Q & A
Dinesh Tyagi, Director, International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT)
Interview by: Anirudh Raheja
Q. What role is ICAT playing in shaping up the Indian automotive industry?
A. ICAT was setup under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project (NATRiP). It is one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. The NATRiP project was setup to build several R&D and infrastructure projects in the country at several locations representing unique collaborative efforts by the Government of India, the various state governments and the automotive industry in India. It was in the northern part of the country, that the ICAT was envisaged. ICAT was set up in 2004 as ARAIRCN. In 2006, NATRiP acquired ARAICN and renamed it as ICAT. At ICAT we provide automotive testing, certification and product development services. We understand the requirements of our clients and work towards serving their needs. This includes both, existing as well as new customers. Customers at times ask for unique requirements. This makes it necessary for us to upgrade our facilities and increase our capabilities. Some of the requirements may entail buying more gadgets, sensors and tools. Basic infrastructure is not a problem, but capabilities need to be added. When needed, advice is taken from international experts.
Q. Are your services aimed at component manufacturers primarily, or at OEMs?
A. We cater to all types of requirements. We cater not only to the automotive sector but also to non-automotive sectors like the white goods industry. To be able to cater to non-automotive sectors we are adding more infrastructure. We are also looking at serving the needs of the locomotive industry. What we have here (at Manesar) is a full fledged powertrain facility. At the vehicle level, we have chassis dynamometer with emission testing capability, engine dynamometer lab with emission testing capability and various types of testing equipment that can be used to count the particulate number, FTIR, and more. The requirements for these often change in-line with the changes in regulations. The upcoming BS VI emission regulations for example.
Q. What infrastructure have you invested in to meet the future needs?
A. We have acquired equipment like Portable Emission Measurement System (PEMS) to cater to the needs of upcoming emission regulations. We have developed a fatigue lab, where we have four posters for both passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles. We also own various universal test benches to test the vehicle dynamics and its structural durability. We also have a climatic test cell, which can control the temperature from -30 degrees up to +55 degrees. We have two sites at Manesar, which collectively measure 55 acres. At Site 2, we have Electro Magnetic Capability (EMC) lab and a crash lab. Crash regulations are primarily for passenger vehicles under M1 category of regulatory tests, but we can also crash test light commercial vehicles for speeds up to 85 kmph. For passenger vehicles, we undertake front crash, frontal offset, side impact, rear impact, Euro NCAP and Indian NCAP tests. We have recently inaugurated new facilities at Site 1. These include a powertrain lab, a fatigue lab, CAD facility, and a infotronics lab.
Q. What are CoEs, and how many of them do you have?
A. We currently have three Centres of Excellence (CoE). These are for component development, powertrain, and NVH. Fourth CoE for tyre development is in the pipeline. It is being set up at Site 2 along with the NVH CoE. At the powertrain development CoE, we are currently focusing on developing engines and products that will meet future emission standards like BS VI. In India, BS IV emission norms will be rolled out across the country soon. We are catering to clients that are looking at such emission standards and products. Some of the emission equipment suppliers may also utilise our facility for their projects, and in case they do not have enough capacity. NVH CoE is a developmental lab for noise, vibration, and harshness of the vehicle. It does not have as much to do with certification. In this lab, we are building two semi-anechoic chambers passenger vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles. There will also be a chassis dynamometer inside the chamber. For passenger vehicles we have indoor pass by noise simulation. Simulating field conditions, the vehicle is driven on a chassis dynamometer, and an array of microphones that simulate the passing by of a vehicle. The vehicle is stationary and the microphones move while recording the noise. For tyre development CoE, we are developing new test rigs with multiple stations. We have a photometry test lab to support lighitng manufacturers for developing next generation products. We expect the Indian market to graduate to LEDs 100 per cent by 2020.
Q. Are you approached by international players?
A. There is a big movement taking place. There are many MNCs, which have had a presence only in the virtual engineering field, working with CAD, and are now planning to expand their base in India. They are approaching us. They are tying up with us so that they can save on investing in a similar infrastructure. They are seeing an opportunity to do real work by collaborating with us. We have been closely working with manufacturers like Daimler and Renault to tweak their existing range of products for the Indian market. We are also working with various companies based out of China, Gulf and the UK. We are offering them engineering services.
Q. What role does ICAT play in commercial vehicle testing?
A. We do CMVR certification for commercial vehicles. Some of them come to us for emission development. Work on BS VI emission norms has already begun. Not just the OEMs, tier suppliers are also approaching us for product development. Even Tier 2 and 3 players are showing interest. Not in a big way at the moment, we are rendering services for export homologation as well. We have an online system called IOCS where a customer registers a case, lays down the documents as the prescribed format, submits test properties and seeks a report from us followed by certificates. Coordination happens mainly for certification work. It happens through various forums under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).
Q. Product recalls are increasing? What do you think is causing it?
A. The market is becoming sensitive to defect liability. The quality has not gone down. It is improving. It is OEMs, that are becoming careful about defect liability. They therefore voluntarily recall. This used to happen earlier as well. The regime in India is however not so strong. Globally, it is a good practice.
Q. Can NGT ban on diesel vehicles help in controlling pollution levels?
A. The MoRTH is working on various options like providing concessions while buying new vehicles and relaxing the duty for scrapping old vehicles. With moves like the NGT ban on diesel vehicles, we can expect some effect in the level of pollution. If Delhi does it, it will be followed by other states. The replacement of fleet will happen at a brisk pace. There is an impact on sales due to the ban on diesel passenger vehicles of more than 2000cc. It will push engineers to build efficient engines. The final objective is to curb pollution. If it will reduce is doubtful. It is not correct to think that a bigger engine will pollute more. Much depends on technology and sophistication. Controlling pollution in petrol is not a big challenge. Controlling it in diesel is a tedious task.
Q. Can pollution be curbed by engine downsizing and light weighting?
A. Downsizing of engine is increasingly talked about in the industry. (Injection) pressure is going up and displacement volume is going down. This collectively determines power, and power is increasing. We can be of secondary help if anyone needs to test light weighting of products. The need is to bother about the endurance ability as well as the life of a product that would run for thousands of kilometers. If manufacturers need help, we are ready. We are talking to oil refineries to get bulk low Sulphur diesel to support our customers for testing vehicles, and to carry out the validation process. The quest for BS VI by 2020, I feel, is an aggressive timeline. Nowhere in the world has such progression happened in such a short time span. For foreign multinationals, it may not amount to a big challenge, for Indian companies it is.
Q. For commercial vehicles, are you setting up pollution control facilities?
A. We are setting up four pilot centres for inspection and certification for commercial vehicles. We have already completed two of them in Rohtak and Delhi., Work in under progress for such centres at Lucknow. The Lucknow centre will be ready next year. Also, the centre at Himachal Pradesh. Many states are in dialogue with us. We will help them to set up such centres.
Q. What has been the investment in ICAT till date?
A. Close to about Rs.1000 crore has been invested in ICAT under the NATRiP project. In addition, close to Rs.150 crore has been ploughed back for the creation of new infrastructure. We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.
We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.