Changing world of buses

The Indian bus industry is looking up; is changing in-line with the profile of travellers and the development of road infrastructure.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

The statistics released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers for the 2015-16 financial year revealed that 43,885 passenger vehicles in the Medium & Heavy Commercial Vehicle (M&HCV) category were sold, clocking a growth of 19.13 per cent. In the Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) category, 48,960 passenger carriers were sold during the same period, marking a growth of 9.25 per cent. M&HCV and LCV passenger carriers are actually buses (and bus chassis), which make one of the vital integral segments of the Indian automobile industry. They make a common widespread public transport in India, and are categorised into school buses, mini buses, tourist buses, deluxe buses, commuter buses and others depending on their use. The bus market in India, according to a report by Research and Markets is expected to be worth USD 10.34 billion by 2019-20 financial year. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.36 per cent by 2020, driven by an increasing demand for luxury and value.

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The development of infrastructure and roads has made it easier for people to avail buses as a preferred mode of travel. Demand for buses is on the rise, and across segments. New segments like sleeper coaches are witnessing rapid growth even as the government authorities work to draft rules to legally define such a development. P S Ananda Rao, Executive Director, ASRTU, is known to have expressed that over one-million buses are immediately needed in addition to 7.5 lakh buses present. In his speech at Busworld 2015, Rao expressed that 1.5 lakh buses move 1.583 million people. “The need is 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. 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 added.

Government versus private operators

ASRTU has under its aegis 62 State Transport Corporations. These are government bodies, which account for a large chunk of the country’s inter-city buses. For city buses it is the city transport bodies like BEST of Mumbai. DTC of Delhi and BMTC of Bangalore, which are operating under the aegis of the respective municipal corporations. They too are government bodies. Compared to private fleet operators like SRS Travels, Parveen Travels or Neeta Travels, STUs and city bus undertakings are bigger and socially oriented. That does not mean that they are not agile or well managed, some of them could in fact make a business case suitable for study in a management course. The Maharashtra State Transport Corporation, for example, operates a whopping 16,500 buses. Neeta Travels, in comparison, operates over 170 different types of buses. BEST operates 4.143 buses in the city of Mumbai.

Participants in projects like BRTS, and in-line with the government’s move to upgrade the transport system of a city or region – the constitution of AMRUT under the Smart City initiative for example, STUs and city bus undertakings have been driving the growth of the bus industry in a big way. Examples include an order for over 5000 buses bagged by Tata Motors worth an estimated Rs. 900 crore. Both, Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, are said to have bagged STU orders for 8,600 buses worth about Rs.1,500 crore in the first five months of the current financial year. More agile, the private operators have been greatly banking on profitability and sustainability by procuring buses that would help them best serve their business interests and the interest of their clients.

Both, the government as well as the private operators, continue to face challenges. The nature of the challenges may differ. The way the two deal with the challenges may differ. The way they serve the people of the country is however similar.

Challenges

The biggest challenge the bus industry is facing today is the need to keep up with the rising need for efficient transportation. The bus industry is today competing with newer modes and ways of public transportation. Amidst such a scenario, there is a need for buses to be looked upon as efficient, comfortable and green mode of public transport. They need not be slow and noisy. In-line with the rising demand for efficient, comfortable and green buses, the bus industry is responding. It is moving away from supplying truck-chassis based designs even though they make for a highly cost effective proposition. Government help towards restructuring and strengthening of the Indian bus industry in the form of JNNURM Phase I and Phase II has worked. Some 25000 buses have been procured. More buses are being procured under new schemes like AMRUT and FAME, but there is a need for higher allocation. Higher allocation is especially important in the case of hybrid and electric buses to be successful. Opined an expert that there is a need for viability gap funding to turn buses into an efficient and cost effective mode of transportation over a metro and a mono-rail. That is a big challenge indeed.

Despite improvement, good infrastructure, which is absolutely essential for a conducive bus operating environment, is still some distance away. Greater participation of private sector in the bus industry is essential. For it to happen, the socialist agenda surrounding buses may need to be diluted in the interest of improved profitability and sustainability. According to Delhi-based Jaspal Singh, a transport analyst at Valoriser Consultants, cost based tendering using L1 criteria has an international company with much higher net worth competing with an Indian company having much less net worth. This creates an imbalance, which does not work well for the profitability and sustainability of an operation. With government fixing a fare, an operator is not protected against rising cost of operation. This is one of the important reasons why private participation has not picked up as much. Lack of parking infrastructure and maintenance space is an issue, which is increasingly faced by both, government as well as private operators. Primitive permit system is a challenge. Permit is allocated to an individual, and is hard to come by. As a result the bus market continues to be unorganised and fragmented. The rise in informal transportation in the form of autorickshaws and cabs is a challenge bus operators have to counter. Then, there’s the challenge of selection of buses on L1 principle of tendering. The technical standards specified by the ministry of urban development under Urban Bus Specifications, UBS1 and UBS2, are comprehensive. However, translating these standards into efficient bus procurement requires highly evolved organisational processes. The STUs lack in this. The challenge is to enhance their procurement paradigms for better articulation of performance specifications of buses and sub-systems for quality, durability, and failure rates

Expressed K T Rajshekhar, Proprietor, SRS Travels, “The government backs and supports STUs. The private operators, which pay taxes and insurance, also need to be supported. They too need good bus stands and amenities.” Harsh P. Kotak, Owner, Modern Travels, and General Secretary, Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatan, opined, “The need of the hour is to familiarise bus operators with bus body code and insurance provisions.” “Insurance companies say they will not service claims over Rs.10 lakh. How is the bus operator expected to service the rest of the claim,” he questioned. He also drew attention to the RTO penalising bus operators for delay in fitness-certifying their buses in the prescribed time where upon the RTO has been refrained by the court from conducting fitness test for the lack of a test track measuring 250 m in length. Questioned Kotak, what is the role RTO is left to play when the ARAI and CIRT is certifying the bus as per the Bus Code. Said Nikhil Shetty of Vigneshwar Travels, “It is essential that the government facilitates payment of permit tax online. Despite the initial online payment under the pretext of going digital, bus operators have to visit the RTO.”

For bus body builders, the Bus Code has proved to be a disruptive change. It has also presented them with an opportunity to move up the value chain. The likes of Guru Ram Dass Body Builders are investing in compliance with Bus Code. They see it as a means to grow sharply as those who do not comply become redundant. Opined Mayank Kukreja, Chief Executive Officer, Guru Ram Das Body Builders, that the certification procedure is a tough nut to crack. Director of Karur-based Maaruthi Coach Builders, Soundararajan is of the opinion that small players like them are the most affected (by the Bus Code). His company and the other bus body builders of Karur formed an association, and invested in it to make a bus for Bus Code approval. Their effort however seems to have gone waste. Each bus body builder is now building a bus to get Bus Code accreditation. If the Bus Code has addressed the challenge of safety in buses to an extent, challenges like the preparation of an effective framework for bus types like sleeper coaches is a challenge that will have to be addressed sooner than later. One should not be surprised if bus body builders grow up to become independent bus producers tomorrow as they invest in advanced facilities like CAD and automation.

In the case of STUs, a big challenge has been efficient management of operations according to industry analysts. This is especially the case where the sole revenue providers are the buses. The social agenda behind the operation of buses by STUs makes them vulnerable for pressure from politicians who would want a bus to connect or pass through their constituency. Such moves often don’t make a sustainable business case for government transport bodies. For those that have other sources of revenue – like real estate, the going’s good. BMTC is one example, claim industry experts. They add that a chunk of BMTC’s revenue comes from the mall it owns. Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), at the other end, is said to incur an annual loss of Rs. 35 billion. BEST of Mumbai is also said to be incurring a loss. What the DTC and BEST seem to reflect upon is the issue of congestion. Traffic congestion is an issue that seems to trouble the two city bus undertakings among others. It is affecting their efficiency and an ability to make profits.

Growth opportunities

In 2009, a growth opportunity presented itself under JNNURM Phase-I. The Ministry of Urban Development sanctioned 15,260 buses for 67 mission cities in February 2009. STUs and Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) placed an order for 15,260 buses, and 14,500 buses were purchased. Triggering a big change in the perception for bus-based transport system, JNNURM Phase I helped launch organised bus services in 31 new cities. The financing of buses was linked with institutional reforms in these cities. Some cities implemented various initiates such as the creation of UMTA (Unified Metropolitan Transportation Authority); creation of SPVs, and setting up of a urban transport fund apart from framing of parking and advertisement policies. Bus sales continued to grow as the government invested in infrastructure, and cities like Delhi and Pune explored new transportation initiatives like BRTS, albeit at the suggestion of new and existing players like Volvo Buses and others. By 2014-15, the bus market grew to over 81,000 units. In the 2015-16 financial year, 92,845 buses were sold as per the data released by the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises.

The new government at the centre renamed JNNURM Phase II, with an allocation of USD 40 billion, as Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). It was engineered to be a 10 year programme spanning 500 cities, and was linked with the Smart Cities initiatives. The other initiative that the new government announced was the formulation of FAME as part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP). Apart from these initiatives the government has also been encouraging other alternate fuel modes of public transport apart from metros and mono-rails. The Scania ethanol bus plying in Nagpur for the last two years is a prime example. Scania has bagged an order to supply 55 bio-fuel buses to the city of Nagpur. Under an agreement to buy five hybrid buses, the first Volvo 8400 hybrid bus has been plying in Navi Mumbai for some time. By the end of this year, the Tata Starbus Hybrid is expected to start plying in the Bandra-Kurla Complex of Mumbai as part of an order for 25 such buses. The Volvo hybrid bus and the Tata Starbus hybrid are claimed to cost in a region of Rs.2 crore to Rs. 2.15 crore. One Volvo hybrid bus has made an entry into the BMTC fleet at Bangalore. It is claimed to be a part of the undertakings decision to procure 400 CNG buses and 30 hybrid buses in an effort to replace its aging fleet with new eco-friendly buses.

The investment in AMRUT is in the region of Rs. two billion. Claimed an analyst, that an investment of over Rs.100,000 crore is required to upgrade bus transport in 100 largest Indian cities by procuring around 150,000 new buses and upgrading the ancillary transport infrastructure. This should provide an indication of the growth opportunities that are present. The recent order Tata Motors bagged for 5000 buses from STUs worth an estimated Rs.900 crore is reflective of the growth opportunities present. Mentioned B Anil Baliga, Executive Vice President – Bus & Application, VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd., that they have an (firm) order for 1500 buses under JNNURM.

Unfortunately, initiatives like BRTS have met with limited success due to various reasons. The focus may have shifted to metro and mono-rail for obvious reasons, for them to succeed, the need is for a feeder bus service. This is yet another growth opportunity for the bus industry. A part of the Smart Cities campaign, a feeder bus service was started in Delhi on January 01, 2016, by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Vijay Tour & Travels, and Rajdhani Coach Cluster Service Pvt. Ltd. were chosen as operators. In May, BMTC also announced feeder services. Similar feeder services are claimed to be in the making as metros and mono-rails spring up in different parts of the country. The Chennai MTC is claimed to already operate the small buses it has in its fleet as feeder services to offer last mile connectivity. A careful study of why metro feeder services (operated by BEST) failed in places like Mumbai is essential to ensure growth opportunities like these are not wasted, expressed an analyst. He added that the need is to efficiently manage the operation and invest in the training of staff. A non-friendly and inefficient staff is a recipe for disaster in an increasingly competitive environment, he mentioned.

Where the government run bus corporations seem to be failing, the private fleet operators are making up for the void. They are efficient and agile. An interesting example of rising private participation is a ten year contract awarded to Bhagirathi Trans. Corpo. Pvt. Ltd. by the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation to operate 48 buses in the city, consisting of 25 seater light buses and 45 seater heavy buses. Likewise the 162 BRTS buses at Ahmedabad are operated by Chartered Speed Pvt. Ltd. The ability to explore new growth opportunities is said to make private operators successful. Stated B Anil Baliga, Executive Vice President – Bus & Application, VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) Ltd., that there is a huge demand for sleeper coaches. At Auto Expo 2016, the company displayed a 12 m sleeper coach made at its facility near Indore. At the manufacturing level, bus body builders like Guru Ram Dass are expanding their facilities even as they move up the compliance chain in anticipation of a growth opportunity.

Changing market dynamics

While players like Tata Motors are not supporting the demand for sleeper coaches in absence of a clear directive from the government, the overwhelming demand for sleeper coaches is said to compel even the premium luxury bus manufacturers to address this demand by providing a bus shell. Informed a source close to CIRT, that the draft for sleeper coach code and double decker bus code will be out soon. Stress on rear-engine bus is rising, albeit slowly because this bus costs considerably more than what it takes to buy a front- engine bus. With the ROI spread over a period of four years, it is clear, that the changing market dynamics are governed strictly by costs and some very detailed calculations. Demand for double decker buses seems to emerge if the source close to CIRT is to be believed. The emergence of double decker bus code will make the situation clear. Also whether they are about city bus application or about inter-city application will be clear too. Demand for air-conditioned. buses is rising according to Baliga. Such buses, he adds, call for more horsepower. “Where 90kW used to suffice, the demand is now for 110kW. Some even want higher output.. The market dynamics are changing quickly. The marketplace is fiercely competitive, and players are grasping for breath,” he adds. While attention towards the build quality, and fit and finish standards rises, stress on comfort and refinement is also rising. Opines Kukreja, that technological updates are particularly sought after. “The demand for air suspension is on the rise. Earlier, three to five buses were installed with pneumatic suspension. Today, the number has shot up to 20. Comfort is assuming importance as the traveller is ready to pay,” he adds.

In-line with Baliga’s expression that demand for powerful engines is rising, Sources close to SML Isuzu opine that the new 11 m long Isuzu FR1318 bus that they have introduced, is fitted with a modern and powerful engine to address the rising demand for higher speeds and support additional power hungry devices like air-conditioning, they add.

Looking up

Going by the volumes, the bus industry may look much smaller than trucks. It is however no less promising. There may be some signs of a slowdown, but the bus industry has been steady in its growth. To counter disruptive change like the bus body code, the bus industry is changing itself. In an effort to address the changing requirements of its clients it is adapting itself. Like truck fleet operators, buyers of buses are well aware of what they want. Even the government organisations. They are demanding, and could express interest in buying buses that are technologically ahead of their times. Encouraging manufacturers to explore new possibilities in the area of design, development, manufacture and support, bus buyers are here to stay. It is because of them, that the bus industry is looking bright.

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With inputs from

Anirudh Raheja, Ashish Bhatia, Anusha B and Bhargav TS.

CV industry set to take the lead in clean tech

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Successful operation of ethanol, hybrid and electric buses in India is reflective of the fact that the CV industry is set to take the lead in clean tech.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Commercial vehicles mean business, and are part of the auto sector that contributes four per cent to India’s GDP. Over 90 per cent of CVs in India are diesel powered, and the remaining 10 per cent are CNG powered. CNG has been limited to selective urban areas of the country due to infrastructural limitations. An indication of the fact that the CV industry has always been active and at the forefront of clean tech, the best example would be the quick transformation of the complete fleet of DTC city buses in 1998 to CNG as part of the apex court’s order, which would mark the first phase of environmental reforms in the country. Many city bus corporations followed DTC and either converted or procured CNG buses. CV manufacturers and engine builders like Cummins were quick to respond with CNG engines and vehicles. That was the time when BS I and BS II found a way into India. The quest for BS VI (equivalent of Euro 6 emission regulations) by 2020 is set to present the CV industry an ability to lead in clean tech. The industry has in fact already snatched the lead by moving more people per vehicle by introducing ethanol, electric and hybrid buses in India.

The Scania ethanol powered city bus was pressed into the city bus service at Nagpur two years ago, and has been successfully operating since then. It uses 95 per cent ethanol, and is supported by a local infrastructure including the production of an additive termed as the ‘ignitor’. An order for the supply of 55 more such buses is claimed to be underway by Scania sources. The sources also claim that the ethanol bus at Nagpur is capable of meeting BS V emission norms from day one of its operation. Scania’s experience in ethanol buses dates back to 1980 when it first introduced an ethanol powered bus in Europe.

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Reflecting on Volvo’s long standing experience in hybrid and electrically propelled commercial vehicles, the Volvo 8400 hybrid city bus at Navi Mumbai was introduced early this year. The State of Maharashtra is known to have entered into a purchase agreement for five such locally assembled buses, giving the CV industry a definitive lead in environmental technology. The 8400 low-floor hybrid bus employs a 5.0-litre, 4-cylinder (Euro 4 compliant) diesel engine that is coupled with a powerful electric motor. They cumulatively produce 160hp, and by consuming far less fuel than an equivalent diesel engine powered bus would. The bus also emits less since it uses electric power for most supplementary functions including air conditioning, automatic bus doors, and takes off in electric mode. The diesel engine couples itself only after the bus has gained a speed of 15 kmph, making it an environmentally friendly offering considering its start-stop nature of operation.

Late last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a smart electric bus, developed indigenously by Pune-based IT engineering major KPIT in partnership with the Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT). The project was initiated by India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Nitin Gadkari, and resulted in a bus that would ferry the members of Parliament. A reflection of electric bus technology being safe, reliable, and well suited for Indian road conditions, the initiative, which involved the conversion of a conventional diesel powered bus into an electric one, has earned KPIT 20+ global patents. The two retrofitted buses leverage Li-Ion batteries and multiple AC induction motors. The controller can bring in one or more motors online, depending on the power and torque requirements. The buses have a range of 100 to 200 km (depending on the configuration of Li-ion battery packs). The motors can generate power between 80 and 240 kW with a Torque in the range of 450 and 600 Nm (depending on the selected configuration). With technology specifically adapted to Indian conditions, the KPIT electric buses also integrate intelligent transportation system and provide real-time monitoring including the location of the bus, their health and driver behaviour apart from traffic data and performance.

Tata Motors is set to supply 25 hybrid city buses to MMRDA for their Bandra-Kurla Complex. To ply between the Bandra-Kurla Complex and nearby railway stations of Kurla, Bandra and Sion, the buses, once deployed will further endorse the CV industry’s lead in clean tech.

Clean tech lead in manufacture

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Tata Motors currently sources around 8 per cent of its electricity from renewables. It has solar energy installations at three plants, of which two plants are at Pune and Dharwad respectively, and manufacture commercial vehicles. Having joined the RE100 initiative of The Climate Group, Tata Motors is switching all its manufacturing operations to 100 per cent renewable energy. Special efforts are being undertaken to conserve energy. These include waste heat recovery system to recover waste heat from exhaust flue gases of surfacer and finish paint baking ovens, conversion of indirect fired baking ovens into direct fired burner of baking ovens, conversion of electrical heating into natural gas heating system for washing machines, use of energy efficient LED lighting, compressed air pressure optimisation at paint shop and at other shops, use of portable small compressors for low compressed air requirement on holidays, and more. The various efforts to conserve energy are claimed to have resulted in cost savings for the company of around Rs. 14.5 crore and annual CO2 emission reduction of 13,960 tCO2e.

Mahindra, at its modern Chakan plant where the heavy and medium duty trucks are built among a host of other automobiles, has a cluster of 70 solar dishes that generate power. Waste water is recycled through reverse osmosis and multiple effect evaporation. This helps achieve zero water discharge. Ashok Leyland’s manufacturing units at Bhandara and Hosur have won many environment management and conservation awards instituted by external agencies including the Golden Peacock award. CII Awards on ‘water management’ have also been bagged. Taking a different approach that would work towards conserving energy and addressing environmental issues, Ashok Leyland has been investing in commercial vehicle driver training. Over 3.5 lakh drivers have been trained at its driver training institutes at Namakkal (Tamil Nadu) and Burari (Delhi). More such institutes are being planned in other parts of the country as well. In 2012, two Ashok Leyland manufacturing units – Pantnagar and Alwar, won the prestigious National Energy Conservation Awards.

Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle’s bus plant at Baggad near Indore is designed along the concept of zero emissions. According to B Anil Baliga, Executive Vice President – Bus & Application, the paint shop is waterless. Water is used only in the air supply unit for human intake. At the Pithampur plant, which manufactures trucks and bus chassis, almost 50 per cent of the energy comes from solar and a mini hydel power plant. The paint shop employs a heat recovery system. The thinner that is used for painting applications in the plant is recycled and reused for degreasing and washing solvents. Daylight harvesting across the plant interiors has led to a dramatic cut in energy use and CO2 emissions.

 

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Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) has set up a solar power facility within its plant at Oragadam by investing Rs.4 crore. The company has installed a capacity of 300 kW at its parts logistics warehouse. The power produced will be adjusted against the solar purchase obligations, which the Tamil Nadu Government has made mandatory. Against the overall power demand of the plant, the panels are claimed to provide 2.8 per cent of the demand.

The future

The various hybrid and electric commercial vehicles at the Auto Expo 2016 are yet another indication of the CV industry taking a lead in clean tech. From the JBM Solaris trolleybus concept to the Euro 6 ready Ashok Leyland concept truck based on the Captain platform, the commercial vehicles displayed at the Auto Expo 2016 truly reflected upon the CV industry’s ability to work closely with its suppliers to come out with innovative, clean tech solutions that are frugally engineered. If auto component suppliers like GS Auto have announced plans to manufacture AdBlue solution that will be necessary once the BS VI norms are implemented, those like BorgWarner displayed various techs (including visctronic fan drives) that would help OEMs to meet the BS VI emission norms. A debate on engines over a certain capacity employing SCR tech and those below employing EGR at the Auto Expo was also an indication of the CV industry’s pioneering efforts in terms of clean tech.

Scania’s next gen truck breaks cover

 

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Scania’s new truck range is part of a 10 year outlook to increase its market reach.

Story by: Team CV

Scania’s new generation truck range has come out in the open. The new range was unveiled in Paris and streamed live across the globe. Claimed to be an outcome of 10 years of development, the new range saw the company invest SEK 20 billion. Developed with an objective to redefine a premium truck offering, the new generation truck is expected to appeal to a wide range of audience, including those that are looking at customised products. Henrik Henriksson, President and CEO of Scania, at the event, mentioned that the development of the new truck marked the biggest investment in the history of the company. “It is undoubtedly the biggest investment in Scania’s 125 year history,” announced Henriksson. “The new products and services will bring Scania to new levels of market shares over the next decade,” he added. Mentioned Christian Levin, Head of Sales and Marketing, “To truly deliver on our mission we needed a step change in three critical areas – driver eperience, customer profitability and sustainability. We could only do that by introducing a brand new truck. What we are launching is not just a new truck range, but billions of complete and unique transport solutions. We want our customers to be profitable and sustainable than ever before.” The underlying theme of the launch was a modular system, added performance stages, connectivity and a comprehensive palette of productivity-enhancing services coupled with sustainable transportation solutions. The new truck range thus features a completely overhauled cab, and is actually a part of the S and R model range.

Embodying the Scania image in a true sense according to Levin, the new truck range promises outstanding performance and innovative services. The modular construction of the truck assures ease of maintenance. The cab, which contributes towards the stunning looks of the new truck, according to Levin, goes beyond everything that Scania has done until now. Retaining the connection with the earlier Scania trucks in terms of appearance with its horizontal ribs in the grille, the cab sets the new truck apart. Despite looking typically Scania, this is an all-new truck according to Levin. “At the top of the range,” he explained, “is the S series with a complete flat floor and maximum interior space.” The cab, designed in close cooperation with sister company Porsche Engineering, not only offers maximum interior space, it is also safe and aerodynamic. “Driver environment, fuel economy, optimum use of interior space are some of the key areas that have been focused upon, and have influenced the cab as well as the overall design,” remarked Henriksson. With more variants to follow as part of Scania’s modular system, the company claims to have no less than 24 basic cab models on offer. “Stress is on providing a customised offering for the customers,” explained Henriksson.

 

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Driver experience

Boasting of having a height that should make it comfortable for drivers measuring between 150 and 200 cm of height, the new generation truck, in terms of driver experience, will offer the most ergonomic and driver spacious cab like the earlier Scanias have offered. “Scania engineers found out, that by moving the driver position 65 mm forward, and a tiny 20 mm out, a considerable improvement could be achieved. Both, in terms of visibility as well as ergonomics,” mentioned Levin. Built using high-tensile steel with the structural elements shaped using advanced technology to create a monocoque structure, the task of building the cab proved to be a challenge. According to Göran Hammarberg, Head of Cab Development at Scania, it proved to be a complex process that involved the incorporation of factors like visibility, comfort, legal requirements, ergonomics, good repair-ability, low weight and high safety. Emphasis was laid on building a cab around the trucker so that he has the best working and living environment. From the shape of the steering wheel to the personalised instrument cluster, every element was given considerable attention to turn out a thoroughly driver-centric set up. “The interior quality of this trucks is something that the industry has not seen before,” Levin expressed.

Stress, in design terms, was laid on an athletic build. The truck would have to look muscular. It had to look agile and well proportioned. Mentioned Kristopher Hansen, Head designer, “An important consideration in cab design was fuel economy. Every surface, at the front as well as the sides, and even below the vehicle has been optimised for minimum drag. Even components like wipers, rear-view mirrors and the various lights have been designed with this in mind.” To reduce fuel consumption by two per cent, attention was paid to improve the cab’s ability to cheat the wind. Featuring a large glass surface for improved visibility, the instrument panel is set lower. Door panels are slimmer, and A-pillars have been optimised. Rear-view mirrors have been given due attention too. The mirrors in both the R and S cabs have been given a wide-angle function. Electrically adjustable, the mirrors can also be heated, and are engineered to effectively dampen vibration. Stress was laid on sound, colour and functionality in particular. These would not just enhance the driver experience, but also bring about that feeling of being in command of the magical power underneath, said Hansen.

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Henrik Henriksson, President and CEO of Scania at the launch.

Safety

To improve steer-ability, the erstwhile steered tag axles have turned electro-hydraulic. The steering angle was increased from 14 to 19 degrees to imprive the steering feel. A 30 kg weight reduction are among the various benefits the new truck would offer. First to offer a rollover side curtain airbag (integrated into the cab roof) according to Levin, the new truck has seen an improvement in braking performance. According to Levin, the new truck sets a benchmark in braking performance. This was achieved by moving the front axle forward while introducing a new suspension and braking system. Moving the axle forward has reduced the kneeling effect under heavy braking. New software has also been developed, averred Levin. “The new truck stops 2 m earlier,” he added.

The heart of the system

Presenting Scania with the opportunity to further expand the already broad spectrum of engines on offer, the new truck has been instrumental in taking the range of engines to 55; between seven and 16-litres of volume. During the launch phase of the new truck, the SCR and V8 engines will see further improvement. The Euro-six engines will get new engine management systems, and their installation has been overhauled. Featuring improved cooling capacity, the new truck is powered by an in-line 13-litre, 500 hp engine mated to an automated opticruise gearbox. Found on the new generation truck range wil be the Opticruise transmissions. Mentioned Björn Westman, Scania’s Head of Engine Development, that the engines require only Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) for after treatment of exhaust gases in order to meet Euro-six standards. “Our inline 13-litre engine performs fantastically well with only SCR and a robust fixed geometry turbocharger,” he added. He further explained, “With this addition we are, from a power perspective, offering a concept that will appeal to a large number of customers in a wide range of applications.” Quipped Levin, that with the new range, Scania has succeeded in further reducing the fuel consumption. “A reduction of at least five per cent has been achieved,” he expressed. Levin also emphasised upon this being a true step change, and was achieved through a combination of factors including aerodynamics.

With the new generation truck range, Scania will also introduce super low ratio rear axle gear ratio of 2.35. This will contribute towards reducing fuel consumption by allowing the driver to drive the truck faster and at lower engine revs. Averred Levin that Scania will be offering a variety of alternate fuel propulsion technologies including bio-diesel, bio-ethanol, bio-gas in the form of LNG and CNG, and hybrid. Supported by a long standing experience in the manufacture of commercial vehicles, the new truck range was tested over 10 million kms. Designed to stay longer out there on the road and contribute more to the earning of its operator, the truck accounts for 10 years of development work.

Introducing a lay shaft brake system as standard in the opticruise gearbox, Scania will be globally introducing the new truck range in five phases. Improving the driving experience, the new Scania truck has been test driven for 10 million kilometers. All set to redefine the term ‘premium’, the new generation Scania is set to make it to India too.

The changing world of special application Cvs

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Special application CVs are changing in response to market needs.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

Stacked in one corner of Turbhe industrial area in Navi Mumbai is the Nandan Ground Support Equipment (GSE) facility. The company specialises in the manufacture of special application CVs, and has been doing so from 1991. The first vehicle to come in sight upon entry into the facility is a hi-lift (catering) truck based on the BharatBenz 1617. It has been built for EIH Flight Services (Mauritius), a wholly-owned subsidiary of EIH Limited, a flagship of the Oberoi Group. Operating Oberoi Flight Services and Oberoi Airport Services, the company provides catering services among others to airlines. The hi-lift truck, painted in an attractive shade of green, is equipped with a scissor lift and can lift a load of 3000 kg to a height of between 2.7 m and six-metre. Twelfth such truck to be procured by EIH Flight Services (Mauritius) from Nandan GSE over the last three years, the hi-lift will be

shipped to Mauritius. Called the catering champ, the hi-lift truck according to Raghunandan Jagdish, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Nandan GSE, is in demand in the Asian, African and the Middle East markets.

Airport CVs

Like the catering champ Nandan GSE has built, an airport would typically require numerous other special application vehicles. The market size of such vehicles is difficult to judge given the amount of vehicles procured locally from players like Nandan GSE, and imported from similar such players in the advanced markets of Europe and US. According to Raghunandan, his company commands 95 per cent market share of the hi-lift market in India. Over 200 hi-lifts are exported by the company every year. Those delivered to the local market amount to 60 units on an average. The nature of work of those that cater to the domestic market differs from those that are supplied to the international markets. For example, the hi-lifts that are exported, are built from ground up. They involve the procurement of a truck chassis as well. In the case of domestic order, the client buys the truck of his choice and gives it to converters like Nandan GSE to mount the application superstructure. To build a special application truck, it would take between eight weeks to three months according to Raghunandan. He states, “The task of building a special application truck demands resources and is capital intensive.” The catering champ, has an amount of customisation built in, and features an air-conditioned cabin and a refrigeration unit among others. If the BS IV emission compliance made the BharatBenz truck suitable for the hi-lift application, airports call for special application CVs to feature an automatic transmission as a rule. This may provide an answer as to why airport buses feature automatic transmission. In the case of airport buses, it is the manufacturer of the bus who equips it with an automatic transmission; irrespective of whether it is made by Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland or Cobus. The Cobus, found at most airports around the world features Allison auto transmission. Most airport application trucks or similar such vehicles, feature Allison automatic transmission. To arrive at a robust yet light weight structure, many converters are using reinforced fibre panels and aluminium. Aluminium is claimed to find favour with airport bowsers and refuelling trucks. Steel continues to rule although aluminium is increasingly finding favour in the construction of special application vehicles. Also, composite materials. “A big change is in store for aviation special application CVs,” says Raghunandan.

Change is a constant

With airports expected to adopt higher regulatory standards like advanced emission norms ahead of the industry, it is increasingly becoming clear that change is a constant in the case of aviation special application CVs. If Raghunandan is to be believed, tier-two cities like Lucknow and Varanasi are switching to hi-lifts from vans like the Traveller. Vans are increasingly finding different, and more suitable use; staff carriers among other applications. “The trend,” avers Raghunandan, “is such that trucks are increasingly being retrofitted with hi-lifts.” The hi-lift body, he explains, is often fitted with a Carrier Supra refrigeration unit, which gets temperatures down to zero-degree in under 15 minutes to maintain the strictest HACCP hygiene standards necessary. Regulatory changes, it is clear, are subtly dictating a change in the basic nature of the CVs being deployed for the job. Avers Raghunandan, that Euro-four compliant vehicles are finding more takers. This is ensuring the influx of new brands like BharatBenz in a special application CV marketplace.

Regulatory environment

A rising concern for environmental protection and sustainability is beginning to have a profound effect on airport bound special application CVs. Delhi’s ban on the use of 10 year old diesel vehicles has given rise to replacement demand according to Raghunandan. He further states, that the government has banned the use of farm tractors at Mumbai and Delhi airport terminals. A big change is sweeping through. Special application CV clients are known to demand electric vehicles with emphasis on safety. They are even ready to pay a premium for such vehicles. Forcing a change ahead of the regulatory changes, for converters like Nandan GSE, this is indicating a need to change the way they have been conducting business all these years. Says Raghunandan, that they are studying ways to replace engines with electric motors, and the nature of conversion.

The future

Apart from hi-lifts, bowsers, refuelling trucks (tankers) and tractors, aviation special application CVs also include baggage conveyors, maintenance platforms, water and toilet service units, fuel bowsers and ambulifts. Each has a specific and specialised role to play. As CVs, they have been working hard, and are designed to be reliable and efficient. While there have been instances where a superstructure is transferred from one vehicle to another vehicle since the earlier vehicle is no longer fit to comply, changes in technology is ensuing a big change. For example, the arrival of vaccum and bio-toilets has ensured that the demand for water and toilet service units is waning. Fuel bowsers continue to be popular, and they are increasingly using newer, light-weight materials. Available in both, tow-able and self-propelled type, the bowsers work such that a pump supplies fuel to an aircraft through a DC motor powered by a battery, or through a hand pump. A calibrated meter displays the amount of fuel displaced. Current day bowsers according to Raghunandan use RFID tags in an effort to curb pilferage. The tag facilitates an entire gamut of data collection, which is streamed to a centrally located server, and can be accessed remotely in real time.

Like FAME, which was framed by the government to encourage electric vehicles, tax sops for special application vehicles could bring about a disruptive change, mentions Raghunandan. It would fuel the arrival of newer, safer and more efficient special application CVs in important areas of work like airports, he says. Rather than wait for regulations to dictate a change, steps like tax exemptions and faster depreciation might prove to be better incentives, he feels. With airports likely to employ Euro-six standards ahead of those for on-roads vehicles, the strong winds of change are also finding their way into how various public and private bodies are procuring fire tenders. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) Fire Service is procuring 12 MAN trucks. Currently under fabrication according to Milind V Ogale, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of MIDC Fire Service, the vehicles (fire tenders) will be ready in a couple of months. After the Regional Transport Office formalities are completed they will be deployed at locations across Maharashtra, and will have a 12000 litre water holding capacity. Fire tending operation will be supported by a single pump mounted on the truck. As special application CVs, fire tenders make a critical arsenal for fire fighting bodies. It is not for no reason that the Mumbai Municipal Corporation imported a turntable ladder based on a Mercedes-Benz chassis last year. Early this year they inducted sixteen first attack (first response) trucks based on MAN chassis fabricated by Vijay Fire Vehicles. They are powered by Euro-four engine and an automatic transmission.

Fire fighting

Every fire department is claimed to have the independence to gauge its own requirement, and accordingly upgrade. “Such upgrade and procurement of new vehicles are however done on a case to case basis at each fire station,” states Ogale. “The decision is based on the respective fire department’s geographical spread and the potential fire areas around,” he adds. Ogale is of the opinion that each fire department has a certain requirement of extinguishing media like water, foam, dry-chemical powder and carbon-dioxide. As a result the vehicle specifications are decided based on the fire station’s requirement to hold the extent of extinguishing media. Like in the case of MIDC Fire service, Ogale claims, “We prepared our own tenders specifying an on-board requirement of 4500 litres of water, 550 litres of foam, 50 kg of dry chemical powder and 50 kg of carbon-dioxide with two extinguishers each.” Such individual requirements explains Ogale are crucial for a fire station when it decides to upgrade to a particular fire tender. “The vehicles have to meet the codes prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards,” he adds. MIDC Fire Service, till date, known to procure Volvo Chassis; two units of 8×4 chassis, three units of 4×2 chassis. Additionally a 55 m, 6×4 turntable ladder and hydraulic platforms to deal especially with high-rises have been procured from Germany and Italy.

Speaking on the need to procure mini-fire tenders due to the difficulty in negotiating confined areas , Ogale mentions, that they don’t see the need for them in industrial areas. In industrial areas, he adds, the minimum notified roads are six-metre wide. Mini-tenders are suitable for use in slums or high terrain areas, according to Ogale. Goa, it is claimed, to has purchased mini fire tenders for prompt response. Customised by Pune based Hi-Tech services, the cost of fabrication and installation of life-saving equipment on these vehicles is known to be Rs. 1.89 crores. The vehicles will be stationed at Mapusa and Pernem according to sources aware of the development. On board gadgets on the vehicles are claimed to include a concrete cutter, steel and iron breakers, generators, pneumatic lifting air-bags, multi-gas detectors, hydraulic door-opening kit, breathing apparatus, chemical protective suits and petrol driven rotary rescue saws. Ashok Menon, Director of fire and emergency services, Goa, in an interview is known to mention that the mini rescue tenders could help phase out the old fire tenders. The mini tenders are indicative of a change that is indeed sweeping through municipal special application CVs in response to the rising urbanisation.

Speaking about landmark changes in special application CVs, and the best known perhaps is the arrival of Rosenbauer Panther in 2008. According to Ogale, it was the Rosenbauer Panther 6×6 airport fire tender from Austria, built on a 6×6 caterpillar chassis, and capable of holding 12,500 litres of water apart from 1500 litres of fire retardant foam and 500 kg of dry chemicals on-board to fight fire, that marked the last big change till date. The Panther 6X6 is a common site at most airports in India. It is powered by a 705 hp engine, and can quickly access any part of the airfield. According to Ogale, “The Konkan airport, before it becomes operational, will have to procure such air-field fire tenders.”

In a recent tender, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is known to have invited vendors for an e tendering process to fabricate and supply a 16.2 tonne GVW Hazardous Material (HazMat) vehicle to be mounted on a suitable 4×2 truck chassis for handling chemical accidents with a five years Comprehensive Service Maintenance Contract (CSMC). The vehicle is to be built in accordance with specifications from the Mumbai fire brigade. It will include a crew cabin and have a suitable capacity PTO. The gearbox shall be fully automatic with a torque converter. The suitable capacity PTO should be able to drive a hydraulic pump for ladder movements. It should be Euro-four compliant with a 250 hp (183 kW) engine. Rear axle must be hypoid type with preferably hub reduction and differential lock. An important criteria for the vendor is that the HazMat vehicle shall be designed as per the operational stability and structural strength based on the criteria laid in EN / NFPA standards used for handling chemical accidents and disasters. On the operational front, of the exhaustive set of requirements, an important requirement is that the control system of the vehicle shall be fully tropicalised and the vehicle should be able to operate in the temperature range of up to plus 50 degree centigrade, and in a dusty and humid conditions without reducing the maximum operating limits. The vehicle is to be delivered to Mumbai Fire Brigade (Byculla) after completion, inspection and performance test. Driven by changing needs and regulations, special application CVs are changing. They are also proliferating.

CV’s day out with ZF

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ZF highlighted its technological prowess in CVs by demonstrating next generation transmissions and prototypes.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

The weather gods smiled upon all those who made it to the Aldenhoven test track, 19 kms from the German city of Aachen, on a day in June. It was CV’s day out with ZF Friedrichshafen AG. The German supplier arranged for journalists from the world over to travel to Aldenhoven and sample the latest technology it has had to offer in CVs. It lined up an interesting array of CVs, from a Dodge Ram pick-up to a giant Liebherr LTM 1300 mobile crane! On them were ZF’s transmission family. And, as if that was not enough, the good folks at ZF put out an electric bus with AVE 130 electric portal axles. They also showcased intelligent systems on an innovation truck and an innovation tractor. Peter Lake, Member of Board, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, emphasised upon two culturally diverse entities (ZF and TRW) to work towards a common goal. He drew attention to the addition of an all-new active and passive safety technology division to his company’s organisational structure. ZF’s acquisition of TRW assumes importance in the wake of changes expected in the world of mobility by 2025, in the area of safety, efficiency, networking, automation and electrification. Pointing towards the cross flow of technology between CVs and passenger vehicles, Lake averred, “Technology from passenger vehicles is fast making its way into commercial vehicles.”

Transmision tech

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Having turned the Range Rover Evoque into an exciting SUV by fitting it with a compact, high-tech nine-speed automatic transmission, ZF, at Aldenhoven put out an Iveco Stralis XP truck with its Traxon 12-speed automated transmission. Iveco was the first CV manufacturer to express its interest in the Traxon in 2014. Replacing the AS Tronic transmission, Traxon is highly modular. On the Stralis it came with a twin-clutch, and made for easy driving and good control. Capable of networking with other vehicles through PreVision GPS, the transmission is a modern piece of engineering.On the Stralis it worked smoothly and ensured efficient shifting. While the creeping mode ensured that the truck began rolling the moment the brake pedal was released, the transmission, routing 480 hp of power produced by the 11-litre engine, had the 40,000-tonne truck gather speed and display good agility. Ratios swapped smoothly throughout the drive and the lockup clutch ensured there was no slippage. Claimed to help deliver high fuel efficiency, the transmission, during deceleration saw the integrated hydraulic intarder engage. The intarder saves braking effort of the service brakes.

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Traxon Torque transmission on the six-axle Liebherr LTM 1300-6.2 72-tonne mobile crane (with a longer 78 m boom) highlighted its ability to scale-up. It also highlighted application flexibility, and came fitted with a torque converter instead of a single plate or dual-plate clutch like on the Stralis XP. Mated to a 620 hp, 16.2-litre (eight-cylinder) Liebherr engine, the Traxon Torque scales up the 3000 Nm peak torque generated by the engine to 4800 Nm, adding to the crane’s abilities. If the number of buttons on the instrument panel (to select five different steering programs) and the Bluetooth Terminal (a multi-functional control and display unit that allows remote control of crane functions) were a tad intimidating, the transmission inspired confidence. Finding use with MAN, Iveco, Ford Trucks and Foton, Traxon transmission, claimed sources, offers class leading power-to-weight ratio with the software platform combining electronics with predictive shift strategy and PreVision GPS. Available as a standard component in Ford trucks with Euro-6 driveline, the order mark’s ZF’s first volume production move outside of Europe. Claimed to have a transmission ratio spread of up to 99.7 per cent, Traxon is enabling ZF to reach out to new markets. Offering an option of four reverse gear ratios for highway construction vehicles, Traxon is also capable of finding application in hybrid CVs.

Applied on the DAF Innovation truck, Traxon hybrid transmission has made it possible to couple a 120kW (1000 Nm torque) electric motor to the driveline. Suitable for driveline electrification of long distance trucks, the transmission works such that there is a separating clutch in the bell housing and enables hybrid functionalities like recuperation, start-stop and electric-drive (as a stand alone source of propulsion or as a complimentary source that boosts overall performance). In the generator mode, the hybrid module can be integrated into the power supply of units like those that are used in refrigerated transport. Claimed to be a value addition, Traxon hybrid transmission is claimed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in long-distance trucks to the tune of five per cent. “Due to the considerably higher mileage and fuel consumption of long-distance driving, hybrid technology makes an economic and environmentally friendly solution that pays for itself fairly quickly,” opined Fredrik Staedtler, Head, ZF Commercial Vehicle Technology Division. “Six decibels less noisy than the AS Tronic, the Traxon transmission is capable of a 35 per cent performance improvement over its predecessor,” he added.

Powerline and Ecolife

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The eight-speed automatic Powerline transmission that the German supplier showcased on a big Dodge Ram 3500 pick-up fitted with a 360 hp, 5.9-litre Cummins diesel engine made for an interesting drive. Drawing from passenger vehicle transmission tech of ZF, the Powerline transmission is scalable and future proof. Its development is supported by a thought, that the use of manual transmission will nose dive. Claimed Winfried Grundler, Head, Truck & Van Driveline Technology Business Unit, ZF Commercial Vehicle Technology Division, “The ratio of manual transmissions will nose dive globally from 80 per cent to below 50 per cent.” A light weight construction that weighs 150 kg, the eight-speed unit had the Ram perform admirably. It accelerated well, and the box did a good job of swapping the cogs, both up and down.

Also aimed at gas engines, the Powerline transmission is designed for tasks that involve supplementary power take-offs as well. Its eight gears are claimed to be best suited to address requirements like weight saving, and performance and efficiency enhancement.

ZF demonstrated the abilities of the six-speed Ecolife automatic transmission by putting out two city buses, a VDL Citea and an Irizar. Promising lower fuel consumption, low noise, comfort and performance, the transmission, fitted with start-stop function, aids five to 10 per cent fuel savings according to Andreas Moser, Head, Axle & Transmission Systems for Buses & Coaches, ZF. The start-stop function, said Moser, automatically shuts-off the engine when the bus comes to a standstill, leading to zero fuel-consumption. The start-stop function will be available for engine torques in city buses in the 1,000 to 1,600 Nm torque range. Integrated into the Ecolife transmission is a retarder.

 

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Ecotronic transmission

Based on the nine-speed manual Ecomid transmission, the Ecotronic transmission is aimed at medium-duty trucks. It is claimed to handle torque in the range of 900 and 1500 Nm. A candidate for emerging markets like India, the transmission, a result of systematic design-to-market approach, has an electronic control unit based on the same software platform as the Traxon transmission. An automated manual transmission, Ecotronic comes with drive mode architecture (Eco mode and Power mode). As per the nature of application, the Ecotronic transmission supports optional add-on functions, which enhance its value and reduce the overall lifecycle costs. On a Kamaz 65115, painted in a shade of bright orange, the Ecolife transmission made for any easy drive. If the steering called for an amount of effort to operate, the transmission made for smooth progress, shifting gears at the right time and at the right revs. The transmission complemented the power characteristics of the 260 hp 10.85-litre engine.

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Electric portal axle

Reflecting upon the future, the two rear electric portal ZF axles (AVE 130) of the 18 m Sileo vestibule bus (running in Turkey and Germany) eliminate the need to shift gears. The axles operate via a single planetary gear, and have four 120kW electric motors at either end. Power comes from two 300kWh Lithium-ion phosphate batteries. It takes five hours to charge them using a mobile charger of 64kW. Making up the central drive is an electric motor coupled to a reduction gear. Claimed to offer a range of 300 km on a single charge, the motor revolves at 2500 rpm at the output stage. Designed for serial drive hybrids, the portal axle electric drive is capable of finding use in other electric drive designs. An arrangement can be attained where the IC engine generates electricity rather than propel the bus. The fact that the middle axle pulls the bus instead of the rear axle pushing makes the Sileo stand out.

‘SafeRange’ truck

Attracting the most attention, the ‘SafeRange’ manoeuvreing truck that ZF showcased at Aldenhoven deploys sensors, intelligent electronics and mechatronic systems. Establishing communication with the depot, the truck self manoeuvres to the loading dock with precision. Born as a concept in 2014 according to Winfried Gründler, head of Truck and Van Drive line Technology, Commercial Vehicle Technology Division, ZF, the development enables a long and heavy-duty truck to be easily manoeuvred with the help of a ‘tablet’. Using proprietary hardware and commercially available systems, ZF, with the use of algorithms has the system, through a camera fitted on the windshield accurately, analyse images. The system sends signals to the ZF TRW active electric power steering ReAX and Traxon hybrid auto transmission to steer the truck up to the loading dock. Use of electricity ensures zero emissions. The manoeuvre is controlled by the driver from inside the cabin by using a ‘tablet’.

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Intelligent off-highway solutions

ZF has integrated intelligent system into a tractor. Six cameras mounted on the driver’s cab and the hood act as the vehicle’s sensory organs. A computer analyses the images from the camera and generates a surround-view image of the tractor’s spatial environment. The driver can view this image on a tablet from various perspectives, including a bird’s-eye view. He can also see an overview of the tractor’s movements. In case the radio contact between the ‘tablet’ (the driver is operating) and the machine breaks, the tractor stops. The maxium forward remote manoeuvring speed is four-km per hour; maximum reverse speed is two-km per hour. Laced with a pedestrian detection function, the drivetrain electrification is by ZF TERRA+ generator module. The all-wheel-drive function and the electrical boost function from the single-wheel drive on the trailer interact and complement each other delivering optimum traction management. An electric steering and ZF’s Terramatic transmission add to the equation. The tractor and trailer as a combination can tackle muddy terrain as well as uphill gradients of up to 30 per cent.

 

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Evasive Manoeuvre Assist

Perhaps the most thrilling of all the demonstrations at Aldenhoven was the Evasive Manoeuvre Assist (EMA). It involved a truck travelling at 80 kmph, evading obstructions in its path. While the truck braked to a complete halt in front of an obstacle, the driver did not even bother to operate the wheel or the brake! Reflecting upon autonomous CV tech, the EMA detects, warns and initiates alert mode for active braking and steering. Developed in co-operation with Wabco, the technology enables automatic steering of tractor-trailers around obstructions and aids in prevention of rear-end collision. European Union regulations, claimed ZF sources, require newly registered trucks to be fitted with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) and Lane Departure Warning systems (LDW). This prompted the company to incorporate the next level of active safety systems into the Innovation Truck.

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EMA along with Highway Driving Assist (HDA) utilises advanced sensors that can ‘see’, ‘think’ and ‘act’ in the nick of time. Mentioned Mitja Schulz, Senior Vice President & General Manager Commercial Steering Systems, ZF TRW, “Our innovative function ensures that a loaded semi-trailer simultaneously evades, brakes and stabilises automatically. This also avoids rear-end collisions.” Designed to overcome the shortcomings of sudden manual avoidance manoeuvres according to Schulz, the driver can override EMA at any time during the autonomous evasive manoeuvre by simply taking control of the steering wheel, brakes and the throttle. “We can have the HDA ready for volume production in approximately two years. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will benefit from these safety improvements. It will by then be absolutely ready to meet all requirements needed for truck platooning,” averred Schulz. Lateral EMA continues to be a challenge, and would mean equipping the truck with a 360-degree field of view. Considering the range of technologies ZF has been introducing as well as developing, it is quite clear, that the future is not just looking bright, it is also looking safe.

Detagtive logistics

‘deTAGtive logistics’ developed by ZF’s explores the connectivity factor crucial to the logistics industry. The platform is engineered to enable transparent fleet management, reduce zero load instances, monitor fuel consumption and allow drivers to have their rest periods as part of route planning. Able to only track the vehicles until now, dispatchers will now be able to track the cargo as well. The platform allows a constantly cargo check, and is claimed to have been bundled with a user friendly software package. Said to report previously ignored details like the temperature range or the effect of vibration on the cargo, the platform is relatively easy to install using Bluetooth Smart Technology. The battery powered sensors, with a surface area smaller than that of a business card, can be easily installed almost anywhere without the need for extensive cabling. They can be used on transport containers, pallets and swap bodies for up to five years before being recycled. The tags can communicate with existing telematics hardware and the Openmatics’ stationary TAG finder as well as smart phones and tablets.

Eicher Pro 1049 marks a smart move

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The new Eicher Pro 1049 marks Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle’s entry into the sub-five tonne truck segment.

Story & photos by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

The Eicher Pro 1049 is Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle’s (VECV) first sub-five tonne offering. Derived from the 1059XP, a 7.2-tonne GVW truck, the 1049 looks modern and attractive. It comes from a company whose trucks in the nine- to 16-tonne segments are known to have helped transporters to build their business. One look at the specifications of the 1049, and it is clear that this truck would compete against the likes of Tata 407 and Mahindra Cab King. Adding to the Pro 1000 Series, the 1049 is a forward control design. Flaunting good levels of fit and finish, the truck, offering a payload capacity of 2.8-tonne, has a GVW of 4.9-tonnes. Sharing the cabin with the 1059XP, it may be easy to mistake the 1049 for a 1059XP and vice versa. Those who are familiar with the 1059XP will agree that the cabin of the 1049 is spacious. Spacious it is indeed. It also hints at commonality of parts and the capability of suppliers. According to R S Sachdeva, Executive Vice President – Technology, VECV, “An ‘Indian-ised’ version of Volvo Group’s supplier development and procurement system called the ‘SIPD’ is deployed at VECV.” The system, said Sachdeva, not only makes for a free flow of know how at either end, it also ensures transparency that provides a supplier the much needed assurance to conduct business. Apart from streamlining the processes and supplier interaction, the SIPD also has an effect on the entire product lifecycle, which helps the dealer to attend to the service requirements of the truck operator. With an eye on the Euro 6 legislation, VECV has been investing in world-class testing facilities at its plant at Pithampur.

Considering the amount of work that is on to meet the Euro 6 emission regulations that are scheduled to be implemented by 2020, it did not come as a surprise when Sachdeva averred that the 1049 will be a platform for packaging technology. Technology that would involve packaging an entire chemical plant on the truck to meet Euro 6 regulations. No surprises there; dominating the front fascia of the 1049 is a composite winged pseudo-grille. It contributes to the Eicher business look of the truck. The attractive looking vertically structured clear lens headlamps also contribute to the business look. A neat looking bumper at the bottom and a large windshield at the top complete the equation. They add a touch of modernity to the truck’s appearance.

Smart and attractive

Marking the sides are doors that open lower down. They ensure easy access. The lowered door windows ensure good visibility. They help notice other road users that may be travelling besides the truck, especially when turning. The large mirrors are helpful too. Viewed from a three-fourth angle, the 1049 looks cute, almost toy-ish. It draws attention despite a sense of design familiarity. Expected to be more of an urban dweller, attention has been paid towards manoeuvrability. The 1049 may be wide to ensure good cabin space and loading area, it is short enough to support good manoeuvrability. A clue is the small rear overhang of the truck. Offered by a company that commands 35 per cent market share in the 5.9- to 14-tonne category, the 1049 promises superior fuel efficiency and loading capacity. Mentioned Sachdeva, “The 1049 offers 10 per cent higher fuel efficiency.” “In a market that accounts for 9000-1000 units per year, this truck has been engineered to address customer needs such as driving comfort, NVH, good looks, manoeuvrability, and an ability to offer maximum fuel efficiency and load carrying capacity,” he added. The loading tray of the 1049 measures 3068 mm in length, and 1850 mm in width. According to Sachdeva, the 1049 is aimed at 42 application areas. These include fruits and vegetables, FMCG, white goods, beverages, milk, parcel and courier, poultry, water bottles, ecommerce and domestic LPG cylinders.

Most suitable

Look beyond the modern appearance of the 1049 and its cute looks, a clear business proposition is visible. It may have taken VECV an amount of time to enter the sub-five tonne segment, it is however clear that a good amount of homework has gone into the development of the product. Stated Sachdeva, “We were busy expanding our reach in the heavy-duty and medium duty segments. The decision to enter the sub-five tonne segment was taken two years ago. It was found that the customer did not have a suitable offering in the segment. The 1049, apart from the most powerful engine in its class at 70 kW, also sports the widest cabin in its class.” From behind the two-spoke wheel, the view ahead is uninterrupted. The composite dashboard looks modern. Its hard to touch surface is built to last long. The large instrument console is made up of two large dials for speedo and tacho each. There are two small dials for fuel and temperature, and a LCD readout that indicates time and odo apart from a host of other information like the date of next service, etc. The two-point seat belt is a bit of a shock. The seat is comfortable even though it looks flat. The passenger seat is big enough to seat two people. Space, it is clear, is in good supply. Ergonomically well sorted, attention has also been paid to keep noise, vibration and harshness levels low.

 

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Drive

Turn the key, and not much happens. The instruments do a diagnostic run and are ready to communicate. Another turn of the key wakes up the 95 hp, 3.3-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged inter-cooled diesel engine. Located under the seat, the engine is longitudinally placed with the drive routed to the rear wheels. Mechanically governed (electronically governed in BS IV model) according to Sachdeva, the engine belongs to the legacy range of engines that include a 3-litre engine, a 3.8-litre engine and a 5.2-litre engine. Slot into first – the five-speed transmission feels surprisingly easy to operate. Turn the steering to pull out of the parking slot. Good visibility makes it easy to drive out of tight spots. Despite being wide, the 1049 is easy to manoeuvre. The steering is light, and the truck responds well to inputs. Riding on 7.00 x 16 – 16PR tyres, the 1049 feels agile. The first ratio is engineered for torque. Progress in speed is achieved in the second and third gear. The clutch is light to operate, and the throw of the gears is not as long. Speeds in the region of 50-60 kmph are achieved with ease. A twisty mountain stretch on the outskirts of Pithampur did not pose any problem for the 1049 in terms of momentum. The vacuum assisted exhaust brake proved useful while descending the hill.

With power starting to roll in from lower down, the 1049 feels spritely. A good supply of power is felt as revs built past 1500 rpm. Rather than peak at a certain rpm, torque is spread over a portion of the rev range, and results in good drive-ability. The BS III version produces 285 Nm of peak torque at 1440 rpm. The (common-rail) BS IV version makes 300 Nm @ 1600-1800 rpm. Past the busy main thoroughfare of Pithampur, and on the Agra Bombay highway, the 1049 displayed its ability to gather speed. The maximum speed is claimed to be limited at 100 kmph. Noise inside the cabin is kept well under control even at good speeds. It is easy to converse even with the windows rolled down. At no point during the drive did the vibrations feel overwhelming. This would bode well for an operator who is also likely to use the truck as a personal transport beyond working hours. It is at this point, that it is easy to understand that the owner of such a truck is a daily wage earner, and operates in the urban jungle. He is also keen that his truck looks good, and is efficient as well as comfortable.

 

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Ride comfort

The driving position of the 1049 is comfortable. The arrangement of the pedals, especially the brake pedal, takes some time to get used to. The braking action is progressive and inspires confidence. The brakes, hydraulic in nature, exert a strong bite. Even without load, the ride of the 1049 felt surprisingly pliant. The suspension is made up of semi-elliptic laminated leaf springs and shock absorbers. If there was anything that managed to ruffle the ride of the 1049, it were the crazy variety of speed breakers (speed humps) that dot the roads leading out of Pithampur, and into it.

Cost optimisation

Claimed to offer 10 per cent higher fuel efficiency over its competitors, the 1049 is a result of much cost optimisation. According to Sachdeva, each aspect of the truck, including interior noise, cabin comfort, manoeuvrability, power, turnaround time, fuel efficiency, etc., has been visited. Price too has been visited. The 1049 is competitively priced. “In the third month of introduction, we have received orders worth 500 units. Due to capacity constraint, we have been able to deliver 150-200 units only. Our projection is that this segment will go up from the current 10,000 numbers to 40,000 units in the next five-to-six years,” said Sachdeva. Having turned its attention to the sub-five tonne space, VECV is investing a good deal towards further development of new products and aggregates. The focus is on meeting the BS VI norms. It is at this level, that the challenge of packaging technology like EGR and SCR in a truck the size of 1049 is most severe, averred Sachdeva. By 2020, it may be safe to expect VECV to spring out a whole new generation of CVs, complete with new cabins, new engines, packaging (EGR and SCR), technologies (like AMT, hybrid and electric) and more. Sachdeva mentioned that the 1049 may be their first sub-five tonne offering, it is in no way their last. Apart from new variants of the 1049, Sachdeva also hinted at new products, new engines and more. In view of the changing equations at VECV, the Eicher Pro 1049, there’s no doubt, marks a smart move.

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R S Sachdeva, Executive Vice President – Technology, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles Ltd.

What went into the development and launch of the Eicher Pro 1049?

The Volvo Eicher range has been from 9-tonnes to 49-tonnes. In the LMD, we have a range of 5.9-tonne to 14-tonnes trucks. We have been very strong in this segment and have been commanding a market share of 30 to 35 per cent. Month after month we have been gaining the market share. We were contemplating upon entering the sub-5 tonne segment. This market is largely dominated by one or two players. Growth has been slow coming to this segment. It hovers in the region of 9000 to 10,000 units. The slow growth, we feel, has been because of the dearth of suitable products to address of the needs of buyers in this segment. Customers in this segment want driving comfort and good looks since they are mostly small fleet operators that are likely to operate in a city (in urban areas). They want the vehicle to be aesthetically pleasing; the cabin should be spacious and comfortable, and manoeuvrability should be good. The vehicle should deliver maximum fuel efficiency and load carrying capacity. We took an amount of time despite being certain of entering into this segment. We were busy pushing into the heavy-duty truck territory, and did not prioritise entry into the sub-5 tonne segment. We were also busy increasing our LMD market share at the higher end. Our focus towards the sub-5 tonne segment was drawn two years ago. We came to realise that the customer does not have a good offering. We then conceptualised and developed the 1049.

How would you define the 1049 against the current segment offerings?

Powering the 1049 is the most powerful engine in the segment at 70kW. The cabin is the widest in the segment. Available in BS III and BS IV versions, we concentrated on engineering a suitable driveline and drive comfort. The wheelbase of the truck is small but the width is more. This results in high level of manoeuvrability. With no compromise in the loading area, the 1049, in the benchmarking exercise that we carried out, was found to be over 10 per cent fuel efficient than the competitors. The load body has been so engineered that it can aid carriage of a certain number of LPG cylinders. The 1049 is aimed at gas cylinder transportation, vegetable transportation, and numerous other transportation applications. To ensure this, we optimised the width such that the truck can carry maximum number of crates or cylinders.

What kind of numbers do you expect the 1049 to deliver?

The challenge is that we do not have the capacity. We are operating at almost 110 or 120 per cent. Every month it is a struggle to meet the market demand. This is because the HD market has gone up by 30 per cent. The LMD market has gone up by 10 to 15 per cent. Our share in the bus market is also increasing. Our market share is actually growing in all the segments that we are present in. We are finding it difficult to produce enough 1049. We have introduced the 1049 in few markets. In the third month of introduction we have got an order of 500. We have however been able to supply 150-200 units. Customer reception is very good. In terms of interior noise, cabin comfort and manoeuvrability, power, fuel efficiency and turn around time, the 1049 is more apt. It is priced cost competitively. We are confident of expanding the market segment of 1049 from the current 10,000 numbers to 40,000 numbers in the next five to six years. The 1049 is our first offering in this segment, it is not the last.

What does the 1049 indicate about the segment future?

We are investing a good deal of money in the segment the 1049 is. In the next three to six years, at the Euro 6 level, the product offering will be completely new. There will be next generation cabin, next generation engine and packaging which would not just include conventional aggregates but also advanced ones like AMT, hybrid and electric. The sub-5 tonne segment, which was unattended by us until now, will get a lot of attention. The 1049 with a 4.9-tonne GVW offers a payload of 2.8-tonnes. Not very different from our current LMD range, the 1049 is our first sub-5 tonne offering.

With the 1049 launched, what are your plans?

For the future, we are working on a complete product range. These would include new engines. The plan will unfold as we proceed. Preparations are on to meet the Euro 6 emission regulations. In the sub-5 tonne range, there will be next generation cabs and engines. The Government and the judiciary are keen that we develop Euro 6 technology and vehicles. Euro 6 development is the most critical that we have done thus far. In this system, the emission comes down by 80 per cent. Euro 6 would mean the carriage of a complete chemical plant on a truck, including the EGR, EPF, SCR, and a controlled OBD system. The chemical plant on the truck would act as an air purifier. Exhaust on Euro 6 is going to be cleaner than the Delhi air.

How challenging would it be to package a chemical plant on a light truck like the 1049?

It is a key challenge in front of us. When one speaks about a smaller vehicle, the duty cycle is such that it calls for a cold EGR. This is a more complex technology. This poses packaging challenges since there’s the EGR system, the DPF system, and the DOC system that needs to be included. There’s also the SCR system, the ammonia slip sensor, the OBD system, urea injection system and the Adblue tank. It is tough to package all this on a smaller wheelbase truck. Associated issues like the lack of prescribed Adblue quality will mean the engine can go into limp mode as the amount of ammonia increases. The vehicle may come to a standstill.

Would the 1049 play a guinea pig for packaging new technologies?

The packaging success achieved on the 1049 will make it easy to package products up to 14-tonnes. The complex modularity will be much more in terms of packaging when it comes to smaller and lighter products. Once successful on a truck like the 1049 technology packaging can be carried forward to other products easily.

How many application areas are you looking at for the 1049?

We are looking at 42 applications in total. We will be progressively adding more application areas. We could also look at areas like refuse trucks, parcel van, and as a last mile connectivity solution for ecommerce players.

What is the buyer profile of the 1049?

The buyer of a 1049 would be a owner operator typically. He is likely to have migrated from an SCV to this vehicle. His aspirations are higher. He is looking for a vehicle that looks good; doubles up as his family transportation. He is a daily earner. Fuel efficiency and comfort are the key drivers for this segment. To keep the maintenance cost low, we have engineered the 1049 to have longer drain interval times. The drain intervals for the engine, transmission, axle, coolant and the steering gear are far longer than what the competition offers. Service frequency is half of that of the competition. A lot of technology has gone into the wear and tear parts like bushes. Their replacement cycle has been redefined.

Did you receive any inputs from the Volvo Group?

The styling of this cab has been done by Volvo like the other Pro series trucks, at the UD styling studio in Japan. The challenge was to keep the cost structure Indian and the appeal, mass market oriented. We get help from Volvo for validation. We are investing in our engine development facility by keeping in sight the Euro 6 emission regulations.

How has the Eicher legacy coupled with the Volvo philosophy to achieve success?

Out of the five engines we have, three are legacy engines and two are Volvo engines. They range between 3- and 8-litre, and power trucks ranging from sub-5 tonne 1049 to 49-tonne trucks that we offer. The legacy engines have been upgraded to BS III and BS IV emission norms with Volvo technology. All the five engines thus use Volvo ‘EMS’ (Engine Management System) system and Volvo cruise control technology. The fuel injection system is from Volvo, developed jointly with Denso of Japan. The engine control and operating system is Volvo derived. This was done because the engine’s ability to perform and be frugal. The other was to bring down the maintenance cost. There’s a common tech tool at the dealership that can be used to scan all the engines. It also helps with building competency.

How much commonality of parts did you invest in while developing the 1049?

There’s commonality in two key aggregates – cabin and engine. This would help us with cost competitiveness.

Are you expanding capacity since you are doing over 100 per cent?

We are increasing the capacity at the Pithampur plant. We are building a new HD line. We are investing at Pithampur because the economies of scale are much better. We have a well developed ecosystem with suppliers close by. The incremental costs are much lower. We have 150 acre land at Bhopal, and a plant over it. Consider this: Our historical high has been 48,000 vehicles so far. This year we will do more than 60,000 vehicles. We have produced over 16,000 trucks in the first three months of the this fiscal already. We are looking at 28 to 30 per cent growth this year. We are confident that we can carry out an incremental increase in capacity of 90,000 units before shifting to Bhopal.

As part of the Volvo Group how do you look at the future of Eicher as a brand?

The future, I think, is bright. This is one of the best JVs in the Volvo Group. Whatever technology we have absorbed from Volvo has been at an Indian cost. We continue to increase our market share in each segment. We are offering superior products with latest technology at mass market prices. We have been successful in localising technologies in India. If the 5- and 8-litre engines made at the Volvo Eicher Powertrain Technology plant were sourced from Japan they would have worked out to be much costlier. Post complete localisation and development, the cost of the engines is on par with the engines the competition offers. These engines have also been absorbed by many Volvo entities around the world, including Volvo Penta. They go to Thailand for the Quester range. In the next few years, you will see the two engines made here powering many new vehicles in different markets.

What role have the suppliers come to play in technology absorption and ‘Indianisation’?

Our dealing with the suppliers is on fair grounds. We focus on long-term relationships. We ensure good communication with the suppliers. Every month we convey to suppliers what we sold last month, and what is our next three months plan. We may falter on some of our plans by 5 to 7 per cent. The information however helps the suppliers to gear up for the future. The information also helps him to ascertain how the industry is progressing. Supplier relations at Eicher assume high priority, and are a part of Eicher’s DNA. In case of a crisis (the Chennai crisis for example; the 2011 crisis that saw suppliers like Bosch, Axle India, Brakes India and Meritor India ration their supply due to enormous shortage), we have observed that irrespective of the numbers we do we are given high priority. Our relation with the suppliers is devoid of any fear. Every year we conduct a supplier conference at Indore. Over 800 suppliers attend this conference. Much communication takes place. We get an opportunity to tell suppliers of our plans and what we would expect from them. We, at VECV, have been sourcing parts from our suppliers for export to Volvo entities. Engine parts particularly, that go into Euro 6 engines.

How does supplier relation help engineer new platforms like the 1049?

Suppliers have a definitive involvement in product engineering. In the Volvo Group, SIPD (Supplier Development Involvement Development) is particularly strong. This is especially the case in terms of technology. SIPD is about upfront involvement of the supplier. We have mapped and introduced SIPD at VECV. Under SIPD, we have got a completely new product development process. The key critical requirement of this process is that technology development has to happen prior to product development. Consider technology development of Euro 6 for example. It involves DPF or high efficiency SCR development. This technology, as per the process, should be developed independent of, and prior to the development of the product. Such a development is tough to perceive without supplier involvement. SIPD has to start right at the concept stage of the product. Supplier should be called at the concept gate itself; he should be told about the company’s aspiration and vision, and the inputs of the suppliers should be taken. Some of the module suppliers can directly develop. Some eight to 10 suppliers we have started to involve in the SIPD process. For example, IAC, which does cab interior parts development. There’s Bosch, Brakes India, Meritor, etc. They come and understand the concept, and what we are trying to do. They then commit their modules with our vehicle integration team. They also participate in the validation and DVP programs.

Does it somewhere indicate that suppliers are turning innovators?

We are benefited by the innovations of our suppliers. For their module they are the best brains. Many times we have found out that they have a better idea about their module. When it comes to the product overall, we may have a better idea. When it comes to their module, they have a better idea. Consider a turbocharger for example. To expect a turbocharger to extract better fuel efficiency, it is the turbocharger supplier who has a better idea. We respect that. Many times it gets difficult to crack an equation pertaining to achieving better fuel efficiency. Involving the suppliers helps. It is quite likely that a supplier will come out with an idea that we have not thought of. Such instances have happened with Cummins Turbo Technologies, with BorgWarner, and with many other suppliers. We ‘Indianised’ Volvo SIPD since in Europe a supplier is expected to stand on his own. In India, the competency levels are not so high unless the OEM works and develops that supplier. That calls for a slightly different approach under SIPD. In Europe, the supplier accountability aspect is very high. In India, past the big suppliers, there may be a need to hand hold the suppliers and mentor them.

Considering the supplier relations and ways of working, how modular is the 1049?

The 1049 is highly modular. It reflects our ambition to evaluate the complete area below five-tonnes. Modularity helps us to reduce the number and variety of parts, and to better organise the parts. It also helps at the store level, and at the aftermarket level.

erickshaws proliferate

humrahi DX psd01 copy Humrahi-passenger copy IMG_4658 copy IMG_20160624_124425 copy IMG_20160624_124531 copy IMG_20160624_124639 copy IMG_20160624_124809 copy IMG_20160624_124923 copy IMG_20160624_124956 copy IMG_20160624_125220 copy IMG_20160624_125648 copy L-R,  Kohei Oishi, (Director, North India), Masanori Takahashi (Director, Production), Teppei Seki (Managing Director), Mayank Bhardwaj (Assistant Manager) copy Mr. Ayush Lohia, CEO, Lohia Auto Industries. copy Right -Mr.Göran Folkesson, Clean Motion CEO and Left -Mr. Anil Arora, Country Head, Clean Motion India copy

 

erickshaws are proliferating, bringing with them a hope for a greener and economically stable future.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Hailing from Muzzaffarpur, a small town in Bihar, Dalbeer Kumar drives an erickshaw. Until three months ago he used to pull a cycle rickshaw in the scorching heat and freezing cold of Delhi NCR. He earned between Rs.300 and Rs.350 per day pulling a cycle rickshaw. In case of the erickshaw, Dalbeer’s daily income has risen two-folds, and this does not include the Rs.300 rent he pays per day for hiring an erickshaw. Worldly wise, Dalbeer is not keen to buy his own erickshaw as he thinks that it will be obsolete in less than three years. Happy and feeling relieved to be away from the inhuman conditions under which be pulled a cycle rickshaw, Dalbeer does not seem to be bothered by the fact that erickshaws do not comply with the legal aspects of the Motor Vehicle Act. He is instead concerned about the daily expenses he incurs operating an erickshaw, including the amount spent on electricity to charge the batteries overnight. Dalbeer is not alone. There are hundred such erickshaw operators in Delhi NCR who have warmed up to erickshaws, and are finding it a means to feed their families as well as lead a better life.

Last mile connectivity; an integral part of life

For people living in the Delhi National Capital Region, erickshaws have become an integral part of their daily travel. The connectivity that an erickshaw offers takes such precedence that any thought about it being illegal is pushed to the rear. A big reason for the proliferation of erickshaws is how cost effective they are. Providing last mile connectivity, erickshaws over cycle rickshaws are faster and almost noiseless. They do not emit either, and even though the source of electricity that they consume makes them liable for scrutiny in terms of emissions. What began as an unorganised industry that would source parts from China to assemble erickshaws and offer them has turned into a fairly organised trade with the entry of private manufacturing firms in the last few years. Their entry could be linked with the encouragement towards using alternate fuel vehicles by the current government to an extent. The long pending amendment of erickshaws into the Motor Vehicle Act took place last year. The rate of proliferation of erickshaws have since gone up. From amounting to minuscule numbers a few years back, the industry today stands at an estimated 36,000 unit sales per annum. This does not include the sales per centage of the unorganised part of the industry, which is claimed to be a whopping 90 per cent. The good part is, the organised players are not leaving any stone unturned to grab a larger pie of the rising erickshaw market. The government, claim industry sources, is aiming to graduate to a 100 per cent electric vehicle nation by the year 2030.

MoRTH notification

Under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway (MoRTH) notification of October 2014, an erickshaw operated legally should be battery operated with dimensions not exceeding 2800 mm in length, 1800 mm in width and 1000 mm in height. It should have a seating capacity of four excluding the driver. The maximum luggage carrying capacity should be 40 kgs. The erickshaw should be registered, and have a contract carriage permit. The person operating an erickshaw should hold a valid driving license. The ground situation, it is clear, is different after talking to a few erickshaw operators. A good deal of erickshaws out there do not seem to carry a license plate. Compliance, it does not take long to find out, is low. The reason for this is said to be the availability of lesser erickshaws at 60 per cent of the cost of a regularised erickshaw. With erickshaws finding their way into various states of India, state governments like Haryana, Rajasthan and Karnataka seem to be keen to channelise the industry. Good support seems to be coming from these states even with states like Delhi lowering VAT on such vehicles to five per cent. Delhi Government is also known to have offered financial support of Rs.30,000 for erickshaw retrofitment as per the norms of the transport department, and a subsidy of Rs.15,000 for registration of erickshaws. To increase penetration in areas like Punjab, vehicle manufacturers have been asking for exemption of VAT, which hovers at 14.30 per cent. Demand for erickshaws from southern states is not as strong yet. Not the one to lose hope, players from the organised part of the trade are hopeful of the demand picking up in South India as well. When it does, they are prepared to grab a market share.

Changing environment

Competition in the organised part of the erickshaw industry is growing. It it attracting the entry of foreign players like Sweden’s Clean Motion and Japan’s Terra Motors. In the last six months, there has been a slew of eco-friendly products from the organised part of the industry. Most are, it is clear, targeting last mile connectivity. And, it is not so much about cargo movement as it is about moving people. Noida-based Lohia Auto launched ‘Narain’ series of erickshaws that flaunt a chain-drive, to transmit power and torque to the rear wheels. The advantage of employing a chain-drive is claimed to be durability and costs apart from a longer motor and battery life. Suspension is hydraulic for a more pliant ride. Rated top speed is 25kmph. A brushless electric motor is used, and the battery is of the 105-milliampere hour capacity. Powering the ‘Narain’ erickshaw is a 1,950-watt BLDC geared motor for both, the passenger and cargo version. Last year, Lohia Auto launched ‘Humrahi’ erickshaw series. This one’s powered by a 80 or 100-ampere hour lead acid battery. “The central government is getting serious about the success of electric vehicles. More and more states are asking for regularising erickshaws. It is necessary to go step-by-step and develop a strong foothold. Once the channel is standardised, it will have the right environment to grow faster,” said Ayush Lohia, CEO, Lohia Auto Industries. The manufacturing facility of Lohia Auto at Kashipur in Uttarakhand is capable of producing one-lakh units of two-wheelers, diesel three-wheelers and erickshaws. The current rate of operation is approximately 20 per cent of the capacity. By the end of this fiscal, Lohia Auto plans to hike it to 35 per cent.

With an investment of Rs.30 crore, Pune-based Kinetic Green wants to keep ahead of the competition. The company won an order of Rs.400 crore recently for the supply of erickshaws under Uttar Pradesh’s ‘Yojna’ erickshaw scheme. Kinetic would be supplying 27000 units of its Safar model, which has been approved by ARAI. Questions sent to the company failed to elicit response till the time of going to press.

Ecological baggage

Pointing at the rising potential of erickshaws as well as the government push for electric vehicles, an industry expert questioned the ecological baggage presented by lead acid batteries, their cyclability, and if Lithium-ion batteries is the way to the future. He opined that IPR will hold the key to the development of new technologies and products in the erickshaw space. Said Zafar Equbal, CEO of Sonipat-based Goenka Electric Motor Vehicle, that it is important to visualise the needs of the potential customer. He added, “For our erickshaws which are powered by lead acid batteries, we have also developed a concept of battery bank with our dealers, which can replace the ‘drained’ batteries with charged ones within a few minutes and help the erickshaw operator clock the maximum uptime.” Financing of erickshaws continues to be challenge. Even in case of those that are offered by the organised part of the market. Averred Equbal, “By understanding the need for providing vehicles at easy finance schemes we have also tied up with Punjab National Bank to push erickshaw sales pan-India.”

Zbee’s producer Clean Motion India has invested Rs.6.3 crores in a facility at Faridabad. Plans are said to be underway to increase the investment ten fold by the end of next year. Homologated under the L5 category of International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT), the Zbee flaunts a fibre reinforced plastic body, which limits the kerb weight to 270 kgs. This allows it to attain a stop speed of 45 kmph. According to Anil Arora, Country Head, Clean Motion India, the Zbee is assembled in India from CKD kits that are imported from Sweden. “We will touch a localisation level of 70 per cent before the year ends. This would help us to bring down the cost by 50 per cent,” mentioned Arora. Close to 10 Zbees are already plying in Gurgaon at DLF CyberHub. According to Arora, 1,000 units of Zbee will hit the market before the end of FY2017. The Y4 Alfa erickshaw that Terra Motors has introduced in the first quarter of 2016 is fully compliant with the regulations of MoRTH and is also ARAI certified. It was developed with local R&D support and carries high localisation level of 95 per cent to keep costs down. Though the company is currently importing the rear axle from China, according to Kohei Oishi, Director, North India for Terra Motors, in the next three to four months, 100 per cent localisation will be achieved. “Quality testing is going on for various parts,” he mentioned. Aware of the market for such vehicles growing, Oishi claims that Terra Motors will appoint new dealers in the current financial year.

Challenges ahead

erickshaws from the unorganised part of the industry continue to be a big impediment for the growth of organised players. One erickshaw from an organised player costs Rs. one-lakh or more. That of a player from the unorganised part costs Rs.70,000. This is perhaps the reason why many organised players have not been able to make money. Despite aiming at higher localisation, organised players have not been able to achieve good return on investment. Also, the vehicles bought from organised players being legal give rise to other challenges like vehicle registration and permit procurement. “The government has to come forward. They have the capability. There is no subsidy on erickshaws under the FAME outlay. If there was, manufacturers would have been able to break even. Even today, erickshaw manufacturers are finding it tough to crack the market,” said Lohia. Even though Lithium-ion batteries offer better performance and life, most erickshaw manufacturers are packaging lead acid batteries. This stems from the fact that erickshaw buyers continue to be cost averse. “Lithium-ion batteries cost six times more than a typical lead acid battery. It costs almost the same it takes to buy an erickshaw with lead acid battery in it. There is not much demand for Lithium-ion batteries therefore,” said Equbal. Zbee is perhaps the only erickshaw as of current that comes with an advanced Lithium-ion battery as standard. It can be quickly recharged in two hours for a 50 km run.

The need to recharge the batteries of an electric vehicle is its biggest limiting factor. Not because they have to be charged, but because it takes a good amount of time to charge them. The need to charge them regularly calls for an efficient supporting infrastructure. Stressing upon this very need, Sohinder Gill, CEO, Hero Electric India, averred that charging stations at multiple locations will play a crucial role in the development of the erickshaw market. “Due to lack of support, people are forced to use the electricity primed for domestic use that ultimately results in power theft,” he added. Gill expressed that there is a need to incentivise erickshaw manufacturers to encourage them to produce green vehicles. Said Oishi, “Power and mileage matter most for an erickshaw operator. It is very important to focus on these two factors to reduce the cost of operations. Since battery is one of the most expensive parts in an erickshaw, it is set to play a crucial role in determining the sales.” Experts assert that erickshaws technically have less constraints as compared to other automobiles. Reforms and changes in terms of safety, they add, has the chance of adversely affecting the industry where the organised players are plagued by low returns. The issue of reforms would have to be tackled carefully and swiftly therefore.

Awareness is the key

In some parts of the nation, even the distribution channel for the organised players is seen gasping for breath. Despite aggressive marketing, manufacturers seem cautious to expand to newer markets. The reason perhaps is the pending approvals in south Indian states. This merits a question: If there is a need to create awaraness about erickshaws and their abilities to serve the missing link in last mile connectivity? The Central Government is pushing erickshaws, but the states should also respond favourably. Under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna, prime minister Narendra Modi distributed 5100 erickshaws in Uttar Pradesh recently. Lucknow-based micro credit firm Bhartiya Micro Credit has agreed to finance 2000 units of erickshaws, which will be available at a daily installment of less than Rs.250 for two years. Despite a lucrative deal, less than ten takers turned up for the completion of registration of such vehicles. No more than 400 learning driving licences have been issued for erickshaws. Under such circumstances, the need to create awareness is of utmost importance. Most organised players are of the opinion that tier 1 and tier 2 cities will be their playground in the near future as they get smarter. Smart cities initiative will take some time. Until then, it may be worth taking the trouble of charting out a role for erickshaws as a non-polluting means of last mile connectivity. The best place to start then is to build a sound infrastructure and create value for all stakeholders.

Driving Lohia Humrahi

From a 49-tonne heavy-duty truck to a humble erickshaw, commercial vehicles in India come in the most weirdest of shapes and sizes. As commercial vehicles they help to transport cargo and people. The erickshaw in particular has come to replace the three-wheeler cycle rickshaws as a modern zero-emissions form of last mile transportation. Call it extenstion of the spoke, the erickshaw looks set to further define the hub and spoke transportation model in India. Not quite like the stylish Renault ZOE in Europe, the humble Indian erickshaw is about form following function. Unveiled at the Auto Expo 2014, Lohia’s Humrahi has carved out a niche for itself in a highly fragmented market. Certified by the Automotive Research Association of India, Humrahi, in terms of appearance, fails to turn heads. It looks similar to erickshaws offered by the unorganised market. A closer look however reveals that this one is built stronger and better. Adhering to the specifications put in place by the MoRTH for erickshaws, Humrahi measures 2660 mm in length and 1000 mm in width. Height is 1800 mm. The mild-steel body of Humrahi is bolted to a square tube chassis for a rigid and strong build. The 1980 mm wheelbase ensures good amount of space. Dominating the front is a big round shaped headlight (by Lumax). The light is placed on a telescopic front fork suspension (by Escorts). The handle is finished in a shade of black. Instruments include two dials. Developed by Axis, one analogue dial indicates acceleration, and the other indicates the battery power level. Flaunting turn indicators at the either corner of the front body panel, Humrahi rides on 17-inch dia. spoke wheels. The tyres are 3.00 – R17 6PR, and sourced from either Metro Continental or Ralco. Mount the erickshaw and the initial feeling is of being in charge of something that is slender at front and much wider at the rear. The good part is, the driver’s seat is placed ergonomically, and the quality of upholstery is good. If this should enable the driver to spend long hours ferrying passengers or cargo, the rear view mirrors offer a good view. The quality of switchgear is good. The aluminium flooring looks appealling. A knob, coloured bright red, on a yellow square panel under the seat, draws attention. It is placed to the right. It is a transfer switch and facilitates forward and reverse movement. Care has been taken to ensure that the driver brings the vehicle to a halt before engaging the drive. Also under the driver’s seat is the socket for battery charging. Charging happens with a 65 volt, 12 ampere three-stage charger sourced from Axiom. The brake pedal juts out of the floor, and the parking break lever is placed to the right side of the driver’s seat. Like in the case of a motorcycle, the erickshaw accelerates by twisting the throttle. Just that there are no gears to operate.

At the rear, there are two bench seats facing each other. Four people can seat across the two seats. The seating position is upright, and the amount of leg room on supply is good. It is easy for people to board and alight. There’s no feeling of the passenger compartment being cramped. Instead of the passenger compartment, the cargo version is fitted with a cargo box. Dominating the rear are two Lumax tail lamps. A soft top does the job of protecting the occupants from the vagaries of nature. Powering Humrahi is a BLDC geared motor located under the floor. Brushless technology is claimed to increase the life of the motor and improve performance. The 100 Ah lead acid battery from Amaron works as a energy storage device, and can be charged in eight to ten hours. On one charge, Humrahi can travel up to 100 kmph. The motor is connected to the rear axle by means of a chain drive. There’s a chain adjuster on offer to cure any slack that develops over a period of use. Braking is mechanical in nature. Linkage rods activate the 130m dia. brake drums. Weighing 400 kg, the cargo version of Humrahi is claimed to offer a payload of close to 400 kgs!

The turn of the key brings Humrahi to life. There is no noise, neither any drama. Twisting the throttle has the erickshaw accelerating smoothly ahead, devoid of any vibration. With no clutch or gears to operate, Humrahi makes an easy machine to pilot. The view ahead is uninterrupted and the wide handlebar offers an opportunity to choose the direction of travel. It takes some time to reach closer to the claimed top speed of 30 kmph. Speeds in the region of 25 kmph are achieved with certain ease. Devoid of any vibrations, the ride is pliant, and the vehicle displays good agility. Humrahi uses quality components. Good stability of the Humrahi has also to do with the use of bigger and stronger bearings: spoke wheels. The braking system exerts good bite.

With the possibility of overloading, either in the case of the passenger carrier version or the cargo version, never ruled out, the erickshaw is claimed to have been suitably engineered. The mechanicals, the electrical and electronics are claimed to have been built to the best quality an erickshaw would have to offer. The fit and finish standards of Humrahi are superior. Lohia Auto has developed a power bank concept where vehicle batteries can be swapped. Claimed to be 98 per cent localised, the rear axle of Humrahi is imported. Costing Rs.1.2 lakh, Humrahi offers more leg room; is reflective of the promise of reliability, safety and lower total operating costs.