High-Impact composites from Lamilux

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar.

High-impact composite from Lamilux India assures better performance.

Supplying fibre-reinforced composites to the CV industry – particularly to bus and reefer truck body builders, Lamilux India has been striving to stay ahead of the curve. A recent addition to the company’s Indian product portfolio – Lamilux High Impact – bears testimony to this effort. “Over the last three years engineers at Lamilux have been working towards improving the impact resistance of fibre glass. It was during this endeavour, using a special resin, did they develop a material which absorbs an impact on the spot and prevents it from transferring to the entire vehicle body,” said Dr. Cosima Klinger-Paul, Managing Director, Lamilux India.

The Lamilux High Impact, is a fibre reinforced composite (with a surface appearance of polished metal facings) which ensures low thermal conductivity and elastic deformability of thermoplastic materials. With a high resistance to UV, weathering and corrosion, it is rigid, stable and has a low specific mass per unit area of thermosetting polymers. The High Impact FRP is also claimed to compensate for the disadvantages of other materials like the susceptibility of metals to corrosion and the poor paint-ability of thermoplastics.

Available in sheets or coils, the High- Impact FRP comes in thickness of 0.8 mm to 1.6 mm, and in widths up to 3.2 m; in smooth, corona treated or sanded reverse surfaces. Made with the combined strength of materials like metals, thermoplastics and duroplastics, it is also claimed to offer superior tensile, flexural strength and e-moduli. Its significant glass content (48 per cent), combined with resin lends it a unique texture. “In fact the texture of the High-Impact material contributes towards its impact resistance properties. It is the resin and additives wherein the formula lies,” averred Dr. Klinger-Paul. Presently, the material finds use in the interiors of reefer truck bodies and bus bodies. “While constructing a reefer truck superstructure or a bus body, using the right Fibre Reinforced plastic (FRP) or Glass Reinforced plastic (GRP) composite panels determines its success. Much like the Indian relish Chutney – only the right ingredients can ensure a flavourful outcome,” said Dr. Klinger-Paul. Incidentally, a chunk of Lamilux composites – 80 per cent are consumed by the reefer truck industry; the bus and ambulance body builders consume a five per cent share each, and the rest goes to the infrastructure sector. Stressing on a trend to replace metal with FRP or GRP, Dr. Klinger-Paul stated that the market size for reefer trucks is 10,000 units. The estimated rate of growth is 20 per cent per annum.

When Lamilux entered the Indian market seven years ago, metal was a key component used in the construction of a reefer truck superstructure. The company took on the onus of spreading awareness and educating the market about the use of composite materials as an alternative to steel for side walls, roof and floor construction of truck, bus and other special application vehicle bodies. “The scope to reduce weight lies with the superstructure, and this is bringing about an awareness for the use of FRP or GRP material. The market is exploding and with it we see the trust for such materials growing,” mentioned Dr. Klinger-Paul. She explained that the decision to use metal in the construction of the superstructure, where FRP or GRP composite materials are more suitable, is mainly dictated by cost. It however, takes only five to six months to recover the extra cost added Dr. Klinger-Paul, owing to fuel saving. She opined that the material also saves on air-conditioning, temperature control, and extends the tyre life.

Riding on the strong support of its parent company, the High-Impact composite material is expected to contribute a good deal to the company’s growth in India. A EUR 192 million company, Lamilux (Germany) supplies 15 million sq. m. worth of composite material every year. Over 90 per cent of the company’s turnover is from exports. USA is the biggest market and over 75 per cent of its material finds use in the building of caravans over there. Delivery vans also employ FRP or GRP panels in their construction. This trend also applies to India. Working on restructuring the Indian operations, and with a view to offer better support to the clients, Dr. Klinger-Paul explained, “We have a flexible and effective network. Our technology team travels from Germany to support our clients.” Lamilux India conducts seminars to ensure a sound build, as quite often the inordinate use of supporting materials and chemicals like glues can cause issues. This makes it essential that clients are trained to build bodies in a right way. “We train clients, and work closely with glue manufacturers to have good bonding,” concluded Dr. Klinger-Paul.

Strong growth from the drive systems business

Article by: Anirudh Raheja

Oerlikon focuses on strengthening its drive systems business.

Oerlikon commissioned its third drive systems plant at Sanand in Gujarat recently. It is the company’s tenth global facility for drive systems, and will be operational in six phases with a planned investment of Rs. 1,000 crore till 2019. In the first phase, the plant will manufacture PR10 axle for JCB wheel loaders and CVT transmissions for agricultural tractors. The plant will also manufacture transmission synchronisers and golf cart axles. Reflecting 95 years of experience in developing transmission solutions for mechanical, hydraulic and electric applications, the drive systems segment is Oerlikon’s key pillar globally. It is also the one that deals with diverse automotive segments including off-highway equipment, tractors, EVs and commercial vehicles. Offering AMT and DCT transmission solutions, as well as drive system solutions like rigid and steering drive axles, transmission, and gear components for EVs and off-highway equipment, the drive systems business is represented by two brands – Oerlikon Graziano and Oerlikon Fairfield.

For India

Not keen to get into AMTs for India as it is already over crowded, Oerlikon is instead routing products that have been developed in India to its other locations. “Application engineering on products that are already available in developed markets is carried out. We may not develop every product in India, but will route products developed in India to serve our global commitments,” mentioned Dr. Bernd Matthes, CEO, Oerlikon Drive Systems to CV at the Pfaffikon headquarters near Zurich, Switzerland. Vivek Prakash, President and CEO, Oerlikon Drive Systems India, opined, “R&D is the pillar of our growth everywhere and needs to be tailored to the specific requirements of each market. India is an exciting market and a strong manufacturing base for us, which is why we will create an engineering centre in India. We will tailor our products as per the requirements of the market, customising them where ever the need is felt.” In possession of over 50 patents registered the world over, the drive systems business has developed OGeco hybrid transmission suited for commercial vehicles and high performance cars. Other than OGeco hybrid transmission, the drive systems business supplies synchronisers for trucks and buses; 2SED and 4SED (multi-speed electric drive) for LCVs and passenger cars along with modular planetary drives for special sprayer applications as well.

Strong performance

Expressing that he sees growth in full electric and hybrid applications, Prakash said, “Some of the 2SED and 4SED patented transmission concepts could enter into production in the next three to four years.” Both of them complement an internal combustion-based powertrain, and are scalable in power and torque. They are also suitable for application across automotive segments,” he added. Though the drive systems business posted sales below the previous year’s level, at CHF 91 million, down 5.2 per cent, due to challenging market conditions in the first quarter of 2015, expectations about its performance remain strong. This is perhaps the reason why the company chose to invest in a new plant in India at Sanand last month. Interestingly, Oerlikon delivered a solid performance in Q1, 2015, with an increase in sales by 10.1 per cent to CHF 782 million. The EBITDA margin, for the 13th consecutive quarter, exceeded 15 per cent. A strong performer was its Surface Solutions Segment. Its sales doubled through organic and inorganic growth to reach CHF 300 million.

Surface Solutions Segment

The Surface Solutions Segment comprises two divisions – Oerlikon Balzers and Oerlikon Metco. The Balzers brand provides extremely thin, yet hard coatings for the automotive, aviation, oil, gas and power generation industries. The coatings find their way to pistons and piston pins used in modern engines, and to injection needles. Coating solutions like Balinit with a thickness of 0.5 µm and 4 µm, find use in tools. They improve the process reliability and productivity of various components, saving environmental resources in the process. When applied to precision components, Balinit coating reduces lubrication consumption. For instance, it enables a transmission to function smoothly even under heavy load. It also reduces fuel consumption and increases the performance of compressors and pumps. After acquiring Metco from Sulzer in 2014, Oerlikon’s Surface Solutions Segment, apart from drawing synergies and economies of scale, has developed MetroCald system for laser cladding. It has also developed Thermal Barrier Coating (TBC) to enhance efficiency of diesel engines, turbochargers and gas turbine engines operating under high temperatures. To expand its footprint and better address the needs of its clients, over 105 coating centres across 34 countries have been invested into. The business division has over 650 coating systems in operation the world over. Debuting with cutting tools in India two decades ago, Balzers covers forming tools, regrinding tools and components across automotive, tooling and other industries. Serving CV makers like Tata Motors, Mahindra, VECV and AMW, the business arm Oerlikon Balzers opened a RD cutting lab in India

in 2012.

Vacuum for the auto industry

Manufacturing vacuum systems and vacuum gauges along with high-vacuum pumps, which facilitate manufacturing of semi conductors, solar cells, etc., Oerlikon Leybold also makes high-end steel degassing systems that reduce hydrogen and carbon content in steel. Such high quality steel is procured by automakers for the automobiles they produce. Present in India since 2013, the company is working with clients like Alstom, Schneider Electric, BHEL and ABB. “There is immense local competition in India. Vacuum pump is a commodity, and customers that are not driven by energy consumption or other environmental issues want vacuum at the end of their industrial process. We however believe that India is an opportunity as it offers intelligence in production rather than the build-to-print manufacturing found in China,” said Martin Fuellenbach, CEO, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum.

Fibres for autos

It may be difficult to distinguish a fibre from the modern moulded head liner or the carpet of a truck or a bus, it is however there. Even in tyres. And the chances are high that the fibres may have been made by Oerlikon Barmag or Oerlikon Neumag. As part of the Man-made fibres segment, which is the biggest contributor of revenue to Oerlikon at more than 50 per cent of the group revenue, the two companies manufacture synthetic fibres that are further processed to manufacture cloths and carpets. Barmag is into large scale filament spinning and texturing systems for polyester and nylon manufacturing. Neumag manufactures synthetic staple fibres and non woven fabrics. It also supports the construction of complete polycondensation solutions, and is getting into the manufacture of fibres for air bags and safety seat belts.
Engaged in diverse manufacturing activities, it is the drive systems segment that continues to draw attention. Perhaps due to the fact that it has a significant presence in India. The commissioning of the Sanand plant recently is a point in case. It is the youngest plant of the drive systems in India, the other two being those at Greater Noida and Belgaum. The addition of synchronisers and gears to the drive systems product portfolio in India in the next phase of expansion is certain to take Oerlikon even closer to the automobile industry. Especially the off-highway and commercial vehicle part of the industry.

GST on the highway to growth

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

By the time of going to press the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill had yet to find favour with a majority of lawmakers in the country. After being discussed for almost a decade, the bill continues to be in front of a parliamentary committee. Claimed to have far-reaching economic consequences, and pan-India, the bill has attracted an eight-point dissent note from the Congress faction of the opposition. Those who are aware of this development mentioned that the note calls for a simple and comprehensive GST. Claiming that the Constitution (122nd) Amendments Bill 2015 is neither, the note mentions that the bill is pitted with compromises, exclusions and exceptions. Through the note, claim sources, the Congress has demanded an 18 per cent ceiling so that in pursuit of higher revenues the GST council would desist from crossing the ceiling. The dissent note also stresses upon scrapping the proposal to levy an additional one per cent tax. Mentioning it as market distorting, and especially in view of the fact that it had proposed 100 per cent compensation to be deposited in a fund under the administrative control of the GST council, the Congress, in its dissent note, has also claimed that tobacco and tobacco products, alcohol for human consumption and electricity supply and consumption should be included. Emphasising that the GST council is unduly weighted in favour of the Centre, the dissent note, in the interest of true cooperative federalism, has called for 75 per cent share of votes in the GST council by states, and 25 per cent by the Centre. Stating that the absence of GST disputes settlement authority was a lacuna, the dissent note called for safeguarding of revenue sources of the panchayats and municipalities.

GST and the states

If the Congress’s dissent note was to be delved upon, there’s a possibility to reach an opinion that it is the centre, which is pushing the bill rather than the states being equally keen. The same may not be true. The fact however is that the bill is yet to find favour with majority of the lawmakers in the country. The Congress’ dissent note apart, a debate is already on about the effect of GST on ‘consuming’ states and ‘producing’ states. Some experts are of the opinion that GST implementation would see the revenues of ‘producing’ states fall. A fundamental flaw in the bill, they point out, is the one per cent additional tax that has been granted for a period of two years to placate with the ‘producing’ states. While some go to the extent of terming the current nature of the bill as the one that will only cause pain for the next two years at least, there are those who feel that the proposal to levy one per cent additional tax fails in logic. Since states are to be compensated, what is the need for one per cent additional tax, they question. The possibility of one per cent additional tax extending beyond two years is also there. Experts mention that the GST council can extend this period with the finance minister having no veto power.

With the central government seeming to be more assertive about GST’s implementation, it has to be taken into account that it is a comprehensive indirect tax levy on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods as well as services that will touch every state, every district, every tehsil and every individual. GST will not just replace all indirect taxes levied on goods and services by the Indian central and state governments, it will also be a comprehensive Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services, levied and collected on value addition at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or supply of services based on input tax credit method without state boundaries. Experts emphasise that no distinction will be made between taxable goods and taxable services. They will be taxed at a single rate in a supply chain of goods and services until the goods or services reach the consumer.

GST will unleash biggest tax reform

Claiming that GST will lead to one of the biggest taxation reforms in the country, experts state that the likely result would be the reduction of cost of doing business. Cascading effects of taxes will be eliminated. This will especially benefit automotive distributors, which attract high rates of CENVAT duties as well as VAT at the state level, in addition to other levies such as NCCD, Auto cess, entry taxes, octroi, registration charges and road taxes. Commenting on GST, Erich Nesselhauf, CEO, Daimler India Commercial Vehicle (DICV), said that its implementation will be interesting. According to Sarika Goel, Associate Director – Tax & Regulatory Services, Ernst & Young, automotive exports are also likely to benefit from the implementation of GST as embedded taxes in India’s export prices will be eliminated.

Ease of inter-state movement, other benefits

Likely to mark the elimination of embedded tax costs on inter-state movement of goods (CST or entry taxes), and a shift in the point of taxation to the consumer ultimately, industry sources claim that businesses would have greater flexibility to re-design their supply chains and optimise logistics costs. They add that vendors are also likely to benefit from the transition, and OEMs could negotiate with their vendors to pass on those benefits in terms of input prices. Eliminating multiple tax structure at central and state levels would make the sector viable and globally competitive.

Helping auto suppliers to consolidate

Currently, auto component manufacturers set up units close to OEM plants to avoid breaking the VAT credit chain. Experts explain that the removal of Central Sales Tax (CST) in the regime would provide a new opportunity for consolidation of these units into larger units, which would elevate the economic efficiency of the sector as a whole. Importers, distributors and domestic resellers should be able to claim credit of GST paid on all business procurements of goods and services, as opposed to the current scenario, where they cannot claim a credit for the duties or taxes paid on capital assets and input services availed. This free flow of credits across the supply chain should work well for all business-to-business (B2B) players, and result in increased profitability, claim experts. Defining the effect of GST, Dr Surinder Kapur, Chairman, Sona Group, is known to have said that the implementation of GST will add 1.5 to 2 per cent to the GDP growth rate. Helping to broaden the tax base, and ensure a more stable flow of revenues, GST, experts claim, could assist the country in achieving the gross domestic product (GDP) growth target.

Need for special transition provisions

A common practice in the auto industry is to sell vehicles through a dealer network. More than 80 per cent of the sales is often outside the state of manufacture. The distribution of the vehicles could be by way of direct sales to dealers. This is subject to CST, or by stock transfers to depots and stockyards across the country. Both these models entail a tax cost. The tax cost gets embedded in the final price of the automobile. Though the rate of CST cannot be set off by the dealer against his VAT liability, state VAT laws provide for retention or reduction of input tax credits even though stock transfers are not eligible to tax. Stock transfers as of current do not attract any tax (other than the loss of input tax credit in the exporting state). It is possible that GST would be applicable on all ‘supplies’ including stock transfers. This would have its own challenges. The valuation of such stock transfers will need to be tackled as there would be no sale value available to calculate tax. There could be significant cash flow issues as well. Special transition provisions will be required for the movement of stock from the factory to a depot (or dealer warehouse) on the date of introduction of GST.

In an interview to a business newspaper in 2014, Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director—Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, is known to have said that in the absence of GST they end up having 25 to 28 stock points in different states. Since the ticket size of Ace is low, the company is doing direct billing all over the country from the Pantnagar plant. Pisharody is also known to have mentioned that they are absorbing two per cent CST, and this amounts to Rs 40,000 in case of a heavy commercial vehicle that costs in excess of Rs. 20 lakh. The implementation of GST would help with direct billing to all the customers from the plant. Thus, the need for many warehouses would be gone, reducing the logistics cost as well. For buyers, the amount of documentation to prove that they pay the relevant taxes will be simpler.

SIAM view

In its list of suggestions, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has called for the inclusion of road tax (motor vehicle tax) in GST. It has also demanded that no additional tax should be introduced or levied after introducing GST. Any change, if required, should be done by modifying the rate of taxation under the GST regime, and not through additional levies or taxes. SIAM has also mentioned that used vehicle trade should be brought under the gamut of GST too. Some of the other suggestions include uniform rate of tax on complete vehicles and inputs, against which input credit should be allowed. Tax paid on complete vehicles on movement from factory should be made available as input credits to the vehicle dealers. Tax rates should be uniform across states, and there should be one authority to which payment would be made of one challan. A common base should be adopted for taxation of both, central and state GST. The document based credit should be dispensed with. Fuel should be brought under GST with input tax credit and a mechanism to avail the same. There should be no distinction between input and capital goods. Appropriate provisions should be introduced to ensure continuity of existing benefits. GST Act should be common to all the states. State specific incentives should be protected under GST.

Summing Up

It will be interesting to see when and how GST is implemented. As of current, the implementation of GST in the next financial year (as announced by the finance minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech) looks difficult. Impossible almost. The eight-point dissent note of Congress assumes importance at this juncture. The issues highlighted by the dissent note will need to be looked into. There is no doubt that the need is for a simple and comprehensive GST. However, for the same, the need is for the centre and states to actively collaborate; take hard decisions if the need be. Capable of inducing far reaching economic reforms, GST has got everyone in the country looking up to it with trepidation as well as with interest. The need for GST is to pave the way for transparency and a fair taxation policy, which would lead to a robust growth. In the CV industry, Medium & Heavy Commercial Vehicles (M&HCVs) continue to grow on a small base, with replacement induced demand mainly from cargo. Some bus segments have shown fair growth lately. In such a scenario, the need is for a GST that is not just simple and comprehensive but also a tax regime that will set the tone for the industry’s brighter future.

Marquardt banks on CV solutions

Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

With its CAN-based multiplexing units, Marquardt is keen to do business with commercial vehicle manufacturers to create smart Man Machine Interface (MMI).

Germany-based Marquardt Group has invested in an R&D centre at Pune as a part of its wholly owned subsidiary in India, Marquardt India Pvt. Ltd. Keen to conduct business with commercial vehicle manufacturers, Marquardt India has the ability to develop smart MMI switches. These will find use in CV multiplexing units. Multiplexing units are a part of the multiplexing architecture, which offers significant design flexibility in order to realise truck and bus specific requirements starting with Central Body Control Unit (CBCU) and Customised Modular Instrument Cluster (CMIC), as basic vehicle components. Additional multiplex nodes or powertrain components can be easily added to achieve a scalable and future-proof network system.

Marquardt, which bagged its biggest order from Tata Motors to supply keyless entry and (remote) start system, plans to utilise the R&D centre at Pune to offer customised switching solutions for various electrical appliances (non-auto), man machine interfaces, electronically controlled damping system and drive assist system. With stress on ingenious engineering, company sources drew attention to the fact that such solutions help to reduce point-to-point wiring harness by modernising the complete system to the CAN-bus level. Announcing that the largest contract to deliver passive entry and start system for various passenger vehicle models will be addressed by the third quarter of 2016, Dr. Harald Marquardt, CEO of Marquardt Group, explained that it is this order that propelled the group to invest in an R&D centre in India. Explaining that the passive entry and start system involves a key-like device that can be held anywhere near the car – in the pocket, wallet or just held in hand, Dr. Marquardt averred, “It will take us at least three years to set-up a complete manufacturing facility here in India. The first batch will consist of 10,000 units of such systems, and will be sourced from our Chinese plant.” He added, “The total contract is in double-digit million euros, and that has motivated us to invest in India over the next two-to-three years.”

The keyless entry and (remote) start system, referred to as ‘Passive Entry Passive Start System’, is made up of a group of products including the key-less unit, the control unit, antenna, door sensor, electronic steering lock and the start-stop button. The system offers the driver the advantage of opening and closing the door, or of starting-stopping the engine by simply pressing a button. Set to play an important role in addressing the order placed by Tata Motors, apart from driving other business interests of the company, the R&D centre in Pune’s Embassy Tech Zone, is spread over 25,000 sq. ft., and was built with an investment of rupees nine crore according to Ran Bahadur Singh, CEO, Marquardt India. Employing 80 engineers and expected to employ up to 200 engineers in the next two-to-three years, the R&D centre is set to play a definitive role in the area of ingenious engineering.

Ingenious engineering

Growing demand for modern vehicles that are fuel efficient, cleaner, comfortable and safer, calls for the employment of modern systems like CAN-bus, which facilitates easier communication with different sub-systems like air-bags, anti-lock braking systems, audio-video systems, doors, windows, mirror adjustments, etc. Said Debashish Tripathy, Head – Development, Marquardt India, “One of the features of this system through intelligent harnessing (keeping in mind the space constraints) is to enhance the fuel efficiency of the vehicle by minimising the power (current) consumption from the battery, putting the vehicle in the sleep mode, until the driver wakes it up through a command.” Achieving sales of EUR 838 million in 2014, Marquardt, specialising in mechatronic systems and components, achieves 84 per cent of its business from the automotive industry. The Indian subsidiary was set up in 1965, and has been offering since smart switches for home appliances like washing machines, dryers and mixers. The company shifted focus to the automotive industry in 2008. Going forward, the R&D centre at Pune will play a vital role in promoting abilities acquired by the group the world over. The centre will collaborate closely with similar such centres at Romania, Mexico, China and Germany.

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Busworld 2015 reflects a positive upshift

Article by: Team CV

Reflecting a positive upshift, Busworld 2015 underscored the changing needs of the bus industry and bus buyers, but not without highlighting the need for one million buses to address the connectivity gap.

The Busworld 2015 reflected a positive upshift in the bus CV segment. Held at Mumbai, and organised by Belgium-based Busworld International in association with Delhi-based Inter Ads Exhibitions, the sixth edition of the fair succeeded in bringing together OEMs, coach builders, tier suppliers and various other component manufacturers. Supported by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), International Road Transport Union (IRU), ICAT and the Association of Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU), the biennial event attracted over 60 exhibitors. In his inaugural speech, Dider Ramoudt, President, Busworld International, announced that his was a company with a mission. Advocating the need to move to cleaner burning engines, Ramoudt said, “Adopting the prime minister’s scheme Clean India, there is a requirement for an ecological, sustainable transportation, including electricity, hybrid and other mediums. The bus industry the world over has bright potential. It will grow to 6,64,000 numbers in 2018 from 5,12,000 units in 2013, of which India and China will contribute 50 per cent.”

Mentioning that there are 62 State Transport Undertakings (STU) with 1.5 lakh buses that move 1.583 million people, P S Ananda Rao, Executive Director, ASRTU, expressed the need to reduce congestion, pollution and accidents by Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system and high capacity buses. “Over the costlier option of Metro and Mono-rail, it is the bus that can connect villages which are currently unconnected. One-million buses are immediately needed in addition to 7.5 lakh buses present. To address the potential for rural connectivity through JNNURM, there is a need for 50,854 buses at 600 buses per 10 million rural population,” he stated. Stressing upon the next year to be very promising for the CV industry, Rao commented that there is high head room for growth.

Describing Busworld as a Belgian concept that was launched in 1970, Karl Vanden Bossche, Consul General, Consulate of Belgium, said that India has the best prospect for growth with the average population aging 25 years. Pointing at rising tourism, which will give birth to the need for transportation, and is good for ‘Make-in-India’, the Consul General stressed on the need for a FTA. “The FTA with the European Union has been happening for the last eight years,” he added. “The Industry led by IRU can support Modi to meet the demanding challenge of providing sustainable mobility,” averred Janusz Lancy, President, IRU. Chief Guest, Diwakar Raute, Minister for Transport, Government of Maharashtra, stressed on the need for low cost buses with the best technology and comfort. He also touched upon the concept of inland waterways promoted by the transport minister at the centre, Nitin Gadkari.

Article by: Team CV

OEMs emphasise on technology and comfort

Displaying the only ethanol powered city bus in India that operates in Gadkari’s constituency Nagpur apart from the ‘made-in-India’ Metrolink premium inter-city coach, Scania reiterated its commitment to promote biogas and ethanol as an eco-friendly transportation solution. Said Anders Grundstormer, MD, Scania India and SVP, Scania Gropu, “We are not just selling a bus, but the idea of an city which wants to run on an environmentally friendly fuel, made in India. Nagpur will be a role model city in India.” Stating that his company will deliver 55 buses in 2015, and is expected to deliver 400 ethanol or biogas buses by 2016. Grundstormer averred, “There will be two product launches this year and more next year. In all, we will have five product launches for India in the coming year and the half.” A ‘surprise-entry’, SML-Isuzu displayed three key buses from its range. All three, including a small executive bus and a large executive bus, are aimed at staff transportation, and intra or inter-city executive travel. The mid-sized bus is based on a versatile platform with an ability to double up as a city-bus for an STU.

Coach builders make for an exciting show

Yet another city bus that managed to grab attention at the show, and that too from a coach builder was the the integral construction 12 m city bus. This low-floor bus, built by Bangalore-based Veera Vahana Udyog, is powered by a 6.7-litre Cummins engine and an Allison 3000 Series automatic transmission. Attractive looking, with good fit-finish standards, the city bus, according to K Srinivas Reddy, MD, is undergoing homologation. It is fitted with ZF axles sourced from Germany, and has a local content of approximately 85 per cent. The Mammoth bus by Alma Motors, an MG Group company was developed and conceptualised in partnership with MAN Trucks India. A landmark achievement according to Anil Kamat, Executive Director, MG Group, the Mammoth is powered by a 220 hp 6-cylinder MAN (front) turbocharged engine. Equipped with air suspension, ABS, cruise control, and EM-Secure (Emergency Management – Secure) that makes evacuation safe and panic free, in case of an emergency situation, the bus is aimed at addressing the evolving customer, passenger and driver needs. Measuring 12 m in length, the Mammoth is fitted with 22.5-inch tubeless radial tyres.

One of the oldest coach builders in the country, Automobile Corporation of Goa Ltd. (ACGL) displayed a range of buses based on the Tata Motors platform. ACGL built 4,951 buses last year. Of these 3,000 were exported, which would account for 75 per cent of th total buses built. Reflecting ACGL’s export thrust to the markets in Africa and the Middle East (Qatar especially) was a left-hand drive school bus. The one beside it had the front and rear fascia made of pressed steel. Panels pressed at ACGL’s plant at Jejuri near Pune are welded together at the Goa facility to arrive at the pressed steel fascias. If an executive inter-city bus built for Pune-based Penosh drew attention, it was the ‘G-Duck’ amphi-bus, painted in a shade of bright yellow, that stood out. Designed by Advanced Amphibious Design (AAD), a USD 3.5 million company with operations at Goa and Honolulu (Hawaii) according to Miles Needham, Chairman & President, the G-Duck is powered by a 130 hp, 5.8-litre Cummins turbodiesel engine with a 6-speed gearbox and a four-wheel drive mechanism. If the specs seem to indicate that this vehicle has drawn a fair deal from Tata’s 1212c 4×4 truck, a power-take-off arrangement from the centrally mounted transfer case powers the propeller at the rear. Weighing about 10-tonnes the amphi-bus will find use with Goa Tourism said Needham. Leveraging AAD’s experience to build amphibious buses and AGCL’s expertise to build customised buses, six G-Ducks, capable of seating 32 people each, have been ordered.

Article by: Team CV

Suppliers make their mark

Lamilux India displayed its existing range of products as well as the new high-impact FRP material with 48 per cent glass for use in bus body construction and reefer truck construction. Said Dr. Cosima Klinger-Paul, MD, “The market has risen beyond the level of whether FRP (or GRP) material will succeed, and is now keen to know if newer applications are possible.” She added, “The market for FRP is exploding.” Allison Transmission (India) displayed an interesting cutaway of the T270 automatic transmission that does service in many buses in India. Hubner Interface Systems India, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Germany-based Hubner Group, displayed an articulation system for buses. It finds use in a vestibular bus. Starting local manufacture at a facility in Bangalore, the company, said Makarand Shahane, Director, Hubner India, believes that there is a substantial support for articulated buses in the country. “It nearly doubles the carrying capacity over that of a 12 m bus,” he added. Piyush Uniyal, GM – Business Development, RMG Polyvinyl India (Wonderfloor), averred that though cyclic in nature, the transport industry is growing.

Describing India as a big market with small bus manufacturers that make five to six buses a year, Uniyal said that his company offers a wide range of flooring solutions to the bus industry. On display were the new generation transport flooring solutions called traction flooring, and the traditional flooring solutions called the embossed flooring.

Michelin India displayed the 295/80 R22.5 tubeless radial tyre for city bus application. It also displayed the 295/80 R 22.5 X Multi Z tubeless radial tyre for inter-city buses. A France-based company that invented radial tyres and manufactures radial tyres only, Michelin truck and bus radials, said Sanjeev Chawla, Country Manager – OE, Defence and Alternate Channels, are earning an image for quality and long life. Eberspaecher Suetrak Bus Climate Control Systems (India) has introduced a new, air-con system for mid-size buses, which facilitates easier fitment and servicing. K P Singh, Director – India, averred, “India will be the global hub for the new mid-size bus AC, powered by a 300cc compressor from Valeo.” Stressing on a long-term business strategy, the Indian operations of the company, said Singh, are stabilising. Eberspaecher acquired Carrier globally in 2010 except the American operations, marking its entry into the bus air-conditioning business.

Songz Automobile Air Conditioning Co. displayed a large bus and small bus air conditioning system. Said B S Arora, GM – Business Development, India, Songz Automobile Air Conditioning Co. Ltd., “We are also looking at offering lower priced air-conditioning system variants of the seven systems we currently offer by doing away with less used features to better address the needs of the customers.”

Subros Ltd. displayed its 18 and 25 kW bus ACs system targeted at the mid-size segment. Panjak Mehra, DGM and AM, Exports and Marcom said, “In recent time there has been an increase in demand for ACs in school buses and the staff travel segment which has pushed growth in this segment. To cater to this demand we came out with the 18 kW bus AC unit last year.” He added, “We launched another 25 kW unit to cater to this segment in early 2015.” Offering a full range of bus ACs starting from 4 kW going up to 36 kW, Subros has added a 45 kW unit set to be launched this year which will go into the low floor intra city bus segment.

Harita Seating Systems showcased a modified version of its bus passenger seating system Utthara, which was launched specifically for markets in North India. It also displayed the Magnum P1 with 3-point seat belts, which finds use with OEMs like Scania and Volvo in India. Said Avinash Sinha, Sr. Engineer, Sales and Marketing, Harita Seating Systems Ltd., “Our products are made as per Indian environment and conditions and we have close to 90 models of just bus passenger seats.” Apart from premium luxury buses, Harita supplies seating systems for standard and semi-deluxe range of buses.

Kalyani Maxion Wheels displayed its range of steel wheel rims. The company’s portfolio ranging from 13-inch to 24-inch for tubeless and tube-type applications. “Our major revenue comes from tubeless wheel rims. We are pioneers in manufacturing tubeless wheel rims,” stated Kaushik K Doshi, Deputy Manager, Marketing. “Basically our 22.5” x 8.25” wheel rims for buses are quite popular,” he added.

Supported by seminars that delved on subjects like urban mobility for smart cities, BRT, coach tourism, fire safety, driver training, intelligent transport systems including electro-mobility, and thus cleaner, safer and effective bus and coach services, Busworld 2015 was successful in its endeavour to bring the bus industry closer and expose itself to the new innovations, technologies developed. Technologies that would help to mitigate risks, enhance comfort, reliability and comfort of bus transportation systems. Busworld 2015 was successful to a good extent in projecting the image of its organiser, which Ramoudt explained as a missionary for sales of sustainable transport. The road ahead is challenging, but also of growth. This was amply transmitted by the participants and the visitors.

Giant pull

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Volvo’s flagship FH marks a big change, and is designed to exert a giant pull.

The FH product-line has been the flagship of Volvo Trucks for a long, long time. Powered by engines as big as 16-litres, it is the FH that qualifies for the name of Globetrotter among the various other commercial vehicles by Volvo. With the ‘H’ in the model name denoting high deck, the driver of the FH truck sits roughly at a height of one-and-a-half storey. If he or she would stand besides the truck, the door handle would be still above. So, when the opportunity to drive the behemoth presented itself, it was not to be taken lightly. Especially when the new FH presents itself as advanced, driver-friendly and conducive to business. Climb up and settle down behind the wheel. The view ahead is panoramic. The new design has upright and slimmer A-pillars. This ensures a better view of the surroundings. The elephant ear-like rear view mirrors are also slimmer than that of the earlier FH. Rather than just the mirror glass, it is the complete unit of the new FH that moves. In a way, they reflect the thoughts of the Volvo Trucks design director Rikard Orell, that it is the design that ties everything together. According to Orell, the slimmer rear view mirrors ensure better visibility.

Orell and Asok George, responsible for the exterior design of the truck, ensured that the familiarity of the FH truck was not lost. Neither did the new FH lose the Volvo flavour. Thus, the A-pillars may offer more room inside, they are also a part of a stance that is more dynamic and presents a sense of speed even when standing still. The new FH, according to Orell, is a ‘race car of a truck.’ The pillars also reduce wind resistance. Drawing upon five criteria – safety, driver appeal, uptime, fuel efficiency and productivity, the new FH, according to Siddharth Kirtane, Head-Marketing, Volvo Trucks (India), is the first truck in India to be equipped with 24-inch diameter wheels (and 12R24 tyres). “These reduce tractive effort on the tyres and increase road grip,” he said. Volvo worked with Michelin to develop the 24-inch diameter tyres. Michelin is indigenising them.

Aimed at operators like J H Parabia, JCC and others that are a part of the Hydraulic Trailer Operators Association (HTOA) and specialise in transporting Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) with the use of special (multi-axle modular) trailers manufactured by companies like Goldhofer, Tritec and Cometto, the new FH’ premium look makes a lasting impression. Displaying fit and finish levels that are comparable to luxury cars, the new heavy haulage truck (puller), has a 200-tonne GCW (Coupled to suitable hydraulic axle trailers and subject to special approval from MoRTH) over the earlier model’s 150-tonne GCW. The FH 520 puller thus comes with a strengthened chassis, and a front axle that is rated at 10-tonne over the earlier model’s 9-tonne front axle. The rear tandem axle (with reinforced bogie suspension) is rated at 33-tonne over the earlier FH’s 32-tonne rating. New to the enhanced cooling system is the transmission intercooler.

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Under run protection comes with an ability to absorb 60 per cent energy. More than that of the earlier FH. Equipped with N4 hub reduction mechanism (four planetary gears) over the three planetary gear mechanism of the earlier generation FH, the new truck evolved from five million hours of engineering and design. A part of a highly sensitive business area where cargo damage can delay projects worth thousands of crores and lead to costly repercussions, the new FH was subjected to 5,00,000 hours of testing and simulation. If the tall exhaust pipe stands out, it was done to ensure that it is not subjected to damage while traveling over unforgiving terrain.

The first three ratios of the 14-speed manual transmission are tall. A piano switch on the gear shifter enables the selection of higher or lower ratio in each of the seven gears including the crawler gear. A toggle switch on the gear shifter facilitates travel into the ‘upper’ (4th, 5th and 6th) gear range and back. Exhaust (engine) brake lever with three positions is stalk mounted on the steering column besides the wiper stalk. In ‘E’, it automatically engages every time the brake is applied. Cruise control switches are on the steering wheel. There are also switches for Bluetooth telephone pairing! Seat belts are in red. Out on the old Bangalore-Madras Highway, it was clear that the first three ratios (not counting the crawler) are designed to provide raw tractive force. Imagine hauling 200-tonne ODC over a variety of surfaces, even across river beds. Quite often, bridges are unable to support such high loads. The higher set of gears is a mix of traction and speed. A green band on the tacho (1050-1600 rpm) marks the area where most fuel efficiency could be derived.

The day-time running lights, a part of the vertical head lamp cluster of the new FH, draw the attention of other road users. Cars and SUVs going past look tiny in comparison. The FH 520 puller stands out. The 13-litre Volvo D13A520 six-cylinder engine, an example of brute power. Producing 2500 Nm of torque in the range of 1050 and 1450 rpm, the engine ironically does not come across as raw or edgy. The level of noise which filters into the cabin is negligible, almost akin to a car, making it easy to converse. The truck felt refined and easy to pilot throughout the drive. For the kind of speeds that this monster can attain, the power steering offers good feedback. Making for an comfortable driving experience, the FH reflected on Orell’s comment that it is the design that ties everything together. Executing the tough task of transporting ODC of companies like ONGC and BHEL, Kirtane opined that the Indian ODC operators are quite scientific in their work.

Reconnaissance is done. The route is ascertained after a detailed survey. Prior permissions are obtained. Attributing the lack of clearly defined rules or practices where operators couple two or three lower capacity pullers to transport an ODC, Kirtane expressed that 1,200 to 1,300 pullers would have been sold untill now in India. He added, “The market peaked in 2010 at 250 numbers. 100 units more than the average numbers sold.” He added,“Last year was bad, and we sold 20 units. This year, in the first quarter, we have already sold 10 units.” According to Kirtane, the 280 hp puller market is an estimated 300 to 400 units. The higher hp market is in the region of 200 to 300 numbers.

 

In a market that is smaller and tougher than the lower hp pullers, Volvo is working on the introduction of their Dynafleet telematic solutions platform. If the company’s strong presence in the deep mining areas has helped it to engineer a strong aftermarket (service support) network, the Dynafleet platform is expected to enable Volvo Trucks India to help its clients to achieve higher productivity gains. Dynafleet is currently being applied on a pilot basis to iron out any teething issues that may arise. It is driven by the premise that even a small increase in fuel efficiency can lead to large savings. Untill the Dynafleet finds its way to the FH 520, it may be safe to say that this behemoth is advanced, driver friendly and makes a strong business case for itself.

ABS & Bus Code promotes safety

Article by: Team CV

The enforcement of ABS and revised Bus Code in commercial vehicles will enhance safety. It will also lead to challenges like price increase.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has amended the Motor Vehicle Act to make Anti-Blokier system (ABS) – anti-lock braking system in English, mandatory. ABS prevents the brake from locking when applied. The amount of pressure applied on each wheel is electronically modulated, and prevents them from locking. If they would lock, the result would be loss of control and an accident. As per MoRTH’s amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act, ABS is mandatory for trucks classified in the N3 (above 12-tonnes GVW) category and buses in the M3 category (above 5-tonnes GVW and carrying nine passengers). It means the new trucks and buses will have to be compulsorily fitted with ABS at the time of manufacturing. The proposed amendment has been implemented from April 1, 2015. Vehicles already plying on the road have to be fitted with ABS by October end. The law in itself is not entirely new. Since 2006, ABS was made mandatory in vehicles carrying petroleum and explosive items, including trailers in the 40- and 49-tonne range. Most CV OEMs have offered ABS as an optional feature in India ever since. It was easy for us to apply ABS to articulated vehicles and hazardous goods carrying vehicles because a rule was already in place since 2006 mentioned Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) spokesperson.

To purchase a commercial vehicle fitted with an ABS system at the factory should not pose an issue. The issue lies with the fitment of ABS on commercial vehicles that are already on the road by the end of October 2015. A clarity on this is necessary, and if the fitment will be done at the dealer level, or at a level where a braking system manufacturer will train a well equipped private workshop to install ABS. The issue of certification will need to be answered, and until then, there will be some chaos. DICV spokesperson clarified that ABS is already present in their heavy duty range of trucks, and to implement it in their other vehicles is therefore an easy task. Of the opinion that the mandatory fitment of ABS is an important step towards increasing safety on Indian roads, the spokesperson stated that their customers will find the 4S/3M as well as the 4S/4M configuration of sensors and modulators from Wabco fitted. In India, the mention of commercial vehicle braking systems bring to the fore two tier suppliers – Wabco and Knorr Bremse. Both have ABS technology with them, and an ability to deliver them to a level where it will suit the needs and wants of the Indian market. Said P Kaniappan, Managing Director of Wabco India, “The decision to make ABS mandatory was long overdue. ABS as a technology has proved that it helps to avoid accidents by reducing the possibility of skidding under panic braking situations. It also reduces the stopping distance significantly.” Drawing attention to the fact that eight per cent of the world’s fatalities occur in India even though India has one per cent of the total commercial vehicles in the world, Jacques Esculier, Chairman & CEO, Wabco Holdings Inc., averred, “ABS is a major cornerstone to enhance safety. It is exactly the reason why it has been featuring on the trucks today.”

ABS is already a standard fitment

ABS is already a standard fitment of Volvo trucks. Expressed Siddharth Kirtane, Head-Marketing, Volvo Trucks (India), that it is actually difficult to remove an aggregate (component) that has gone into the vehicle right at the design stage. “Our trucks are fitted with ABS as standard,” he added. Echoing Kirtane, the spokesperson of Volvo Buses India also said that their buses come with ABS as standard since 2005. All 4×2 Volvo buses are thus equipped with 4S/3M (4 sensors and 3 modulators) configuration. All 6×2 buses are equipped with 6S/3M (6 sensors and 3 modulators) configuration. The mandate, the spokesperson explained, in case of buses is limited to those that are delivered after April 1, 2015. It does not apply to buses that are already plying in the road. ABS will undoubtedly bolster safety in trucks and buses. It will reduce accidents due to loss of control, and pave way for related technologies like ESP and ACC. Mandatory fitment of ABS will add to the cost of the vehicle. Even at the trailer level, manufacturers from the organised sector have began recommending their customers to go for ABS-enabled trailers. This, they claim could drive costs up by 22 to 25 per cent. Most trailers are fitted with ABS kits from by tier 1 suppliers like Wabco. The fitment of these on trailers however requires an amount of skill and calibration. With ABS made mandatory on trucks, the need for ABS-enabled trailers is only expected to go up. It is quite possible that the locked wheels of a trailer under braking could lead to a loss of control even though the truck is equipped with ABS. With buses it is easier due to their construction claimed an industry expert.

Article by: Team CV

Not fully convinced yet

Transporters don’t seem to be as convinced yet, and even though they agree that ABS will improve safety. Inder Bir Singh, Director, ABC Transport Corporation said that knowledge of the ground reality is paramount while working towards improving safety on Indian roads. “ABS is a good feature but there are other more important areas which the industry is terribly lacking in, and which needs to be addressed. Take driver training for instance. With a negligible amount of driving training schools for HCVs in this country, people who are new to the industry join as drivers and helpers and they take their lessons on highways, which is very dangerous,” Singh explained. He stressed on the need for more driving schools that impart quality training and knowledge. Singh, like many fellow fleet operators will have to go to the nearest dealer to get ABS fitted on his vehicle by the end of October. Admittedly, there will be cost incurred, and the same will be passed on to the end customer.

 

J T Rajashekhara, CEO, SRS Travels, opined that the law is going against the transporters who continue to face numerous hurdles. He said, “Before making any changes, amendments and passing ordinances, authorities need to take into consideration not only body builders and manufacturers but also the end-users who can make them aware of the ground realities. Apart from being a business we are also representatives of the traveling public.” Bangalore-based SRS Travels has close to 5,500 vehicles. Of these, 2,000 are buses. Pointing at the need to maintain ABS, and cater to its tear and wear, Rajashekhara added, “The longevity of ABS can only be determined over the next year or so. Even it’s efficiency, or whether it will need any technology upgradation, etc.” Like Inder Bir Singh, Rajashekhara also mentioned that ABS will not solve the issue of safety alone. Driver training should be conducted with equal zest.

Revised Bus Code

The implementation of Bus Code will mean that bus builders will have to obtain an accreditation certificate that will serve as a proof of their capabilities to adhere with safety norms before building a bus. The implementation of the national bus body building code is to ensure that buses are built in accordance with the stipulated standards of safety, design and comfort. Confirmed a senior official from the transport department, that the new code referred to as AIS: 052 (Revision I)-2008 is mandatory for all companies and owners involved in bus body building of vehicles having seating capacity of 13 and more passengers, with all bus types being covered under it. Until now the practice has been to build a body and then approach the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) for approval. Under the new code, the manufacturer will have to first submit the design of the body to ARAI. Only after getting an approval will he be able to build it. “The new bus code will restructure all the independent coach builders and they will now be evaluated both on production capacity as well as capability,” averred Jain.

For G V Redkar, Head Marketing, Antony Garages Pvt. Ltd. (AGPL), the new bus code is a welcome change. “It will bring about standardisation in the market. Buses are being run in a haphazard way. Over 35 to 40 passengers travel in one bus with no safety measures in place. Somewhere we have to draw the line and focus on safety,” he expressed. He added, “We are taking this as a challenge. For those having the requisite infrastructure and technical requirements, like us, I don’t think it is a difficult task. However yes, players in the unorganised market who do not meet the infrastructure requirements will be affected.”Antony Garages builds between 120 and 150 bus bodies every month. Over the last year-and-half, the company has been following all bus code rules. “With all our systems in place, what we need to do is get certification from ARAI, which is not a difficult task,” mentioned Redkar.

Bus Code will help streamline the supply chain

While some laud the code, there are those who are of the opinion that the implementation of Bus code will increase the coach building time. It will be anywhere between 2-3 months as the new design will have to be approved. This will involve tests like the roll-over test. However, once the bus design with aggregate or components is homologated, the next time, if an aggregate or a component differs from the one before (different make or design of seats for example), only those aggregates or components will have to be sent to the authority for approval. This could take anywhere between 15 to 20 days. Chances are also that this time will be saved of the coach builder who buys out aggregates or components from vendors that have received ARAI certification for their products. Said one coach builder, “Those materials that I use in my bus, and have been sourced from vendors that have been already approved by ARAI, will not need to be put to a test again. My vendor list will be thus curtailed, and instead of 100 I will now have 60 vendors that will supply approved materials.” Piyush Uniyal, GM – Business Development, RMG Polyvinyl India (Wonderfloor) said, “The Bus Code will help smaller coach builders grow. It will also help us to grow since coach builders will have to buy approved products.
Opined Kulwant Singh Wilkhu, Director, Sutlej Motors Ltd. (SML), “The new bus code is a challenge for all bus body builders in India. However it will be easy to follow and join the change, than oppose and kill the business.”
Manufacturers of buses like Volvo, DICV, Scania, Marcopolo, and others from the organised sector may not have much to worry about. The spokesperson of Volvo Buses India confidently replied that they have been adhering to the bus body code much before it was introduced. Even Krister Thulin, Presales and Marketing Director, Scania Commercial Vehicles India, had the same sentiment to share. He said that his company has been adhering to the bus code. Scania began local manufacture of buses at its plant near Bangalore last month. K Srinivas Reddy, MD, Veera Vahana Udyog, “All our buses are Bus Code compliant except the sleeper coach range.” Reddy drew attention to the fact that regional coach builders like Karur have taken a lead in complying with the bus code. Reddy claimed that Karur has been instrumental in bringing together other coach builders to form an association and get their products to comply with the bus code regulation.

For an estimated 2,000 players from the unorganised market, the going will be tough at least for some time. They will have to stream line their vendor base, bring about a big change in the materials they use. The bus code clearly mentions the use of flame retardant materials. Investing in new ways of working will very likely drive the cost of coach building up. Interestingly, apart from the Bus Code, MoRTH has also amended the form 22A to be issued by the fabricator. Earlier the form used to have only information like brand name of the vehicle, chassis number and engine number. It will now have brand name, chassis number, engine number, bus body builder accreditation certificate number (with date of validity) and bus body type approval certificate number, which will ensure strict adherence to the new code.

The enforcement of ABS and revised Bus Code in commercial vehicles will enhance safety no doubt. It will also give rise to new challenges, at least for some time to come. It will also take some time to understand how the end customer (the company whose goods are ferried, and the person who travels on the bus) profits from the change. In the short term, he is likely to face the burden of the cost increase incurred by the CV buyer.