Cummins banks on advanced powertrain technologies


Looking at India as an important market, Cummins Inc. is banking on advanced powertrain technologies to be a provider of choice.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Cummins Inc. announced an investment of Rs.300 crore towards the development of BSVI technologies and expansion of manufacturing facilities at Phaltan. The company also announced an investment of Rs.1000 crore to Rs.1500 crore towards the setting up of a technology centre at Pune. Claimed to be the biggest among the technology centres the company has, the one at Pune will go on stream by the end of this calender year, or by early next year. Hinting at a transformation that is taking place at Cummins India, and in-line with the global growth strategy of the parent, a conscious alignment of product portfolio is on to make it ‘fit-for-market’. With an eye on the future, the company is keen to provide a host of integrated solutions, with an objective to be the ‘powertrain provider of choice’. Cummins, according to Srikanth Padmanabhan, President, Cummins Engine Business, is concentrating on R&D and electrification of powertrains for commercial vehicles. Describing India as a key market for the company, Padmanabhan mentioned that focus will be on energy diversity, connectivity and automation. He drew attention to disruptive market drivers that have stemmed from a spate of regulatory compulsions. These are compelling enough to lower the carbon footprint, and apply relevant technology, he stated.

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Srikanth Padmanabhan, President, Cummins Engine Business, stressed on R&D and electrification of commercial vehicle powertrains.

Advanced powertrain technologies

Leveraging its global know-how and the capabilities it has built in India, Cummins will offer advanced powertrain technologies by tapping new opportunities in the area of engines and components. With the advantage of scale, the company is looking at working closely with its clients to help them to successful tide over new regulations. Also in the manufacture of turbo and aftertreatment systems, Cummins wants to pass the benefits to its customers by leveraging its capabilities. Said Padmanabhan, “We will continue to focus on BSVI and alternate propulsion for reasons of fuel efficiency and total cost of ownership.” He touched upon the SuperTruck I and SuperTruck II, and explained that additional work on the simulation of the engine would be done.

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Cummins will offer advanced powertrain technologies by tapping new opportunities in the area of engines and components.

In 2010, the US Department of Energy (DoE) initiated the SuperTruck programme to improve long-haul Class 8 vehicle freight efficiency, a metric that uses payload, weight and fuel efficiency. The two are defined as tonne-miles per gallon. Three projects under the SuperTruck programme are underway. One is a Cummins-Peterbilt project. The other two involve Daimler Trucks North America and Navistar Inc. Of these, the SuperTruck II project is the five-year USD 160 million program that will see four teams participate. They are the same, which participated in the SuperTruck I project. The teams will work to exceed the results achieved in the SuperTruck I project. The participants spent USD 78.4 million, a combination of federal funding and their own money on the SuperTruck I project, and achieved higher freight efficiency, mile per gallon, thermal efficiency including waste heat recovery, weight reduction and aerodynamic drag co-efficient reduction. SuperTruck II is looking for a 100 per cent increase in freight-hauling efficiency and a new engine-efficiency standard of 55 per cent, a 31 per cent increase from a 2009 baseline measurement. While freight efficiency is the amount of freight carried and miles traveled for each gallon of fuel consumed, engine efficiency, known as Brake Thermal Efficiency (BTE), is the ratio of fuel energy converted to power output at the engine’s crankshaft. The industry average BTE for a 2009 Class 8 engine was 42 per cent.

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To be a powertrain provider of choice, Cummins is expanding its business and capabilities in India.


Applying the technological success of SuperTruck projects to real world CVs, Cummins released X15 engine series, a new diesel engine piston design and turbocharging system for Volvo Trucks North America. A redesigned 13-litre N13 engine is claimed to use several improvements derived from the SuperTruck project. These include new control logic and a high-efficiency combustion system. Mentioned Padmanabhan, “The focus is to leverage electronics in the interest of connected technologies and intelligence.” In the realm of powertrain integration, the company is looking to integrate the engine, transmission, axles, and brakes. The effort is to offer higher value. Connected software, over the air calibrations, diagnostics and prognostics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics (DA) are also the key focus areas of the company. Stressing upon the influence of changing emission norms on powertrain developments, Brett Merritt, General Manager, Global On-Highway Engine Business, said, “We want to be application driven in niche markets.” Continuing to invest in engines (of over 13-litre displacement) for leading markets, Merritt averred that the B-Series engines are selling the most. “It (B-Series engine) has a large marketshare in South America, North America, India and China,” he informed. Modifying the B-Series engine to accommodate a four-cylinder version for light-duty cycles, Cummins is keen to offer tailored solutions. In China, the company builds a 12-litre engine as the power and torque does not justify the use of a 15-litre engine. With the evolution of engines increasingly linked with emissions, technology and utilisation are taking precedence over costs. “There is a need to set aside future technologies as they will start to play out in the next five years,” Merritt mentioned.

Jennifer Rumsey, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Cummins Inc.,”The Eaton JV will help address the demand for carbon footprint reduction and fuel efficiency rise.


Working on fully-electric powertrains with an intention to offer them by 2019, Cummins will introduce range extended engines next year. These, according to Padmanabhan, will be for buses, pick-ups and delivery vans. Looking at both, a battery-electric and a range extender, the company, as far as components are concerned, is focusing on aligning materials. To attain the vision of a fully-electric powertrain, it is concentrating on battery pack management. With attention on power electronics from a thermal management point of view, the ultimate objective, said Padmanabhan, is to have a reliable and high quality solution. Hybrid powertrains, he stated, would be applied in heavy-duty applications initially. “Electrification of the auxiliaries is the need of the hour. By 2019, a cost effective start-up solution with specific duty cycles will find its way to the Indian market,” mentioned Merritt. Touching upon the joint venture between Cummins and Eaton for M&HCVs formed in April 2017 to offer an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) product portfolio in the US, Merritt explained that a strong brand and service presence, in addition to a significant market share on the heavy duty side will be achieved. Cummins will bring its engine expertise and a strong presence to the table. In the interest of a sustainable product plan for five years the JV will focus on the development of advanced AMTs and integrated powertrains. It will also look at the development of a service network, and design and assembly of future M&HCV automated transmissions. Expected to expand its presence to other markets in the world, including India, the demand for reduction in carbon footprint and increase in fuel efficiency according to Jennifer Rumsey, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Cummins Inc., will be a significant calling factor as far as technology is concerned.

Sherry Aaholm,Vice President and Chief Information Officer, pointed at the digital accelerator initiative.

The future

To continue to play a significant role in some of the markets that Cummins is present in for a long time, diesel, if the trend for the future is anything to go by, is likely to throw up a contrasting picture. It will likely point at a move away from diesel. “We will continue to evolve,” said Rumsey. “We will provide a super power solution for CVs for transportation, off-highway, and stationary applications,” she informed. To include a continued focus on the internal combustion engine and its key components, the Super power solution, in India, will build on the ability to be frugal. Working towards meeting the BSVI challenge, Cummins is pursuing a ‘fit for market’ strategy in India. The company is addressing the need for a unique design and build methodology. This, it is confident, will increase its speed of development as well as output. Opined Rumsey, “Now is a critical period as far as the Indian market is concerned. With the NOx levels on the highways expected to go down by 30 per cent this year, and by 90 per cent when BSVI emission norms are enforced, Cummins is looking at a flurry of activities. According to Sherry Aaholm, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, new business concepts from the idea stage to commercial stage are being driven by leveraging resources from business units and functions under the ‘digital accelerator’ initiative. One such venture, said Aoholm, is Zed Connect. Zed Connect offers a smart phone app. called ‘Eld’. It was designed to electronically log hours for truck drivers and provide other key features for drivers and fleets. Such technologies may take time to come to India, the less advanced, and more relevant will not however.

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Cummins to make India an export hub?

Engine and filtration technologies specialist, Cummins Inc., is planning to bring all its top components and technologies, such as electronic fuel systems and after-treatment systems, to India, claim industry sources. The global chairman and chief executive of the Group, Tom Linebarger, is known to have said that they are looking at making India an export hub for the world. He is also known to have said that they would be adding a lot of technologies as part of EuroVI emission norms. Such a move is expected to attract considerable investment by the Group, which runs a mega manufacturing site at Phaltan near Pune. Expected to create good employment, the company is also setting up a technical centre in Pune, its second largest outside of the US.

About engines

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Q & A

Anant J Talaulicar, Managing Director, Cummins Group India

Interview by: Ashish Bhatia

Q. Cummins and Tata Motors have had a long association. How do you look at the journey?

A. Cummins and Tata Motors have been partners for 23 years. The 50:50 joint venture partnership between the two companies dates back to 1993. Production at Tata Cummins started in 1995 at Jamshedpur. It still continues. We began operations with a production capacity of 60,000 engines per annum. The production has since doubled to 120,000 engines per annum. Even that was found to be insufficient, and we duplicated the capacity at the Cummins megasite at Phaltan near Satara. The campus at Phaltan houses seven factories. These include components for the entire engine. The megasite has added another 120,000 engines to the capacity, taking it to 240,000 engines per annum. Tata and Cummins, as partners, have expanded capacities to meet the demand in the country. We brought new technology into India in 2000. The same year India began moving towards cleaner engines. Initially BS I, BS II, BS III and now on the verge of BS IV. There will be pan-India implementation of BS IV in April next year. So we have partnered with them (Tata) absolutely hand-in-hand throughout the journey.

Q. You are increasing capacity at a time the industry is struggling with over capacity. Why?

A. In the financial year 2005, the Indian economy was booming. We touched 90 per cent utilisation levels by the 2011 financial year. The 2011 financial year was the peak year. We found out that we are unable to provide enough to the market. We were actually on the back foot at that time. We were fully utilised, running three shifts, seven days a week. We therefore decided to add significant capacity in India. Thereafter, contrary to our predictions, the Indian economy was throttled, courtesy the lack lustre policies of the government in power then. It is necessary to understand that trucks are capital goods. They are simply not a piece of cosmetics, which is bought. As things start to get tough in terms of the economy, it is the commercial vehicles that are impacted foremost. Interest rates and inflation went up; demand went down. This created the worst possible scenario. Fortunately with the new government, we are witnessing a revival. For the record, we have adequate exposure in diverse fields including the generator industry. We also cater to off-highway construction, mining equipment, railways and the marine segment.

Q. Do you see the market reviving itself?

A. The private sector is yet to join the growth bandwagon fully. It is still reeling under the challenge of over capacity. Green shoots are visible however and revival has started based upon government spending. A thrust on infrastructure, defence and mining has resulted in action. The commercial vehicle industry grew almost 30 per cent last year. Especially the Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle (M&HCV) segment. Growth so far looks sustainable. If the economy continues to grow, there will be improvement. Slowly the private sector will start joining. Capacity utilisation will go up and create room for fresh investments. GST and an investment in world-class infrastructure will put the economy on the fast track to growth. There is substantial pent-up demand. The need is to make certain that the policies are growth oriented. India makes an attractive destination for global sourcing activities. Not only can the demands of this country be catered to, one can export too. Tata Motors is also aiming in this direction. The key export markets include Africa, the Middle-East among others.

Q. How is Cummins planning to take advantage of the market reviving?

A. The government is taking a very aggressive stance towards achieving zero emission. We are planning to move towards BS VI by April 2020. As of now, we have not even reached BS IV pan-India. That will happen on April 2017. There are only four years to leap from four (BS IV) to six (BS VI). No country has set a precedence of doing something like this; of having skipped the BS V emission level. What will happen is, a BS VI diesel engine will turn into an air filter. It will start cleaning up the ambient air and that’s where Cummins is looking at playing a central role. The combustion system, pistons, piston rings, shapes of the bowl and the turbocharger will become a technology that can also clean-up. People until now would have thought that these were about adding a boost. Technology will move from simpler fixed-geometry turbochargers to waste gate turbo chargers and then to variable geometry turbochargers. On the fly, it would be possible to modify the combustion process such that the air maintains the appropriate heat. There are advanced aftertreatment systems which control Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) devices, and filters for particulates and hydrocarbons called Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF). Cummins has both the technologies; turbochargers and fuel systems that are much more advanced. The fuel systems as of current may be mechanical in nature. It may be possible to repair them under the shade of a tree. However, BS VI fuel system will be a high pressure electronically controlled fuel system with much higher cylinder and injection pressure to atomise the fuel so that it completely combusts in a clean manner. We expect it to significantly impact our business. We expect it to lead to a positive impact.

Q. How diverse is your portfolio?

A. From a global portfolio perspective we have engines that range from 2.8-litres to 95-litres. We are looking at bringing our smaller engines and localising them in India. We have designed and are manufacturing 2.8-litre and 3.8-litre advanced Euro-VI engines. We are looking at bringing this portfolio to India. Similarly in mining, we will be bringing in large capacity engines (60-litre) to India.

Q. How far has work come on integrating telematics?

A. Trucks with BS IV compliance level have some amount of telematics integrated. Going forward we will have advanced telematics with a higher set of features for the truck drivers and fleet operators. It will help them in optimising the cost of their operation. Today, one essentially gets online data on the engine and vehicle performance in real time. This can be used to optimise the truck operations that help to lower fuel economy and enhance safety. We as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can also get this information in real time. All this is well within the realm of possibility.

GST and an investment in world-class infrastructure will put the economy on the fast track to growth.