RoadMaster G75 from Mahindra

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Mahindra RoadMaster G75 motor grader aims at the burgeoning road construction sector.

Story by:Ashish Bhatia

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (M&M) entered the off-highway segment in 2011 with the launch of a backhoe loader. Offering construction tippers through its truck and bus business vertical, the company has introduced the RoadMaster G75 motor grader to cater to the burgeoning road construction sector. Built at Mahindra’s integrated manufacturing facility at Chakan, Pune, the motor grader is claimed to be 100 per cent indigenous in its built. Positioned in a segment that is dominated by global Construction Equipment (CE) majors like Caterpillar, the RoadMaster G75, according to Rajan Wadhera, President – Automotive Sector, M&M, is built to last and priced highly competitively. Expected to elevate the speed of mechanisation in the road construction sector, which is expected to grow at 15 to 20 per cent over the current levels, the RoadMaster G75 is priced at Rs.34.99 lakh inclusive of GST. Claimed to cost almost one third of what it takes to buy a motor grader from global CE majors, the motor grader has been specifically engineered for spreading and grading applications. Set to play a role in the government’s ambitious plan to build 83,677 km of roads over the next five years at a rate of 45 km per day, and with an investment of Rs.6.92 lakh crore, the motor grader is claimed to offer an optimised solution to road contractors for their grading needs.

Expected to carve out a niche, the RoadMaster G75 was conceptualised in 2015. The first proto arrived in 2016. Productionised in 2017, the motor grader is powered by a 79hp DiTEC 4805 IA BSIII CEV engine. Mated to the engine is a four wheel drive (4WD), four-speed Carraro transmission. Featuring two hydraulic pumps, which provide it with a hydraulic multi-function capability, the RoadMaster G75 is fitted with a torque converter type clutch and power shuttle transmission. The motor grader, fitted with a 10 ft. wide blade, and a mouldboard designed to suit productivity and durability, is said to grade at 33 per cent. This is considerably more than what the other motor graders offer, claim M&M sources. Offering a blade cutting angle of 25.6 degrees, and a rotation angle of 30 degrees with a blade side-shift of 513 mm, the RoadMaster G75 comes with a one year, unlimited hours warranty. With (1.98 m) dozer blade and (5 Tyne) ripper as optional fitments, the motor grader was subjected to 6,000 hours of rigorous testing, and has been validated for performance, safety and reliability.

Supported by Mahindra’s sales and service network across the country, the RoadMaster G75 is equipped with Mahindra’s telematics platform DigiSense. Drawing from the experience Mahindra has gained selling tractors and backhoe loaders, the motor grader, claimed to have been bench marked against global quality standards, is both, functional and utilitarian. Aimed at the construction of small to medium roads, and to widen of state and national highways, the RoadMaster G75, said Vinod Sahay, Chief Executive Officer, Truck and Bus Division and Construction Equipment Division, M&M, will prove to be a disruptive addition to the motor grader segment. “It is set to deliver affordable mechanisation sans a compromise, and is aptly suitable for applications such as embankment or earthwork. For laying of railway tracks and levelling of large plots for industrial construction,” he concluded.

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Mahindra sees heavy CV sales rise

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By selling 1,311 units of tractor-trailers in the first half of FY2017-18, Mahindra Trucks and Buses is claimed to have out paced the competition to reach the fourth place in truck segments above 16.2-tonnes. Drawing attention to the company posting a growth of over 90 per cent in the tractor-trailer segment, which is typically of 40- and 49-tonnes, against market growth of 40 per cent, sources cite that the company has crossed the 4.5 per cent market share mark in heavy trucks. In September 2017, the company sold 3,497 trucks. Present in the medium and heavy commercial space, Mahindra Trucks and Buses is claimed to have posted a growth of 34 per cent in the first half of FY2017-18 against a market growth of seven-per cent. The reason for heavy truck buyers turning to Mahindra is said to be the good power to weight ratio that its 7.2-litre engine offers. Until before BSIV, the same engine was looked upon as more powerful, and less efficient thereafter. The other reason is claimed to be the offering of fuel smart technology and a host of after sales initiatives. Good discounts are also said to woo customers to the brand.

Mahindra acquires Erkunt Traktor

With the acquisition of Erkunt Traktor Sanayii A.S. (Erkunt) and its foundry, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.(M&M) has increased its reach into the Turkish market. M&M’s association with Erkunt follows the Hisarlar acquisition in early 2017. Erkunt is the fourth largest tractor brand in Turkey, which is estimated to amount to 60,000 tractors per year. Claimed to be USD 1.7 billion worth, the tractor market in Turkey is considered to be the biggest in Europe. With most tractors sold bigger than 50 hp, the Erkunt acquisition by M&M is expected to close by the last quarter of the current year. Said to be worth Rs.800 crore, the deal is expected to present M&M an opportunity to export tractors to the neighbouring markets of the Middle East, CIS and Europe. The Erkunt foundry unit, with a revenue of USD 47 million during 2016, focuses on engine blocks, cylinder heads and transmission cases for clients like JCB, MAN, Ford and Deutz.

e-Alfa from Mahindra

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Mahindra & Mahindra has introduced e-Alfa mini electric rickshaw. The three-wheeler, priced at Rs.1.12 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, aims at pollution-free last mile connectivity for passengers. To be available in Delhi initially, the e-Alfa mini targets fleet taxi operators and existing three wheeler owners. Boasting of an attractive exterior design, robust body, large cabin space for passenger comfort, and superior suspension and chassis, the electric rickshaw is offered with two years warranty, low down payment, attractive equated monthly instalments and a one-time free battery replacement. Powering the e-Alfa mini is a 120 Ah battery, a powerful motor and a controller. On full charge, the electric rickshaw can travel up to 85 kms in ideal conditions. The top speed is claimed to be 25 kmph.

Application engineering

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Q & A

Dr. Venkat Srinivas,

Vice President & Head, Engineering & Product Development, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. What challenges are you looking at with BSVI round the corner?

A. There will be huge challenges, and huge opportunities too. It was the same in the instance of BSIV. We got an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. For instance, we have been offering common-rail technology on our products as a Group for over 10 years. The experience and synergies we have had as a Group have helped us. The synergies in the area of powertrain have helped us to get a good start. We have been offering BSIII LCVs with common-rail engine technology. We have a lot of application knowledge, not just at Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) but also at Pune. It was developed at a BSIII emission norms came into force. We had some pre-Blazo vehicles – HGVs, in the market. These were 40-tonne tractors. When we launched the BSIII Blazo a year and a half back, we built upon that experience. We added fuel-smart technology to turn the whole equation into a highly successful experience. It gave us the confidence to offer the mileage guarantee. No truck has come back in that regards. The move to BSIV made common-rail technology a necessity. A debate on EGR and SCR played out at the earlier stages. It was important to finalise the architecture. EGR is a good option for smaller vehicles because of the power to weight ratio. A five-tonne LCV typically operates with 70 hp engine in the Indian context. It signals a power to weight ratio of 14 hp per tonne. While the loading in smaller vehicles is often partial, it is exactly the opposite in bigger and heavier vehicles. The power to weight ratio of a 49-tonne truck in an Indian context is between 4 and 4.5 hp per tonne. The engine is operating at full load most of the time. If EGR technology is applied, it brings compromises. A 100 per cent fuel air mixture is not provided to the engine. Exhaust gas recirculation is 15 to 18 per cent. The engine is not burning as much fuel in a duty cycle. The result is less output. Thermal efficiency goes down. Carbon deposits rise. Engine life also goes down. We chose the newer generation airless SCR. This technology will help us to migrate to BSVI.

Q. What advantages does airless SCR offer?

A. Airless SCR uses less power over an air-assisted system. Performance of airless SCR is better. There are fewer parts and less complexity therefore. Reliability is high, and the cost of service is low. We dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive. We had to make the business case work internally for us. The choice of airless SCR makes sense for as far as our customers are concerned. Airless SCR is easier and less costlier to service. Our move to BSVI will not entail an engine change. Many engines between five- and six-litre capacity will be extremely underpowered as BSVI units.

Q. What about the costs incurred to graduate to BSVI technology?

A. The costs will go up, and the reason why we are carrying out technology assessment. From that point of view, we are carrying forward our engines except for one engine in our LCV range. We will carry forward our choice of technology. Our BSVI compliant HCV range will be supported by our 7.2-litre engine. We will go with SCR, and with different calibrations. There will be the addition of DPF. There will be cost addition. The cost delta for different manufacturers will be different. We would be leveraging the investments we have made.

Q. Does it hint at an opportunity to develop more powerful engines to tap new, heavier CV segments?

A. Depending upon the growth of such segments we could definitely look at that. We have to also consider that we are not that large an organisation at the back end either. We have ambitious plans. We do have some platforms to consider. We have to pick our battles in the context of priority. There are gaps in our portfolio that we need to fill up. ICVs and some more play in buses.

Q. What new technology would you offer in buses?

A. Our bus play has been quite successful in the school segment. We have had a limited success in the staff bus segment. We are working towards improving the product portfolio in the staff bus segment. In the current portfolio of up to 40 seats, we have developed a wider body bus. It measures 2.5 m in width over 2.2 m of a conventional bus body. The wider body bus will help us in staff transportation. It will also enable us to offer other bus body, chassis and powertrain level changes. To suit the requirements better, there will be wider seats, and better elbow room on offer. There will be chassis level improvements to achieve superior NVH and comfort. Air suspension is on offer as an option too. Migration to a new platform is part of the strategy. There will be a migration to ICV type of buses. We will also offer new powertrain for ICVs – for trucks and buses. In the case of alternate fuel technology, we are already offering CNG. LNG has been in the news. Distribution is still a challenge. LNG storage and delivery in vehicle is expensive. We are working to crack that problem. LNG services are being piloted at Kochi, and availability to LNG is likely to get better along the west coast. LNG engine technology is not a challenge. Challenge concerns its distribution. As far as the engine is concerned, there’s not much change between a CNG and LNG calibration. LNG calls for the packaging of one large tank. Since it is in a compressed form, it should give a good range. Some weight reduction is possible on an LNG vehicle when compared to a CNG vehicle. LNG tanks are expensive. We will therefore continue to watch this space closely. If we feel that the adoption point is close, to will serve the market.

Q. What about electric CVs?

A. An electric bus has already been announced as part of the electric vehicle portfolio. We are working on that project. It is the T32, T40 and T42 range. From a technology stand point we are well prepared. We have the group company, Mahindra Electric, which has done such projects. We are working with them on the bus project as well. While the project proceeds there are some enablers, which need to happen. One is the cost of the electric power pack. There is interest for local manufacture, which should reduce the costs. The other is the range. A conventional, or even a battery powered bus would call for a range of 200 to 250 kms. An electric bus should also need range like that for a city operation. The range for electric vehicles is still talked to be between 100 and 120 km. Challenges in the area of battery cost and time to fully charge remain. An interesting development in this area is that ministries have come together, and under the purview of union minister Piyush Goyal, are looking at battery swapping for buses. The bus has to travel 50 km before the battery is swapped. The battery thus has to be brand agnostic. The batteries could be charged offline, and away from the bus. The time required is assured. The float can be decided on the number of batteries, and depending on the number of buses as well as the kind of routes to be run on. If the 150 km requirement comes down to 50 km with battery swapping, the cost of batteries will come down to one-third of what it is today. Some level of incentive will be needed, but viability will go up many folds.

Q. Are you looking at something that will be path breaking?

A. Every aspect of the power pack has been scrutinized. If anything new that can be offered, which others have not yet offered. It is subject to a study of what can be done differently. Despite the group experience in electric passenger vehicles, we are approaching electric (commercial) vehicle architecture ground up. We are looking at what the market requirements are for a bus. What learnings of Mahindra Electric can we take so that our learning curve is faster. We are looking at better energy management, better drives, and better storage. We are keen to look at these and the other aspects for an electric bus rather than take a system and upscale it.

Q. The kind of intelligence you would want to build into?

A. We have learnt what we need for the market. Consider the IPR bit, and it is quite complex. Mahindra Electric brings in a good deal of it. The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us to understand how customers use their CVs – HGVs in particular, in various road loads and applications. We have acquired a large database regarding that. This helped us to extend ‘fuelsmart’ technology on the diesel load LCVs that we introduced on the Jayo and Optimo platform. A lot of usage assessment and profiling that we did has given us a detailed understanding of how our products are used. Combine that with Mahindra Electric’s ability to optimise energy management for electric vehicles, and we are looking at a big advantage. The resulting vehicle is certain to be state of the art in terms of energy consumption. There are many out there who can integrate an electric power pack. To arrive at an optimal combination is a different ball-game altogether. The control systems and the development of IPR for efficient management of energy are of prime importance. Mahindra Electric has done a lot of work in this area, and is bringing to the table a lot of learnings. We are bringing a market perspective to the project. It could translate into engineering duty cycle.

Q. How close or how far are we in terms of connected CVs, or autonomous CVs?

A. We have come to look at autonomous vehicles in the form of classical western definitions. It leads to how we are going to look at technologies like adaptive cruise control. This technology is already found on some cars in India. So, it can happen. Technologies like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and AEBS need to be looked at. For example, how will blind spot monitoring work in Pune’s traffic? There will always be someone in the blind spot. Rather than take a literal translation of western definitions and the feature content that is being defined in this domain, the need is to upscale our understanding, which is small when compared to the western markets. Our curiosity in this area is very high. We are very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant. We can build intelligence on the top of the ‘fuelsmart’ technology that we have developed. There is no need to look at driverless vehicle as the holy grail. They may happen 10 or 20 years down the line. There is a need to pick up relevant technology and add intelligence to it. For example, drowsiness alert systems. These, I feel, will be quite relevant in the Indian market. Drunk driving enforcement is not high, and makes a technology like drowsiness alert extremely relevant. There is also a need to find out what is relevant for what application. Off-road segments are perhaps a bit more conducive to automation. On-road there is still an amount of heterogeneity in terms of traffic. In a controlled environment like a mine, an autonomous vehicle can do more. We at Mahindra Trucks and Buses will continue to make our CVs smarter. We will not wait for the regulations to call for it. We will look at other triggers to find out what we can add. A lot of electronics in the form of an ABS system, the engine ECU, the digital instrument cluster, etc., are already there. The need is to leverage them, and to create something better. Every year we will make our trucks and buses smarter. It will take us towards autonomous CVs.

Q. What will the future CVs look like?

A. The driver will become an important part of the ecosystem. We are putting a lot of thought into how we can make the ecosystem better for the driver. It is the driver who spends the most of his time with the CV. We are paying attention to how we can get more productivity from the driver by making it more comfortable for him. The instrument cluster has become a lot more versatile in BSIV guise, and would provide a lot of information. It is about using connected technologies like Wi Fi, Bluetooth and our DigiSense platform. DigiSense is a standard fitment in the Blazo BSIV. We will continue to offer it in our other platforms as well. A lot of information obtained as data is made available to the driver. It is also made available to the fleet owner. This ensures better transparency and management of the data. It could be used for service indicators, diagnostics, and for trouble shooting. This, as connected vehicle technology, will empower the driver and the fleet owner in ways that we have not seen or imagined. We are trying to unlock the potential, a result of which productivity will improve. We want our customers to make more money. There are companies like Tesla that are approaching a problem from a very different angle. We need to learn about them. Some of them are sitting with hordes of cash that they can spend on various experimental ventures. The industry as a whole, I think, is learning from it. The speed of innovation of such companies is something that we can adopt. We may not spend a trillion Dollars or experiment as much, we will however experiment in smaller ways and learn from the experiments of others. We have to be a fast mover and identify the application specific requirements. For example, to experiment with Lidar technology to deliver a certain application. It will have to be done quickly. The basic technology and resolution can be developed by someone else. We will have to move fast in deploying it.

Q. What synergies could we look at as you strive to make smarter trucks and buses?

A. We have a lot of synergies playing out in the Group. The challenge is how do we leverage these synergies. As a Group we are getting better. We are looking at synergies that are beneficial to both. We are working with many Group companies. Our powertrain development comes from MRV. They have engineers at Pune too. A lot of work thus goes on in the area of engine, clutch, transmission, aftertreatment, etc. A lot of work is going on in the area of CNG and other alternate fuel modes. We carry out application at Pune. MRV for example developed DigiSense in association with Bosch and TechMahindra. We have discussed with TechMahindra. They are going to do technology days for us. Their speed of development is such that we have to understand it to leverage it. We are going to have technology days on our premises where they will tell us about relevant technology. This will help us to quickly identify the levels at which we can associate. Synergies are on going, and we could do with more of them.

“We dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive.”

Trendline

The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us to understand how customers use their CVs – HGVs in particular, in various road loads and applications.

Trendline

We are very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant.

SmartShift expands operations

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SmartShift, a Mahindra Group venture, has expanded its operation to Chennai.

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A digital start-up from the Mahindra Group, SmartShift has launched its operations in Chennai. It is the fifth city that marks the entry of the company. Signalling an expansion of operations, the start up company operates in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. Working towards elevating the efficiency in the last mile transport space, SmartShift is acting as a platform for cargo owners and transporters to work with each other, smoothly and flawlessly.

Ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship for both, the cargo owners and transporters, SmartShift is an intra-city digital load exchange platform. Enabling efficient transportation from one point to the other, SmartShift was developed to empower consignees (both businesses and individual users) to avail of an efficient service. They can access SmartShift service through an Android-based mobile app. They can also access SmartShift through a website, or the dedicated call centre. The key differentiator that SmartShift brings to the last mile transport logistics space is the ‘reverse bidding’ feature. The app. successfully emulates the bargaining process between consignees and transporters. It allows them to close the deal at a mutually acceptable price.

In 21 months since launch, SmartShift has emerged as the leading industry player in Mumbai and Hyderabad. It is gaining unprecedented traction in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, claim industry sources. Said to have become a preferred choice for over 16,000 stakeholders, clocking over 1500 transactions per day approximately, SmartShift is looking at the next phase. It is looking to achieve an ambitious milestone of creating a community of one-million stakeholders over the next three years. Kausalya Nandakumar, CEO, SmartShift, at the launch of SmartShift in Chennai, said, “We are delighted to enter the state of Tamil Nadu by launching our operations in one of its largest cities, Chennai. The city is in many ways a gateway to a state that has the largest SCV penetration. Tamil Nadu is a mature market with a strong industrial base. We believe this market has both the need and digital presence to adopt a transport aggregator model like ours. We are confident of driving exponential value in this market.”

With the logistics industry in India pegged at USD 130 billion according to a report, 35 per cent to 40 per cent of it is said to be in the intra-city space. It is expected that 18 lakh small commercial vehicles will carry out millions of transactions everyday, and across the country. “Going ahead we will not only focus on enabling improved business productivity for our customers but also nurture customer relationships, moving beyond mere transactional business,” mentioned Nandakumar.

Offering transparent pricing, and an efficient simple one-click booking process with the ability to track cargo after dispatch, SmartShift, claim industry sources, is already turning out to be a significant player. Citing the knowledge advantage SmartShift could profit from as part of the Mahindra Group, which has a stake in the Indian CV space, and an understanding of the ecosystem, sources opine that an amount of dynamic agility is expected of the company. As the first intrapreneurial start-up incubated within the Mahindra Group, SmartShift combines the process, governance and discipline of a large mature business with the tenacity, nimbleness and fierce competitiveness of a start-up. As a young company SmartShift is said to be strongly leveraging the multi-disciplinary mentorship of the Mahindra Group. It is also said to be leveraging the access to 150 Mahindra Group companies, working as a seamless logistics solution partner.

The unique SmartShift service allows consignees to book a vehicle in less than three minutes; negotiate the best price through a unique first of its kind ‘bidding’ feature. The service also enables the consignees to choose from a range of certified and trained SmartShifters. It enables the consignees to track the selected SmartShifter and ensure that the consignment is delivered safely and securely. Allowing cargo transporters to enjoy more business through faster and easier order receiving technology, SmartShift is making life easier for transporters and fleets. To avail of more business, it is also providing the option to accept or decline a delivery request based on pricing, or the availability of vehicles. Transporters also get an opportunity to explore and expand to other markets; to look forward to a higher earning potential.

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Aiming to expand to 29 cities with 70 per cent of the SCV base in the country, the near-term plan of SmartShift is to cover metro cities. The company is currently following a well charted road map, which includes an expansion to Pune, Kolkata, Jaipur, Chandigarh, and Delhi NCR. Looking at turning the daily logistics requirements of SMEs at least 30 per cent more efficient, SmartShift, for transporters, is providing a first in the industry feature of phone integration and efficient pricing through return trips. With focus on community building, SmartShift is said to look at disrupting the present inefficient ecosystem. Driven by an ambitious goal of owning cargo transportation in the country, SmartShift currently services more than 1000 pin codes in four cities.

SIAM elects Rajan Wadhera as Vice President

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The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has elected Rajan Wadhera as Vice President with effect from June 27, 2017. Rajan Wadhera, President – Automotive Sector and member of Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited will take over as the Vice-President of SIAM from Ravi Pisharody who recently announced his resignation from Tata Motors Limited. Speaking on the occasion, Rajan Wadhera, Vice-President, SIAM said, “At SIAM, we are confident that the Indian Auto Industry will continue to be a strong pillar of the Indian economy and will partner the society at large, for delivery of sustainable mobility solutions.” “Personally, I am honoured to be given this opportunity, and look forward to working with the industry, Government and all other stakeholders for the growth of the industry,” he averred.