace Mint is claimed to have been further refined. The 70PS, 1.4-litre common-rail BS4 emission compliant engine and power steering also do their bit. The Super Ace is comparison was equipped with a 70PS, 1.4-litre, in-direct injection turbo diesel engine that complied to the BS3 emission norms. Part of the last mile connectivity in the hub and spoke transportation model, this SCV, according to Kumar, is capable of higher speeds with an incremental cost increase. It is claimed to be as efficient as the the Ace at 17.9 kmpl, and costs only 22 per cent more than the Ace. Priced at Rs. 5.09 lakh ex-showroom Thane, the Super Ace Mint delivers a flat torque curve over a wide range of engine rpm (1800-3000 rpm). A clutch with more friction area was engineered to account for reliability of operation and a long life. Coming from a CV maker that is a dominant player in the last mile connectivity space with over 50 per cent market share, the Super Ace Mint will offer anywhere between 30 to 40 applications, including live fish transportation. Of the opinion that this SCV will not eat into the Ace sales, Kumar is quick to add that the Ace is one of the most popular refuse trucks. “There are 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles running. They are preferred for their ability to manoeuvre congested areas. They have lower operating costs,” he adds. In terms of safety, the Super Ace Mint is equipped with a three-point retractable seat belt, and side impact beams. The braking system comprises discs at front.

A bright future

Aware that the SCV market continues to drag, and has got better in the recent times with negative growth shrinking to single digit figure, Kumar remarks that HCVs are growing, which is good news for SCVs. He adds, “Good news for SCVs is that HCV growth is not stemming from mining and infrastructure. It is stemming from growth in FMCG and manufacturing, which will augur well for SCVs as part of the hub and spoke model.” About freight rates, Kumar is clear that there is a discovery at every SCV terminus. “SCV owners lack bargaining power,” he says. Stressing that they (Tata Motors) exist for their customer, and want to give him or her a wider choice, Kumar is looking at the Super Ace Mint achieving decent growth numbers. If the next generation Ace will find much modularity engineered into it, the current generation will find value additions like CNG variants.

Though not a preferred fuel according to Kumar, CNG variants will be made available soon in the Ace Zip, Super Ace Mint and Xenon. Ace is already available in CNG, and also the passenger versions of the Ace and Ace Zip – the Magic and Magic Iris. An electric version of Ace, Iris and Magic are also available. Tata Motors, says Kumar, has EV technology. The issue is viability, he adds. Lack of infrastructure (charging points, etc.) and cost is an issue for hybrids and electrics. From an emissions stand point, Kumar states that BS4 fuel will be available in 2017. However a need for a holistic approach is necessary. It is also necessary, according to Kumar, to understand the fact that over 60 per cent of emissions come from coal powered plants. Thus the electricity the thermal power plants in India generate comes with a certain baggage. Stressing on a need for end-to-end solutions for trucks for alternate fuel propulsion, Kumar, pointing at the Ace, mentions that it is the largest single brand among commercial vehicles. “Ace does 8,000 units and the Ace Zip does 2,500 units. We are looking at decent growth for the Super Ace Mint, he reiterates. 

At the Wadala truck terminus in Mumbai it is the start of yet another day. Trucks of diverse nature are about to embark on their next stage of journey. Engines rev as the trucks move out of their parking places. The Super Ace mint, amidst the crowd of trucks, small and big, makes an impression. The metallic shade has it looking premium. It is no doubt aimed at the aspirational lot. 

Stuart Oliver retains the title

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar & Anirudh Raheja.

In a highly exciting race, under an over cast sky and a track that was part wet and part dry, Stuart Oliver of Team Castrol Vecton retained the Prima T1 racing championship title.

The day started with an overcast sky and a drizzle. The western disturbances finding their way into India over the Hindu Kush Mountains and the whole of Afghanistan and Pakistan made sure that it was going to be an exciting day. It was windy and chilly. Undaunted, the tempo began building up for the eight lap race preceding the final 16 lap race on March 15, 2015, at the Budh International Circuit near Delhi. A day prior, when the action actually began, the qualifying race was held under bright blue skies with no trace of dark clouds. The weather was typical of the time; not very warm, neither very cold. This race would mark the second season of Tata Prima T1 racing in India. The first race (nay, season) was held around the same time last year, presenting Tata Motors the credit of kick-starting a truck racing championship in this country. For Tata Motors to begin a truck racing initiative when the Commercial Vehicle (CV) sector was not in the best of health was indeed a brave attempt. It was successful.

The season-two championship has come at a time when the heavy commercial vehicle market is showing improvement. Sales of HCVs have been positive from November last year, while other categories are expected to come out of red soon. What better time then, to pitch 12 race derivatives of the Prima 4038.S 4×2 prime mover against each other. Tata Motors chose to treat the 12 racing trucks to a new look. A face lift to be precise. Seeing them outpace each other on the same track where a Formula 1 race was last held in 2013 would be exciting, especially since some of the best F1 drivers and their teams praised the circuit for its design.

The T1 nomenclature of the Prima racing trucks sounded similar to the F1 nomenclature associated with racing cars. The 12 (Season 2) Prima race trucks were prepared to British Racing Standards. Much like the 12 Primas that raced in 2014. Like the race last year, this race too took place under the aegis of the FIA and FMSCI. The trucks raced to glory, fructifying the efforts of the manufacturer, FMSCI, suppliers, dealers and other stake holders.

Over the 2014 event, the 2015 event will be remembered for the response it received; the excitement it ensued. Like the 2014 season, the 2015 season was also supported by suppliers and dealers among others. Cummins, Wabco, JK Tyre, Castrol and Tata Technologies were main sponsors, and Setco Automotive and Tata Motors Finance were the sponsors of Team Allied Partners.

Addressing the media a few hours before the qualifying race, on March 14, Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, described the activity as a visual spectacle, more interesting than car racing. Even though it is a Prima against a Prima. Pisharody averred that these (racing) trucks are on par with trucks in other parts of the world. Mentioning the origin of the Prima as a world truck, he said, “The racing Prima will get more powerful engines in the future. The technology for racing will find its way into civilian applications.” Describing the Season 2 as faster, bigger, and in a larger format, R Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, touched upon the origin of truck racing in 1979, “Fleet operators are demanding more such events be held in other parts of the country.” Explaining the motive behind truck racing as an effort to make trucking appear as an aspirational profession, Ramakrishnan remarked that truck drivers do not get the respect they deserve. “It is therefore an event like this, which amounts to a romantic thing for him, in seeing excitement build among drivers and their families about his or her profession. They (drivers and their families) want to see the truck race,” he added.

Building on an advertising campaign, which went on air during the Cricket World Cup in early 2015, the qualifying race of the Season 2 on March 14 saw the twelve Prima T1 racing trucks (read February 2015 CV magazine for more info on the truck) stand out from each other. A total of seventeen race Primas were brought to the circuit. Of these twelve were divided among six teams comprising Team Castrol Vecton, Team Cummins, Team Tata Technologies Motorsports, Team Allied Partners, Team Dealer Warriors and Team Dealer Daredevils. The 2014 championship was won by Team Castrol Vecton, followed by Team Cummins. The winning drivers were Stuart Oliver, David Jenkins and Mathew (Mat) Summerfield. All three came to the 2015 race to reclaim their moment of glory. This year’s driver line up comprised of Stuart Oliver and Oly Janes for Team Castrol Vecton, Mat Summerfield and Simon Red for Team Cummins, David Jenkins and Steven Powell for Team Tata Technologies Motorsports, Steve Thomas and Chris Levett for Team Allied Partners, Richard Collet and Graham Powell for Team Dealer Warriors, and Ben Horne and Paul Alan McCumisky for Team Dealer Daredevils.

The practice race began at 1.15 pm. The qualifying race began at 4.15 pm. The practice race involved two sessions and the qualifying race was of 20 minutes. As the twelve Prima T1s, painted in attractive colours, with decals and the names of their teams and sponsors arrived at the grid, excitement began to build. Starting with the frentic activity in the pit lane as the teams got their trucks ready, girls dressed in team attire could be seen filling water in the cooling tanks while their male colleagues went about checking the temperature of the tyres. The qualifying race began with the Primas, incorporating three 10s, (10 per cent increase in speed to 135 kmph, 10 per cent more power, and 10 per cent weight reduction). Amidst the roar of the 370 hp, 8.9-litre ISLe Cummins engines, it was clear that the trucks piloted by drivers sourced through Steve Horne, like in the last season race, would leave no stone unturned, to claim their pole position. At the end of 20 minutes, Steve Thomas of Team Allied Partners rolled past the finish line, winning the qualifying round of the Season 2. Stuart Oliver of Team Castrol Vecton came second, followed by Oly Janes, also from Team Castrol Vecton. Describing it as a good day to have finished first in the qualifying round, Steve mentioned that the T1 Prima Race truck is very reliable. “All the race trucks competing today were evenly matched, making for a very competitive final race. I am delighted to be here and hope to finish on the podium in tomorrow’s main race,” he said. Richard’s 1:50.840 second lap time was the quickest lap (faster than last year) on the 2.5 km T1 loop of the 5.14 km circuit.

Not quite succeeding in dampening the spirits of the teams or the spectators, the drizzle threatened to turn into a shower on the final race day. After the grand stand was fully occupied, the adjoining stand was made available to the spectators. If the weather gods made sure that the European drivers felt at ease, race teams and Tata Motors officials did not look bothered either. By the time the trucks took their position on the grid for the super qualifier eight-lap round, the drizzle had turned into rain. Pisharody flagged off the race at a little past 3.30 pm. Steve Thomas in the Allied Partners’ grey coloured truck took off with others in quick succession, water spraying out from underneath the tyres, indicating clearly that this would be an exciting race day for those who took the trouble of coming here.

As the rain grew in intensity, questions were raised about the suitability of the tyres – if the trucks were running on slicks. Sanjay Sharma, Head-Motorsport, JK Tyre & Industries, was quick to reply that the wider grip patch and the weight of these machines would ensure that no issue arose. These were not slicks, he said, adding that the weather condition would help the tyres to stay cool.

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Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar & Anirudh Raheja.

Steve Thomas won the super qualifier by keeping Stuart Oliver at bay, by a small margin of 1.840 seconds. Simon Reid followed with a gap of 3.182 seconds. Steve’s best lap time was 1:59.734 seconds. His last lap time was 2:03.237 seconds. Expressing that it felt like he was racing in Europe, Steve said that it is exciting as well as challenging. That, the Prima trucks are good and reliable. The two races – qualifying and super qualifying, aptly made it clear that the Prima T1s were indeed reliable. They were also visibly quicker. Before the qualifying race on March 14, Vicky Chandhok, veteran rallyist and former president of FMSCI said that the 2015 season trucks were four seconds quicker with a lap time of 1:54.8 seconds over the last year’s lap time of 1:58.9 seconds.

By the time the final race began it was 5.30 pm. The rains had stopped, but the track was still wet. Anant Geete, union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises, along with Ravi Pisharody and R Ramakrishnan went to the grid to wish the drivers. Thomas started the race on pole, having finished the rainy 8-lap super qualifier almost two seconds ahead of Stuart.

Stuart grabbed the lead from Thomas at the first corner leaving him to keep the hard-charging Simon Reid of Team Cummins at bay. Reid started on the second row of the grid in third. Tailing Reid was Steven Powell, Collett, Mat Summerfield, David Jenkins and Paul McCumisky for Dealer Daredevils. McCumisky was spun into the barrier on the curve by Oly Janes and the race was prematurely red-flagged. McCumisky was able to turn around and get going again. The race restarted after a delay of 10 minutes with the original grid.

McCumisky drove into the pit for a check up and started from the pit lane. With water rolling across the track, the fearless drivers took off once again. Stuart Oliver mounted pressure on Steve Thomas from the very beginning. Serious action followed. Stuart took the lead into Turn 3 at the end of the 1.3 km back straight. It was to be a cat and mouse game from then on as the ten-time British Truck Racing Champion (Stuart) fought off a constantly prodding Steve Thomas of Team Allied Partners. While managing to keep Stuart at bay in the qualifying race and even the super qualifying race, Steve and Stuart took the fight to the finish with almost all the action centered on them. The duo went flat out, overtaking each other almost at a regular pace during the latter half of the race. The first half of the race was spent in exerting pressure on each other. Deriving much from slip streaming each
other too!

The 2011 BTRA Division 1 champion David Jenkins retired after ramming into the inside wall while exiting Turn 1 earlier (on the second lap) into the race. Mat by then had made up three places and was now in third. Reid had dropped to sixth, behind Graham Powell and Steven Powell, who had dropped a spot. A little later, Steven Powell was overtaken by Janes, who promptly received up a drive-through penalty for making his move in a yellow flag phase. Streams of water were seen emanating from the wheels, the track, not dry yet, provided a challenging environment. The trucks were holding on well, nary any signs of slowing down. Even under such challenging conditions they would run the straight at speeds well above 130 kmph. There was a time when Steve was seen almost speeding into Stuart from behind. Stuart was seen trying to ensure that Steve does not get ahead. He did, but not enough to stay there; away from the prying eyes of Oliver.

At the wheel of the Dealer Daredevils race truck, Paul Alan McCumisky retired on the sixth lap. Paul’s was the last retirement of the race. The fight continued between Steve and Stuart. It was so intense that to expect either of them to win this race would not be far from truth. The 10th and 12th laps proved to be decisive as well as the most exciting. By lap 10, Steve and Stuart were a razor-thin 0.25 seconds apart. Steven Powell was in third position with Summerfield following with a time difference of 4.67 seconds. Four laps later the gap between the leading trio and the rest was a good 11 seconds. Summerfield fell back further and was overtaken by Reid and Levett. Towards the end of the 15th lap Powell was right up behind Thomas. He had narrowed the gap to just 1.5 seconds, and attempted a overtaking manoeuvre that was skillfully tackled by Steve. A little behind, Chris had barrelled past the Cummins pair ahead of him, rising to fourth. At the end of the 16th lap, Stuart Oliver was the first to cross the finish line. The last year’s winner managed to retain the title, recording a last lap time of 2:01.258 seconds. With a gap of 0.698 seconds, Steve came second (2:01.810 seconds last lap timing).

The best lap timing for Stuart was 1:55.230 seconds in the first lap. For Steve it was 1:55.511 seconds in the same lap. Steven Powell came third with a difference of 0.607 seconds, and a last lap time of 2:100.919 seconds. His best lap time was 1:57.108 seconds in lap 1. Speaking after the race, Stuart said, “It was an amazing experience. I want to say is a big thank you to all the fans coming out all this way, all the flags, all the caps, everything, it made such a difference this weekend. I really, really do appreciate it. Steve Thomas and Steven Powell were phenomenal competitors. They did an amazing job today of keeping me on my toes, pushing me all the way up to the podium. It means even more than the first one (last year’s race). I feel so blessed.” An elated Oliver explained after the race: “When one truck is behind the other, always the second one will be quicker as there is less air resistance. Steve was quicker behind me and was catching up with me on the main straight. But when he got past me, I did the same to him, the only question was whether I could stay there because he also had the same opportunity.” Despite windy and overcast conditions that made for a challenging track, Stuart clocked 142 kmph on the straight and 132 kmph in the curve. A good 7 kmph more than what was expected from the machine in ideal conditions by Tata Motors. Stuart Oliver also helped Team Castrol Vecton win this year as well. Reason for Castrol to rejoice. It used the opportunity to introduce the RX Vecton fuel saver engine oil developed in association with Tata Motors.