Leading commercial vehicle supplier, Wabco, is betting big on air disc brakes in India.
Story by: Bhargav TS
The 2017 season of Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship saw Wabco feature its air disc brake technology in India for the first time. The news leaked out slowly, and through sources reliable enough to signal the arrival of yet another, new and significant technology for Indian Commercial Vehicles (CVs). The company, instrumental in the introduction of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), was at work once again. Bullish about air disc brakes, and the potential it holds, Wabco in India, is pushing air disc brakes on the count of safety, and ease of service.
Offering numerous advantages, including the lack of exaggeration of friction coefficient differences, reduced fade, high thermal load, minimal and consistent hysteresis and ease of servicing, air disc brakes enable easy replacement of brake pads compared to that of the brake shoes in drum brakes. If the initial cost of air disc brakes is high, the advantage it offers is claimed to be an improvement in vehicle braking performance. A factor that is vital to CVs. Available in Europe, China and the US with a penetration level of 85 per cent, eight per cent and 15 per cent respectively, air disc brakes, according to Sven Horak, Vice President, Business Unit Leader, Wheel End Solutions, Wabco, are reliable, robust and easily applicable across vehicle segments. Penetration in India is said to be under one per cent as of current. Given the rate at which the Indian CV market is maturing however, Horak is confident that air disc brakes will soon become a part of new technologies Indian CVs will possess.
For a CV operator with focus on total operating costs, air disc brakes beckon a new way to save costs. Not only is the technology reliable, robust and easily applicable across segments, it is also high on performance. Said Horak, “The stopping performance of air disc brakes is high. They provide a 30 per cent increase in performance at the least. They also extend the service interval of brakes, and are corrosion resistant.”
Helping to achieve better control and stability, air disc brakes are made attractive by their ability to cut down on vehicle weight. Wabco pioneers single piston air disc brake technology informed Horak. “With this technology the manufacturer can claim to deliver upto 30,000 Nm braking torque, making it one-of-its-kind in the market. Weight reduction of at least 40 per cent is achieved by employing this technology.” Having delivered several million brakes the world over, Wabco is discussing with Indian OEMs. It plans to localise air disc brakes quickly. This will be however dictated by pick-up in demand. The current crop of air disc brakes is being sourced from Germany and China. With drum manufacture captive to many CV OEMs in India, the move to air disc brakes is expected to be met with an amount of resistance. That is however until the distinct advantages of air disc brakes are looked at. The single piston air disc brakes need a lot of technical proficiency mentioned Horak. “We have achieved that proficiency to become a leading player,” he said.
Optimistic about OEM supply tie-ups happening sooner than later, Wabco is looking at sharing the technology with the manufacturers as a retrofitment. Retrofitment of air disc brakes is possible, averred P Kaniappan, Managing Director, Wabco India. He said, “Customers looking for total cost of ownership will get a payback through weight reduction as a major attribute. In heavy vehicles, air disc brakes can help to achieve up to 30 per cent weight reduction. This will have a drastic effect on fuel efficiency.” Regarding homologation under JNNURM guidelines, Kaniappan stated that the discretion lies with the state governments to implement. “The government is recognising this technology, and we are confident that it will be soon explored,” he quipped.
Aimed at HGVs and heavier buses, air disc brakes will elevate driver comfort. This will improve safety and the driver’s ability to drive for long distances without experiencing fatique. “There are testimonies which we could share,” said Horak. Field validation is underway, and the technology is expected to take time to proliferate. Field test on a bus for over a million kilometres was completed recently. Designed to be fitted on the front axle, the air disc brakes, according to Wabco sources, are in-line with a cost pay back period of six months. With less number of parts compared to drum brakes, air disc brakes, stated a source, are ‘plug and play’. He stressed upon their ability to self adjust. Assuring better performance at higher temperatures, air disc brakes are said to contain a clutch in the adjuster mechanism which works in both the directions and ensures a longer life.
Saving the trouble of synchronising two pistons, the single piston technology of air disc brakes has been patented by Wabco. Promising 10 per cent longer life of brake pads because of uniform force distribution, the system, encapsulated or sealed with grease is claimed to offer superior corrosion resistance too. With brake indicator to indicate the wear of brake pads, air disc brakes are expected to assume good force by 2019. Employing a modular approach where 90 per cent of the components are optimised and adjusted as per the application needs and specifications, the single piston air disc brakes for CVs are expected to begin manufacture at Wabco’s Indian facilities soon. The company has four manufacturing locations in India. Across four continents, Wabco has five manufacturing locations according to Horak. “We not only have air disc brakes, we also have actuators, brake chambers among others. By 2018, we will have a local assembly for air disc brakes in place”, he said.