Saving to win

The Asia-Pacific round of Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge 2016 finals was held in Sweden with a prime objective of saving fuel.

Text & Photos: Bhargav TS

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Anil Reddy worked hard to get to Falkenburg, Sweden, to participate in the Asia-Pacific round of Volvo’s Fuelwatch Challenge 2016 finals. If he won (in the off-road category), he would go to the global finals. One of the 11000 drivers sensitised by Volvo Trucks India for the Indian part of the championship, under the Asia-Pacific region, Anil drove past 230 drivers to the semi-finals. A hardy soul, he kept climbing, and made it to the team of 30 drivers selected for the India finals. Anil won the finals held at the desolate Besur coal mines, 70 kms to the south of Nagpur in peak summer with temperatures close to 50 degree Celsius. Under the watchful eye of Haribabu, who heads the Volvo Driver Training Centre at Bangalore, Anil used all that he had learnt over the years to make it to the top. He fought a fierce battle where each contestant did all that he could to win the challenge; to be the most frugal over a five-kilometre mining track at Besur’s Gokul Coal Mines. Volvo Trucks deployed Dynafleet, their proprietary fleet management system, to measure the performance of each driver. It measured the drivers on four key aspects – braking, speed adaptation, engine and gear utilisation and standstill. Data on fuel efficiency, driver’s uptime and overall productivity were collected to gauge contestants’ performances and identify specific areas for improvement.

Confident of winning the finals, Anil flew to Sweden, the first time he would ever step into the European Union, and into Volvo’s home country. Some trepidation did find a way to Anil as he got on the plane to Sweden. He simply shrugged it away, lost in the thought that he had to win the title. Conditioned by the desolate mining landscape and harsh working environment, he found his way to Falkenburg. At that point, he had no clue he would have a story to take back home to his fellow drivers, and all those who played a role in getting him to Sweden.

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Born out of the need to care for environment

The history of Fuelwatch Challenge dates back 10 years when Volvo’s Korean officials kicked off the event at the national level. They did so with a view of encouraging their customers and drivers to be more responsible towards the environment, drive frugally and reduce the carbon footprint. The Swedish major also saw a way of telling about their efforts to build efficient and technologically adept trucks through their customers and drivers. The message was clear: Volvo’s customers could build sustainable business and engineer high operational efficiency. Working tirelessly to increase the fuel efficiency of its trucks by infusing new technologies, the company has turned the Fuelwatch Challenge into a global event. It is divided into two parts, an on-road event for its on-road truck drivers and an off-road event for off-road (tipper) truck drivers. As part of the Asia-Pacific leg of the challenge, the challenge in India was kicked off by Volvo seven years ago. It was decided to limit it to the off-road category. This is about to change as Volvo shifts gears once again in India, and renews its focus on on-road trucks. The on-road challenge in the Asia-Pacific region is currently held in Korea, China, Malaysia and Singapore among other countries. In the last edition of the Asia Pacific Fuelwatch Challenge, P Ravi of S V Engineering Construction (SVEC) won the off-road category. The finals were held at Thailand. Following in Ravi’s footsteps, Anil, working for the same company, flew to Falkenburg, with just the thought of winning and retaining the title for India. One of the 14 drivers crowned at their respective national levels in the Asia-Pacific region in the off-road category, Anil would indeed have a story to take back home.

Expressed Per Bruun Hansen, Driver Development Manager, Volvo Group Trucks, at the start of the event on the Falkenberg Motorbana (FM) Racetrack, “In order to achieve good fuel economy the drivers will have to shift gears as less as they can. They will have to shift progressively to ensure better torque. They will need to plan, and be gentle on the accelerator and brake; use them as little as possible. They will also have to reduce idling and constantly check the tyre pressure to achieve the best fuel economy.” “The carriage of overload will increase fuel consumption by one to two per cent. If all the steps mentioned are considered, one could achieve better mileage and increase the operational efficiency,” he added.

The event

Anil and the 13 other participants drove a Volvo FMX 500 8×4 tipper across a designated track created especially for the purpose at the Falkenberg racetrack. The heavy-duty tipper was equipped with D13K500 VEB+, Euro 6 engine that develops peak torque of 2500 Nm, and is mated to an I-Shift AT2612F gearbox. The front of the truck was fitted with leaf spring suspension (FAL20). The rear contained an air suspension (RTH2610F). The tipper was also equipped with Volvo Dynamic steering.

The drivers did two laps in the FMX500. The maximum time they were allowed to drive was 18 minutes. Each driver took off from the start point, got on to the off-road track, climbed a gradient and descended it from the other side. After descending, the driver brought the truck to a complete halt for five seconds. He then drove into the next terrain consisting of mud and sludge. He also drove over a plain area before completing the second lap. During the entire competition, the inter-axle differential lock was engaged. The I-shift lever position was determined by the driver, except when starting. When starting the position was in the automatic mode. Traveling with the gear lever in neutral position resulted in disqualification.

Jangh Yun Son of Korea was announced as the top-most fuel-efficient driver in the off-road category. He is the owner of Moa ICT transporting aggregate, construction waste in Korea. Hsu Chin-Lung of Taiwan was announced as the top most fuel-efficient driver of the Asia Pacific region in the on-road category. He is a professional driver at a big Transport company of Petrol Chemistry, Industry indicators in Taiwan. Anil Reddy was announced the 1st runner up in the (off-road) challenge.

President of Volvo Trucks International, Heléne Mellquist, congratulated the winners. She mentioned, “The great performances offered by our contestants underline the importance of driver when it comes to achieving optimal fuel efficiency. This competition is all about sharing insights to improve drivers’ performance and benefit businesses in the long run.” “For the current edition more than 5800 contestants have participated, and the event is growing year on year,” she added.

Accolades for Anil Reddy

Competing with five contestants and being judged as the first runner-up having stood from the winner with a marginal difference in the off-road category, Anil Reddy attracted much attention for his efforts. GV Rao, Director – Product, Brand and Marketing of Volvo Trucks India, congratulated him. He averred, “It is a proud moment for India and its driver community. With each edition of Fuelwatch, the competition is becoming more intense. Indian drivers are becoming increasingly competitive in their quest to win a global competition like this.” “A competition like this signifies the importance of driver behaviour and its contribution towards achieving higher fuel efficiency, productivity and safety,” he added.

Reddy expressed that he was proud to be a Volvo truck driver. He said that he is looking forward to share his learning from the Fuelwatch event and spread awareness on the importance of fuel efficiency among fellow drivers in India. Mentioned Anil about the training rendered by the Volvo driver training centre in Bangalore. This centre continuously trains drivers, both in Bangalore and at customer’s mine sites. The centre point of driver training is

fuel efficiency.

While Volvo lays stress on fuel efficiency, and goes to the length of formulating, holding and expanding the scope of a challenge called the Fuelwatch Challenge, it may be interesting to note that transportation is responsible for 28 per cent of India’s carbon emissions, second only to power plants, which are responsible for 31 per cent of the emissions. Heavy duty vehicles in India are growing as infrastructure and transportation needs of the country change. This is having an effect on the environment. The drivers of heavy vehicles can contribute towards preserving the environment by saving fuel and ensure that the trucks they pilot, emit less. The task of building trucks that are environmentally friendly, Volvo is already

doing.

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Per Bruun Hansen, Driver Development Manager,

Volvo Group Trucks

Q. How do you rate the current edition of Volvo Fuelwatch 2016?

A. Without any doubt I would say that the current edition is better than the last edition. This year we saw that the drivers were extremely dedicated. They were highly competitive. In fact, after the results the ones that did not win should have no reason to feel bad. They are still among the best drivers in the world.

Q. In the off-road category, what was the deciding factor?

A. I think it was time management. Managing the time as you go around and make sure you control the throttle rightly as you climb the hill and climb down is important. This really makes a lot of difference in achieving better fuel economy. If two of the drivers are same in fuel economy then we will see the time consumed and finally the costing. This is how we decide the winners.

Q. The difference between the winner, the first runner-up and the second runner-up?

A. I cannot give you that figure, but I can say that the fuel consumption difference between them is less than three per cent. And, that’s quite exiting. That’s why I said that there should not be any hard feelings for the second and third runner-up. Next day, in a different weather condition and on a different track they can be the winners. They are all top drivers. It is because the Dynafleet can record very minute figures, that we have been so accurately able to gauge the performance of the drivers. It is the best tool so far in tracking all the parameters.

Q. How does the Dynafleet help the drivers?

A. Earlier I would need to spend more than four hours with the drivers to understand their driving behaviour and pattern. With Dynafleet my job has become much easier and simpler. With Dynafleet to assist, I am able to train the driver in the area that he should improve in. Dynafleet clearly indicates the area of improvement such that the driver cannot blame me as a trainer. Neither can be put the blame on any external factor. The result is in black and white.

Q. What would be your advice to the competitors?

A. I would tell them to stay calm, and be gentle on the accelerator. I would also tell them to not follow what others are doing. Concentrate on your own performance and the rest will fall into place is what I would tell them.

Q. Some drivers feel that driving premium trucks is difficult. Is it true?

A. In India we are located in Hosakote, Bangalore. There we have a training centre run by highly trained and professional trainers. There are no obstacles therefore in familiarising with new technologies. When drivers come to train, they think that they know everything. However, after a day or two, they realise how different and easy it is to learn new technologies. The day one stop’s learning, he is dead. That is what I believe. I therefore do not think that there’s an issue about premium trucks being difficult to drive.

Truck platooning demonstrated

On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Challenge 2016 finals, Volvo Trucks demonstrated truck platooning at Falkenburg. One truck led the way, and others followed it in a convoy, copying every move of the truck in front. Separated by as little as 25 ft., like a convoy of cyclists in Tour de France, each truck, except the one at the front, benefitted from a drop in wind resistance. Said Hyder Wokil, Mobility & Automation Director, Volvo Trucks, that such a formation could save six per cent fuel. He averred that platooning requires vehicle-to-vehicle communication and an amount of autonomous driving. Pointing at technological solutions that aren’t far from turning commercial application, the platooning demonstration endorsed the fact that incremental steps are being taken to make trucks efficient than they are today. “Truck platooning can bring significant fuel saving and reduce CO2 and toxic emissions. It can also help to reduce congestion through efficient use of existing infrastructure, thereby reducing pollutants and greenhouse gases further. In the long run, haulage companies in particular will benefit from faster transhipment of goods through fewer traffic jams. Roads will be used more efficiently. Through harmonisation of regulations, the automotive industry will be able to work on the smooth introduction of self-driving trucks,” mentioned Wokil.

Ravi and Anil lead the way

At the finals held at Thailand, it was P Ravi who won the championship. He and Anil Reddy works for S V Engineering Construction (SVEC), a company that participates in mining, infra and agricultural projects. Both, Ravi and Anil are leading the way in reflecting upon truck drivers that they should save fuel and care for the environment by doing their bit. There’s also something that SVEC is doing right, that has got Ravi and Anil this far. Established in 1973, SVEC transitioned from irrigation projects to mining in 2000. It has now transitioned into infra projects due to the slowdown in mining activities. Working on infra projects like the construction of second runway at the Bangalore Airport, SVEC has 110 Volvo tippers and 28 Volvo 48-tonne excavators. A loyal Volvo customer since the first truck that SVEC bought in 2000 continues to operate even today, N Vinod Reddy, Managing Partner, SVEC, informs that his company calculates the fuel consumption of its drivers and the best driver is sent to the Volvo Fuelwatch competition. Of the opinion that such a competition motivates the drivers and results in a huge improvement, both Ravi and Anil have been working for SVEC since 2014. Both had the experience of driving premium trucks, but the Volvo driver training and on-site training helped them to learn to achieve better fuel economy. “Anil and Ravi will be made trainers for the rest of the drivers at SVEC so that their journey motivates other drivers,” Reddy stated. Interestingly, for the fleet operator, a rise in fuel savings translates into more profitability. If he has 100 trucks for example, and each truck saves 10 percent fuel, the savings in monetary terms amount to Rs.2-2.5 crore per year.

A system named Dynafleet

Dynafleet make look like just another telematics-based fleet management tool developed by a truck manufacturer, it is however much more than that. According to Volvo sources, it helps to deliver on an important count of fuel efficiency. It measures the fuel economy of a truck, and is designed to provide an insight into the management of the entire fleet, truck-by-truck. Helping to pick up information for a deeper understanding the truck operator’s business, Dynafleet also helps to take corrective measures. It can generate reports from a wide range of parameters and discover why a particular driver consumes more fuel than the other when he is driving the same truck. Potential savings are easy to identify, and quickly. Enhancing profitability, Dynafleet reports vehicle data and driver times to both the driver and the office. This information assists in transport analysis and forms a reliable basis for the vehicle manager’s work and the office’s wage calculations. A complete transport management system, Dynafleet presents a range of logistical functions including the vehicle’s position. This makes the system the transport planner’s daily tool for planning, managing and following up transport assignments.

CAPTION

ò Volvo Trucks officials with Indian contestant and last year’s APAC winner.

ñ FM 500 being used for on-road competition.

ð After the competition all the data are acquired from the Dynafleet by the Volvo official.

Volvo truck to self-drive in an underground mine

Volvo Trucks is gearing up to test what it claims will be the first fully autonomous truck in operation in an underground mine. To be self-driven at the Kristineberg Mine in Sweden, Volvo Trucks, Torbjorn Holmstrom, member of the Volvo Group Executive Board and Volvo Group Chief Technology Officer has said, that his is the first company in the world to attempt such a feat. Part of a development project aimed at improving the transport flow and safety in mines, the truck is expected to cover a distance of seven kilometre. In doing so, it is claimed to reach a depth of 1320 metre underground. The truck will make use of sensors that continuously monitor the truck’s surroundings to avoid fixed as well as moving obstacles. An on-board transport system will gather data to optimise and coordinate the route and fuel consumption.

Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Truck Sales, India

 

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Technology and growth

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. How do you find the Indian commercial vehicle market?

A. The move from BS IV to BS VI. It is a very strong signal. Then, there’s the potential implementation of GST. There’s also the construction of infrastructure. If these three events are attained, I firmly believe, it will lead to a more robust transformation of the transport industry in India. One factor that is difficult for me to assess is the ‘Internet Of Things’. There’s a lot of investment; big players are coming. People are buying more and more through ecommerce. Its difficult to capture the potential. An impression is had that the ecosystem is on the verge of transformation. There’s a need for us to be pro-active; to bring solutions, and to see what the customer will require. I firmly believe that India is transforming. We need to look at the long-haul.

Q. What do you mean by long-haul?

A. Look at our mining approach, we have the most robust offer for the customer. We start from a very simple solution and go up to the most technologically advanced solutions including the I-Shift and Dynafleet telematics. We have a wide spectrum of solutions to offer. Supporting the solutions is a fantastic infrastructure. Even when operating in remote areas of India, we have made arrangements so that parts are available. Such an operation requires a lot of investment. We are ‘mining ready’ for India; we have been for years. We were present in the on-road business. For price point issue, and because of the currency exchange issue, we have not been able to capture that market. We will come back for sure. In Asia, we have had a breakthrough in China because of the eeconomy. We are looking at such a breakthrough in India too.

Q. What scenario do you foresee as you look at on road business?

A. India is a very buoyant country. Couple of years ago it was opening up to the world. Earlier it was not as connected with the world when it came to trade. Today, there’s a rising emphasis on investment, local manufacture, and more. There’s also a shift in terms of appetite for technology. The normal pattern of rise will not be followed. The country will carve out an immediate passage to the most modern. Look at Europe for instance, and it took time to change. In India, the platooning of trucks and connectivity have the potential of changing rapidly. Through our conversation with our customers we came to find out that their main concern is the driver. Not because of the cost, but because of the attrition rate. Shortage of driver is pushing our customers to opt for technology driven solutions. It is not the cost but the need to operate in an optimised environment. We expect that this will trigger technology, simplicity and an ability to get ride of the human factor.

Q. Medium and heavy truck segment has been growing. There’s a move to higher tonnage vehicles. Freight rates have risen. What does that indicate to you?

A. I see it as a sparkling signal for transformation. The one limitation is see is the customer’s ability to invest in modern, expensive and efficient solutions. The absence of an expensive and efficient solution is because to achieve optimal turnaround time, efficient utilisation level of a truck and derive a certain fuel economy has not been possible yet. The non implementation of GST means there’s stop and go between states. Lack of double lane or triple lane roads is a limiting factor. If such hindrances are dealt with, the customer will opt for a modern, expensive and efficient solution. We are very happy to see a change in the mindset in terms of engaging and contracting transport. It was short-term and assignment driven earlier. It is now starting to be ‘long’-contract driven, which ranges for over five years. This will give the customer more room to look at a sophisticated solution without impacting profitability. The life expectancy of the truck in Europe is 10 years and beyond. In India, I am given to understand that it is less. Transformation has started in India. There’s however a need to be careful and cautious.

Q. Does your premium positioning limit your ability to attract buyers?

A. When India will be able to afford expensive, elaborate and sophisticated solutions, it will make for an excellent choice. It will mean that the country is emerging at a level where the approach is more elaborate, intensive and profitable. Until now India has been compensating with cheaper local solutions. If things happen in the right way, a change will come about. It will not come at the European level. It is a mistake to take an European product, localise it a bit, and hope that it will work.

Q. For higher localisation, you would need volume. Does it not look difficult?

A. We have driven localisation and built volume viability in mining trucks. There’s a recipe; there are ways, and I think it is exactly the same (as in the mining segment). We are thus finding ways to make it work in the on road segment. Industry professionalism is rising. New players are coming in. Big retail chain stores are focusing upon India. Logistics companies are showing interest. I see it coming, but then, we need to be innovative.

Q. How’s been the response to I-Shift automated manual transmission?

A. Some 18 months ago we had a 20 per cent penetration. Today, we are at 60 per cent. We have taken a strategic decision for India that next year we will stop manufacturing manual gearbox. Emphasis will be on the I-Shift because it is the most advanced technology. It enhances fuel efficiency and has the potential of addressing the driver challenge.

Q. You are banking on I-Shift technology for on-road segment penetration. What is the reason?

A. To understand why we are banking on I-Shift technology there is a need to reflect upon the strategic worldwide direction of Volvo Trucks. “Volvo Trucks will stop selling manual gearbox on a worldwide basis.” We are getting into a journey where the machine, the system, and the ECU is here to assist and deliver expected performance to our customer. If we don’t embrace the technology quickly someone else will do it. We will lose the competitive edge. Talking about countries like China and India, old fashioned technology was being offered some years ago. The need today is for the most up-to-date technology. Especially in markets like India. The need is for the most advanced technology to be offered at an affordable cost. We are looking at providing such solutions. I firmly believe that there will be a need for such solutions. Recently I had a discussion with one of our board members in India. He is very much into the retail business as well. He wants to pursue a retail experience of delivering at the buyer’s door step. Problem is, in India there are external logistics companies that do not know where exactly the location of delivery is, and that if the driver will deliver the goods safely, and in time. There’s a risk of the customer’s buying experience taking a hit. The need today is for a well perceived experience for the customer from the computer to home. Trucks will play a major role into this. We are not pursuing the last km because of the city profile. We feel that in the massive flow, we have a big role to play. We have the system, and we have the technology. If I am able to deploy a performance monitoring system at a frugal cost, I think we have a competitive edge in India. We did it in mining with the Dynafleet solution. We have had customers walk up to us and ask if we would be offering this feature or that feature. They are ready to buy should we offer them. India is the engineering country of the world, and people are highly receptive to new technology.

Q. You mentioned about frugal cost. Isn’t India a price sensitive market?

A. Every market has price sensitive customers. The price point in India is a bit lower. But then we sold 1,222 trucks that are expensive when compared to others in the market. We have proved that it works in mining, and it is therefore that people have bought from us. I believe there is a way to educate; to explain, and to prove that it works. It is a matter of confidence and understanding the needs of the customer. It is a matter of adjusting the business model accordingly. I do not believe in cutting costs. I think instead that it is about the ‘full-time’ value proposition and whether it meets the customer expectations. There will come a time when people will look at efficiency over time rather than cost. They will look at peace of mind.

Q. How do you look at driver shortage in India as you pursue the on-road segment?

A. I have been in India for one year, and I am a bit surprised, and sad as well, to see such a thing. There are countries where access to competence and to train people is even tougher. We have been successfully correct the trajectory. We have solutions; we have modules, it is just that they have to be deployed. I see it as a work to be done by three parties; by us, our partner and our customer. We have everything that is needed to fix the wheel. There’s CSR. Our trucks are operating in remote mining areas. We have a responsibility to the society. For on-road it is a different story. We have a role to play. What worries me is that over 300,000 people in India die in road accidents every year. It is an issue that is hardly discussed. We have the responsibility to offer solutions and systems. The need is for education. It is possible to make a progress. All the players should raise their voice.

Q. The changes that you have brought about in the last one year?

A. We believe in not challenging the customer, and instead in supporting him. To make sure that our trucks are on the road. Speed of execution and customer support are the changes I think I have brought about in India. My task has also been to raise the voice of India into the organisation for the people there to realise that something big is happening. To make them realise that a huge transformation is underway and there is a need to tackle it. In Asia, all the markets are shrinking except India. There are a lot of opportunities in India, not only linked to selling of our products but also about leveraging the competence. Out of the 100,000 people in the Volvo Group, some 4000 people are at Bangalore alone. There are not many companies who would have four per cent of their people in one location. India makes a sizeable engine in the Volvo Group; in engineering, in financing, and in IT. The need is to continue to capture the potential. India is quite likely to bring new business ideas and patterns. We believe that countries like India and China are disruptive. The forces at play given their size are too big. One is looking at a different approach, different costs, different way of thinking and different speed of execution. Our an organisation like ours, this is extremely challenging. The rules are different, approaches and different, and expectations are different. The challenge is in doing things differently. For me it is a challenge to tell at Sweden that in India this will not work that way. That a different approach is needed.

Q.Do you plan to expand the dealer network?

A. Our trucks are distributed through our joint venture (Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles). The capability of the Eicher network is fantastic. We would use the opportunity to leverage this capability for our on-road thrust. We have great synergies for our mining operations – both in terms of Eicher as well as Volvo. We have hubs at five major locations. In cities, to support the buses, we already have a network. Distribution network, given the size of India, is not a concern for us.

Q. A big change is underway at your joint venture. How do you look at at it?

A. The joint venture has been successful. We will be celebrating eight years of it. Except Maruti Suzuki, it is the only joint venture that has lasted so long. Look at the engines produced in a Volvo environment (at Volvo Eicher Powerstrain), and I think the joint venture is extremely successful. They are also bringing in a lot of ideas; conveying customer level changes, which in-turn also translate into partner-level changes. Both these are helping us to adapt to changes. Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle is helping us to understand (the market) better, to grow better, and to work closely.

Q. Along with the joint venture what developments do you foresee in terms of sourcing?

A. The technology (between Eicher and Volvo platforms) is different; there are very few commonalities, and it is difficult to leverage an opportunity. The grade of the supplier industry in India is such that we are sourcing more and more components from India to Europe, USA and other parts of Asia. We continue to grow on that count. The fact that a component is used in a Volvo truck means the quality, performance and price is at the expected level.

Q. How do you look at your journey in India?

A. India is the third largest heavy-duty truck market in the world. It is already showing the potential to be the number two. There are strong local players. The profile is similar to that of China. There’s potential for the market to modernise and grow. There is a lot of dynanism. We are a part of this market for the last 15 years. The prospects for us are extremely positive. As a Group with the inclusion of Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, we are selling close to 50000 trucks in India. Last year it was 46000 trucks. India is a huge market that we are participating in. It is a strategic market. Profitability is going in the right direction. It is necessary that we become more robust. Dynamic growth pattern is not the case in Asia. The case in Asia is patience. Plant the seed; put some water, let it out in the Sun; develop relations and stabilise, and it will happen. Countries like India are subject to forces that are extremely strong, and can create a huge swing.

Q. By forces, are you in some way hinting at the ability to engineer frugally, locally?

A. After a point in time, frugal has to become innovative. It can be low cost, but has to bring under it new territories. India is capable of sending a space shuttle and developing an atomic bomb. Considering such capabilities, the need is to bring in different levels to make the ‘Make in India’ proposal successful. The need is to engineer the India way, at a competitive performance set, frugally, and innovative in a way that it brings more value and more innovation to the world.

Q. Has ‘make in India’ touched you?

A. It is difficult to say if it has touched us, and how. We entered India 15 years ago. We could claim that we had the vision of ‘make in India’ then. Things are at another dimension today. The need is to put India at the right position in the global organisation. For many, ‘make in India’ seems to be about leveraging exports and seeking profitability outside India. We are in India, and we need to look at the market in India, for India and outside India. And, not from the customer perspective, but from the product perspective, from the solutions perspective, and for the development done here.

Q. Has the entry of Volvo Financial Services been successful?

A. It has been successful in easing the financing difficulties. In March, our penetration level was at 38 per cent. The presence of Volvo Financial Services gives the customer a reason to trust. It takes care of the overall profitability, which has everyone happy. Its been seven months after Volvo Financial Services entered India. The need would be to be innovative, smart and propose different products; different scenarios and different setups to help our customer. Attention would be need to be given to bring added value, and not just a cheaper interest rate. So to be attractive, it is the engineering, duration and bits like the service agreement that will make a difference. What looks like a robust and attractive finance solution today may not hold water tomorrow.

Q. What you do think about commercial vehicle regulations?

A. More clarity about regulations, about the ease of doing business will come over time. The implementation of GST will be very good. It will simplify business. GST will send a very strong signal that transformation is possible. It will be a good enabler; it will be a step towards transformation.

Volvo looks up to on-road trucks for growth



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After tasting success in the mining segments, Volvo Trucks India is shifting its focus once again to on-road segments.

Story & Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

The new chief of the Goteborg-based Volvo Group, Martin Lundstedt, has set the ball rolling. The winds of change are upon the Swedish truck major, and the undercurrents of this change are being felt in India. After tasting success in the mining segments with the FMX range of premium heavy-duty deep mining tippers, Volvo Trucks India is shifting focus to on-road segments after what would seem like a long hiatus. It was in 1996, and after deciding to invest in India as the country embarked on an ambitious plan to build infrastructure, that Volvo unveiled the famed FH and FM range of on-road long-haulage trucks under the leadership of Ravi Uppal. It was the beginning of a revolution in the Indian trucking arena. High cost and premium positioning posed a limitation, but the modern trucks rolling out of Hoskote near Bangalore created much scope for aspiration. With the central government, and the minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, emphasising time and again on building road infrastructure and no less than 100 kms of new roads everyday, it is quite logical of the Swedish company to shift focus once again to the on-road truck segments. A reason for this could also be the continued replacement demand in the Medium and Heavy (M&HCV) truck segment. The trend in the M&HCV segment is also indicating a preference for trucks that can carry more.

Keen to adopt new metrics to measure success in the Indian context, 95 per cent of Volvo’s sales currently are contributed by the mining trucks. These account for the company’s 60 per cent volume sales in Asia, which is more than what the Swedish company sells in Europe. Having once competed in the on-road trucking space, it may not be difficult for the company to find its way inside. Especially now that it has Eicher to look at as a group entity. Volvo, in comparison to Eicher, is a premium brand. Given its global positioning it will very likely stay that way. It would be therefore interesting to see how Volvo Trucks India finds a way to carve a pie of the heavy-duty truck market, which continues to be price sensitive and TCO oriented. Keen on being assured of profitability, the Indian operator aspires for a Volvo truck for certain, but not without a clear understanding of the difficulties he faces. Volvo, on its part, is counting on its technological prowess. It is counting on its I-Shift Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) to make a difference. Launched in 2015, the I-Shift AMT has come to be a familiar term in Volvo buses. For it to be popular in trucks, there’s work cut out.

Claimed to be shifting away from a region-bound strategy, which was inclusive of a multi-brand approach, Volvo Trucks in India, it is evident, is in for a considerable change. “At Volvo Trucks India, over the next two-to-three years we are looking at a positive growth as far as the Indian market is concerned. Despite mining solutions being our DNA, we want to establish ourselves as a serious transport solutions provider,” expressed Pierre-Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo India Pvt Ltd. Salamon stressed upon improving financial performance for the stakeholders. “The foundation for the ambitious strategy (to become the most desired transport solutions provider) will rest on four key pillars, customer success, building of trust amongst all stakeholders, and passion and adaptation to change,” Salamon stated. Salamon added that the Indian truck market is ranked twelfth globally. Claiming to have delivered 208,000 trucks in FY2015, he drew attention to the fact that 98 per cent of his company’s sales came from the FMX mining and construction trucks. Of these, most were delivered by the FMX440 8×4 I-Shift. At Excon 2015, the company unveiled two dump trucks (FM520 and FM480) based on the FMX platform with a 60-tonne capacity, reiterating once again, its emphasis on the mining segment.

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That is about to change. Focus is shifting to on-road trucks. Despite attaining product efficiencies, in the case of transportation product portfolio, the company has struggled to reach the apt price points. The offering of I-Shift tech may help as the company finds new in-roads into the on-road trucking segments. The need would be for the I-Shift tech to address the Indian truckers’ often conflicting needs. Averred G V Rao, Vice President – Product Strategy, Brand and Marketing, “The I-Shift on all our offerings (FH, FMX and FM range) by FY2017 will mark the next big leap we wish to achieve.” Found first on the FMX 440 19.5 cu. m. tipper, the I-Shift tech has tasted success in ‘rough’ and ‘hilly’ applications. A 12-speed electronically controlled splitter and range-change automated transmission, I-Shift is laced with an advanced software in the FMX range. It is optimised for mining operations and characterised by a fast gear changing system, featuring minimum interruption in torque delivery during gear change. The technology claimed to have both, high starting traction and high average speed, continuously monitors road gradient, vehicle speed, acceleration, torque, load, rolling and air resistance. According to Rao, it reduces the stress on driveline and tyres, and in-turn translates into lower maintenance and longer service life.

 

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Today no fewer than 80 per cent of Volvo’s FH trucks are equipped with I-Shift, making this AMT (automated mechanical transmission ) virtually a standard feature. When it was launched in 2001 in Europe, there were AMTs on the market already, based on manual gearboxes adapted to permit automatic gear-changing. They were not that reliable. In 2002, one year after I-Shift was launched, 14 per cent of all Volvo trucks sold in Europe were equipped with it. The second generation I-Shift was introduced in 2005. The third generation model came in 2009. What is being offered as of current is the fourth generation model. The penetration of I-Shift, said Rao, grew to 90 per cent by 2015. Keen to find in-roads into the on-road trucking segments, the emphasis on I-Shift could help Volvo Trucks India bring about a change in the way the on-road trucking scene in India is currently like. The financial year 2016-17 will be an important year for the Swedish company. It is the year the truck market is expected to turnaround. The signals of this are visible for the last few quarters. The Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle (M&HCV) segment has done double digits. A lot is dependent on infrastructure development. The pace of its development.

Volvo Assembly tech

The truck assembly plant at Hoskote is spread across 122 acres. The layout is such that one line feeds into the other. It is based on the fish-bone concept according to Volvo sources. Producing multiple variants on the same line, the fish-bone concept is claimed to minimise efficiency losses and help find faults quickly. The head of the fish concept is that stage of the assembly where a fully-built truck rolls out. The bones of the fish make the sub-assembly lines that feed the sub-assemblies to the main line. There are two sub-assembly lines that feed to the main line. They contain multiple work stations, which carry out the task of building sub-assemblies. A few other sub-assemblies are a little away from the main assembly. They build crucial parts like the engine, which is fed to the main assembly line. Others execute the task of assembling the gearbox, weld the cab, and mount the superstructure and weld it. There’s also the paint shop. Annually 4000 trucks are made at Hoskote in a single shift operation. The operation can be scaled up to meet a rise in demand.

It takes two days to build a truck. As sub-assemblies feed to the main line, a truck is progressively assembled. A nine stage operation involves the riveting of the chassis members. The next stage involves routing of pneumatic and electrical cables. Brackets for assemblies like fuel tanks and air tanks are fitted at the next stage. At the fourth stage, the axles are mounted. Propeller shaft is also fitted. At stage five, the engine is married to the chassis. The cab is mounted at stage six. Various fluids are added at stage seven. Stage eight involves programming. Every chassis is claimed to have its own unique program, giving each truck an individual identity. The fully-built truck, which incorporates 28 per cent local content, is taken to the test track adjoining the assembly plant for a test run.

Given the volume the Hoskote plant turns out, the operations have been largely mechanised. Anticipating growth from focus on on-road segments, a gradual shift towards automation is likely. Costs will dictate the move. Said Helen Savmyr, Plant Head, Volvo Trucks India, that the aim to increase automation is to match Volvo Truck’s global plants, which are known to operate with minimal human intervention. An interesting bit of the production is a computerised process quality check where each truck is connected to a remote server in Sweden. The embedded software programs are checked. Various functions like lighting, accelerator, brake, gear shift are checked. A fault, if detected, is rectified. On the test track, trained drivers put the truck through its paces for 40 to 50 km. Before the truck leaves the plant, specially trained employees check it thoroughly. The axles are aligned with the help of laser guided alignment equipment. The Hoskote plant is ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certified. It employs 140 people.

Volvo points at a sustainable electromobile future

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Honouring efforts in the direction of sustainable mobility, Volvo pointed at a sustainable electromobile future.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

In an effort to felicitate outstanding contribution in the area of sustainable mobility, Volvo Buses India organised the fifth edition of Volvo Sustainable Mobility awards in New Delhi. Through the exercise, which dates back to a decade of successful journey, Volvo Buses honoured initiatives in traffic management, cloud based technology, road safety, and BRT systems that aim to develop public transport as an attractive transportation medium. With a prime objective of developing and deploying cloud based software system that facilitates efficient management of public bus operations, Mapunity, a Bengaluru based technology firm was adjudged the winner for its ‘Buscloud’ project. The award included a cash prize of Rs.12 lakhs. The Centre of Green Mobility in partnership with Ahmedabad Traffic Police received the first runner up award for their initiative tagged ‘The Crosswalk Lab’. This project aims to increase pedestrian safety and improve traffic management especially at the traffic junctions in a city. Advocacy against drunken driving’ project by ArriveSAFE was awarded for spreading awareness towards reducing the fatalities that happen due to the consumption of poppy, a popular drug for commercial vehicle drivers to stay awake during long journeys. ArriveSAFE has been actively working towards enhancing road safety. “It is all about the urgency with which all stakeholders are contributing to make cities better. And, it is not just about the solutions and ideas being presented,” said VRV Sriprasad, MD, Volvo Buses India.

For a sterling effort, the jury also gave special recognition to Rainbow BRT, Pune, and Atal Indore City Transport Services (AICTSL), which has been a joint initiative of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd., Pune Municipal Corporation, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and Institute for transportation and Development Policy. The project has been aiming to regulate city bus riding across Pune and Indore through Mass Rapid Transit system and offer safe, reliable public transport and reduce private vehicle usage for daily commute. Volvo Buses also honoured IBUS BRTS, an initiative of Atal Indore City Transport Services, for their unique effort to cater to over one lakh passengers every day with just 100 city buses in Indore. The company also put the spotlight on its initiative, Engage. Volvo Engage is an effort to catalyse partnerships across various areas for sustainable mobility according to sources at Volvo Buses. Since road and vehicle safety program is a very disintegrated effort in India, through Volvo Engage, Volvo Buses is trying to assimilate various stakeholders to bridge the gap between what exists and what needs to be done.

The first of the two round table discussions held at the event focused on making the Indian roads safer for all (pedestrians and vehicles). With the market dynamics in India deferring from those in the developed countries, it was unanimously agreed upon by the panelists that building awareness and forming a public opinion for proactive adoption of safety measures along with the road safety bill is necessary. Mentioned Rajeev Lochan, Director, Road Safety, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, “There has to be a bill which is a true piece of legislation and has better acceptance across all sections of the society. It is also important to convey and implement that good Samaritans who will help on the road will not get into trouble while helping accident victims.” Lochan mentioned that urban congestion and poor infrastructure can’t be dealt with overnight, the need is to find little measures that can reduce road fatalities. Mentioned a panelist that everything cannot be done at the legislative level. Another panelist expressed that even at a micro level the collaborative efforts could bring about a significant change. Sunil Chaturvedi, CEO, Automotive Skill Development Corporation, averred, “Skilled drivers and technicians are required in a big number. Drivers should drive and technicians should carry out repairs. The role of the two cannot be mixed. Leaving the two to do what they most like will help towards reducing accidents. The same could be done by issuing certificates from training schools.” Piyush Tiwari, Founder and CEO, Save Life Foundation, said, “At a micro level, education has never had a measurable impact on road safety. The techniques of safety are fine but need to be enforced effectively. Effective enforcement is tough, and the only way it could be achieved is through technology. There is a need to combine education, assessment and enforcement.”

The second panel discussion was on electromobility. One of the participants drew attention to the dangerous levels of pollution attained at Delhi. He added that there was a need for alternate propulsion mediums in the country. Stated a panelist that they have been witnessing a steady rise. Another panelist said that the need to was to curb pollution. It will be impossible without taking private vehicles off the road and enforce public transport for daily commute, he added. Anumita Roy Chowdhary, Director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that Delhi is already running short of choices. There is an urgent need to enforce radical measures like robust public transport along with quick escalation to BS IV and BS V emission norms, she added. She also stressed upon the need to introduce electric technologies that can address the impact of vehicular emissions in India. Mentioned VG Ramakrishnan, MD—South Asia, Frost & Sullivan, “Providing incentives for the uptake of electric vehicles can play a crucial role but it is very important to implement a technologically neutral fuel, and not just blindly implement anything like how the Delhi government did for CNG without understanding the basics of the propulsion medium.” For a country like India, where coal is a big source of making electricity, curbing pollution is not as simple. Akash Passey, Senior VP, Business Region International, Volvo Buses, averred, “If you have buses that are creating pollution, it is spread across the city. When you are moving to electric buses, the power plant has its own regulations and treatment solutions before the smoke is given out and then it is centralized which means that you have emissions centralized at one place which is probably outside the city.”

Vehicular emissions have been one of the biggest contributors for the air quality levels in Delhi to have deteriorated. The air quality is expected to get worse. More than 1.5 lakh road fatalities happen every year on Indian roads. If the trends continue, the figure can go up to 2.25 lakh by the year 2025. The need is to look beyond regulations, and the compelling need is to follow the rules. A significant change will get underway when all the stakeholders come together in a purposeful passion to attain sustainable mobility in India.

Volvo delivers 10,000th truck in India

Volvo Trucks, synonymous with the high performance mining and over dimensional transport applications, has set a new benchmark in the premium heavy-duty commercial vehicle segment with the delivery of the 10,000th truck in India.
The country’s largest truck manufacturer in premium European segment, on June 18, 2015 achieved the landmark of crossing ten thousand truck sales. The company’s recently launched technologically advanced Volvo FMX 440 8×4 I-Shift which is leader in its class, was handed over as the 10,000th vehicle to M/s Mahalaxmi Infracontracts Pvt Ltd , who have over 350 Volvo trucks and a long standing relationship of over a decade with us. Mr. Pierre Jean Verge Salamon – President, Volvo Group Truck Sales, India, did the honours along with Mr. Rama Rao A S – SVP Sales, Marketing & Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks, VECV, at the ceremony conducted in Bengaluru.
Driving change for the industry
Since its rollout of the first truck way back in 1998, Volvo Trucks has been committed to driving progress in the industry. Even when the commercial vehicle industry in India was working with age old technology and drivers were not at forefront of product and service development, Volvo being true to its Scandinavian heritage, was the first to introduce fully air-conditioned and crash tested cabin in trucks and pioneered the Driver Training concept by establishing the Driver training center even before first truck was rolled out.
Over the years, Volvo Trucks in India have become synonymous with the mining and construction industries where the 8×4 concept introduced in the mining segment has become the industry norm in the country and the innovative 10×4 Dump truck concept introduced in 2012 has also established itself. Being the customer’s best business partner Volvo Trucks innovations were not limited to products. In order to support the customers’ right through the lifecycle of the products, it pioneered the concept of container workshop at remote mining locations and on-road assistance through Volvo Action Service.
Elucidating the development since 1998, Mr. Rama Rao A S, Senior Vice President, Sales Marketing and Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks, VECV said, “Our commitment to continuous improvement drives us forward and inspires us to be focused on driving progress the industry. You can see our innovative approach at work in all our processes, but we don’t innovate just to impress ourselves or others. We do it to meet a real life need. Our long tradition of developing market-leading technology and solutions with products operational for over 45,000 engine hours in tough and challenging Indian mines is proof of this. Today Volvo Trucks facilitate around 1/3rd of coal production in India by moving overburden in the mines and in the process has been driving progress for the country. The support from the industry has been encouraging and has helped us deliver what it takes. Yet, for Volvo Trucks and our customers, our most recent innovation is just the beginning.”
Partners in Progress
Over the years Volvo Trucks has built up an elite customer base having over 100 vehicles in their fleet operating at various mining sites across India. The customers vouch by the high reliability and productivity and have expanded business operations at a fast pace with quick return on investments. Being a complete solution provider, Volvo Trucks considers that their responsibility does not stop with handing over of the keys and extends support to customers’ right through the products’ life cycle with a wide network of service and parts centers and onsite assistance.
Speaking at the handover Mr. Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Truck Sales, India said, “Over the last 17 years Volvo Trucks has been driving progress in the Indian commercial vehicle industry. From the first high performance European tractor trailer to the recent launched technologically advanced truck range, we have personified performance, productivity and profitability for our customers. We understand what our customers need and will come to need. That is why we constantly innovate.” He further added, “Reaching the 10,000 mark is a testimony to the fact that the new high tech capabilities and the wide range of benefits of our offerings are suiting the Volvo customer.”
Committed to growth story of India
The progress of India is closely entwined with the progress of the mining, infrastructure & transport industry. With the recent developments in the Indian economy and with the boost in mining and infrastructure sector, there are countless infrastructure developments taking place in India, providing significant opportunities for commercial vehicles in terms of transportation and logistics. The ongoing coal block auctions and lifting of the ban on iron ore mining in several states have created the demand for heavy-duty tipper trucks and ambition of Volvo Trucks is to capitalize on these development and continue maintaining its leadership position in the European truck segment and further improve on it.
Mr. Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Truck Sales India, outlining the path for Volvo Trucks backed by these major developments said, “Volvo faces with considerable confidence a future characterised by major opportunities in the industry, not least the demands & aspirations placed by the industry. We at Volvo Trucks want to maximize our operations with the range of technologically advanced transport solutions, offering total peace of mind to our customers and facilitate their growth and thereby continue to be the No.1 preferred truck brand in the premium European segment.”  He further mentioned that, “With the gradual turnaround the economy is witnessing and this milestone of our 10,000th truck delivery is a reiteration of the need for such technologically advanced solutions in the market. We are looking at exciting times and I am happy to say we are ready to meet these opportunities.”
Volvo Trucks is currently present in India with more than 150 touch points across the country including state-of-the art workshops and various service support centers.396ee1ce-0962-4660-b547-fd1a24517c0f_TempBig

Volvo to export buses to Europe

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
In what could be termed as a significant development, Volvo Buses India, a decade and a half after it stepped into India, has begun exporting buses to Europe.Beginning its Indian journey by launching the B7R, 12 m long two-axle, inter-city luxury coach in 2001, Volvo Buses India Pvt. Ltd. has begun exporting fully-built, Euro 6 emission compliant buses to Europe. This initiative is an outcome of the Asia leverage program, which was launched in 2011 with the view of exporting products from India and China. Aimed at an inter-city coach segment in Europe that typically does between 100 and 300 km according to Akash Passey, Senior Vice President – Business Region International, Volvo Buses, the buses destined for Europe contain an imported driveline. To comply with Euro 6 norms, they are equipped with the SCR and other related systems. The body is 100 per cent indigenised. A two-axle design (like the B7R), the Europe-bound buses according to sources at Volvo Buses India, will be similar in appearance to the buses that are found in India. They will thus be imported as fully-built units, and have been built taking into consideration the feedback of European buyers.

Marking an entry into the new era according to Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses, the Europe-bound buses will also carry some engine components that have been sourced through Volvo Eicher’ joint venture engine plant at Pithampur, Indore. Said Agnevall, “We are the first bus company to export buses to Europe. Present here for fourteen years, we are taking the next step of the Asia leverage strategy.” As part of the Asia leverage strategy, Volvo first embarked on a plan to expand the bus plant at Hoskote, Bangalore. Pledging to invest Rs.400 crore, more lines and processes were installed; new paint shop was installed along with a warehouse, and a training and skills development centre.

An R&D centre was also setup, and has 50 engineers who help with driveline and body parts of the products. Enabling the company to offer better products and facilities locally, the plan according to Akash, also coincides with the prime minister’s plan to ‘Make-in-India’. Coming to include other activities as well, over Rs. 400 crore has been invested till date. Set to cater to a market estimated to be worth 5,000 units, and having the presence of Daimler, Iveco and many home grown brands in Europe, the European export initiative according to Hakan rides on a substantial competence built at Bangalore.

The Europe-bound buses will see some amount of customisation according to Hakan. Like the placement of ticket vending machine, etc., to satisfy the requirements of the European clients. Rolling out of the Hoskote facility, which has an installed capacity to build 1,500 buses in one shift post the expansion – before expansion it was 800 units, these buses are also bound to reflect on Volvo’s intent to bring hybrid and electric buses to India. Said Hakan, that the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicle program marks a good initiative by the government. “We are in dialogue with the government to participate,” he added.

Interview: Akash Passey, Sr. VP – Business Region International, Volvo Buses,
and Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses.

How do you look at the India journey of Volvo Bus – from entry into India, until the European export initiative?

Volvo has been driving a revolution. It has changed the Indian bus market towards seeking fully built buses. This is akin to driving a complete bus change, and amounts to a significant development. We have stayed ahead of the competition by introducing new products. We have upgraded ourselves locally through exports. We have also benefited locally from installing new processes and methodologies. The last four years have been quite defining.

How do you see the European export initiative benefiting the Indian clients?

European regulations are different from that of the Indian regulations. The mapping that we did therefore, would also benefit our Indian clients. An example is the application of double glazed glass. In India the regulation is for the use of single glazed glass. Our Indian clients will benefit from the use of double glazed glass.

Any specific reason why you chose India over China?

We looked at a segment that is existing, and found out that we have the right competence in India. The product that we have in India is a global product. Even though it is made as an Indian product. We therefore found that the Indian footprint would make a competitive footprint. We chose India over China because of the full control over business. We also see our competitors starting to do substantial investments. We encourage competition as we feel it will promote the quality of buses in India. The Indian operations of Volvo rank among the top 10.

Now that you are beginning to export buses to Europe, are you happy with the quality of the suppliers here?

Let me put it differently. Customer expectations are growing, and it was natural to address them. So we acquired vendors as part of our acquisition of the body building business. We are generally happy with our suppliers in India.

In India there were some accidents involving Volvo buses. Has this prompted any change?

We are working with the authorities to address the legal issues. When an accident happens, the government looks into it. At our end, we have a global team that looks into it. We took Indian accidents quite seriously. We designed a coach concept to have options that are also found in other markets. We are also offering options as per active regulations. We are a global company and offer
global solutions.

There have been experiments in the area of buses powered by alternate fuels. Are you also looking at an alternative to fossil fuel?

We did an analysis, which showed that future driveline sustainability will stem from electric solutions. It had to be less polluting and more efficient. We looked at hybrid, which we are producing since 2009. We have delivered 5,000 hybrid and fully electric buses. Under the hybrid portfolio we also looked at electric hybrid. We recently introduced a full-electric bus at Gothenburg in Sweden. Electric solutions will gradually take over as a urban mobility source for reducing CO2 emissions, noise, etc. Electric solutions are confined to infrastructure. Hybrid therefore looks like a sustainable infrastructure. Three cornerstones for us include hybrid, hybrid-electric and electric. We are offering battery per km cost so that the customers know, and we want to create common infrastructure. We have sold hybrids all over the world. We are trying them in parts of Asia. We are in dialogue with the government to participate. We believe that some of our competitors are also trying new solutions. Some of these may have failed to find sustenance in
other markets.