VE Commercial Vehicles had Eicher Motors and Volvo Group bring in smart, sustainable transport solutions. Ashish Bhatia looks at the new intracity and intercity additions enhancing operator transportability.

VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd. had Eicher Motors and Volvo Group put together a strong showcase of people and cargo movers. At the Auto Expo 2023 – The Motor Show, this translated to a new breed of intracity and intercity, transportability taking centre stage. It was a testimony to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) aligning its mix to the government’s overall vision of decarbonising the CV industry with greener transport solutions and introducing efficiency in logistics. Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at the company, said, “As a successful Volvo Group and Eicher Motors JV, VECV was the first to build and introduce modern BSVI technology in India. Eicher and Volvo trucks and buses are backed by our 100 per cent connected ecosystem which helps deliver on our promise of productivity and uptime for our customers.” “The electrification of the CV industry has already started with buses, and we believe that a range of alternative fuels, including LNG, Ethanol and Hydrogen are essential to lead decarbonisation. Under the banner of smart sustainability, VECV is well poised to harness this opportunity and play a trans formative role in the Indian CV industry,” he stated.

The prototype Eicher Pro 3015 Hydrogen Fuel Cell truck

At the Auto Expo, the company relied on the 4.9-tonne Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) electric avatar of the Eicher Pro 2049. A distribution truck aimed at near-city and city distribution duty cycles, it comes with a composite container with a deck length of 12 ft., an OTP-based lock smart locking system for cargo safety and transport effectiveness, telematics and connected vehicle, and infotainment for improved operational efficiency. In a unique display, the company’s LNG and CNG bi-fuel (hybrid) on the Eicher Pro 8055 series impressed. It is claimed to give the operator flexibility for navigating the long haul with LNG and the option to switch to CNG in regions with a denser distribution network. The company additionally displayed an LNG drivetrain for long haulage besides displaying an H2-ICE-based engine. Staying on Hydrogen, the prototype Eicher Pro 3015 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck was also showcased. Eicher has leveraged the internal synergies and the grip on the 13.5m coach segment came to the fore yet again. The Eicher 13.5m electric intercity coach was displayed as a value offering. The company also displayed the nine-metre, 32+D seater, Eicher Skyline Pro-E with a 300 km rated range on a single charge under standard conditions.

Vishal Mathur, sVP, LMd trucks Business, VECV.

Ongoing Commercial trial with LNG
Contributing in its inimitable way, Volvo Trucks caught the attention with its showcase of the Volvo FM LNG 420 4×2 Tractor Head. Known to be undergoing extensive trials with a leading e-commerce operator for the long-haul, hub-to-hub operations. A single CBU unit is known to have been brought in for the purpose. Claimed Boddapati Dinakar. Executive Vice President – Volvo Trucks India – VECV, the Volvo LNG solution is based on a unique, diesel-cycle technology that provides a 15-20 per cent improvement in fuel economy. Focused on a niche market that was relatively well insulated from the Covid-19-induced slump, Dinakar hailed the steady business with marginal impact at that time. Citing the uptick in the power sector, coal mining, and road construction, he admitted to these having a positive bearing on business as a whole. The product mix designed for such sectors has had the company gain high traction. Towards the end of 2022, he said, the push on building sustainable solutions was high on the agenda for the industry as a whole. This he opined, explained the seemingly parallel efforts from competition to offer a mix of co-existing, green technologies. The 420 4×2 LNG Tractor Head positioned as a long-haul, alternative fuel transport solution is one such effort, he averred.

Akash Passey, President, Bus divsion, VECV

The Benefits of the diesel duty cycle
The company expects the 13-litre 420 4×2 LNG Tractor Head, on commercial trials will be offered with diesel duty cycle and not a petrol or an otto cycle (constant volume cycle), explained Dinakar. This implies that the company already has an inherent efficiency giving it an edge. It is claimed to be more fuel efficient with a 20-25 per cent lower carbon footprint. The OEM with LNG is targeting a 1000 km range on a single fill. It will be able to better project the initial demand once the LNG distribution network in the country comes up to the scale desired for such duty cycles according to Dinakar. “In my opinion, it is another game-changing technology,” he asserted. With the introduction of new products, the company in an ongoing exercise, continues to pursue new product derivatives in a common-architecture approach. The older products are retired where they can be replaced with the latest technology, explained Jonas Nilsson, Vice President, India and Indonesia, Volvo Trucks.

Customer Value Proposition
Admitting to the need for the ecosystem to be developed for the new transport solutions to be commercially viable, Dinakar expressed, “We are very positive on that front as both the government at the centre and the state are equally upbeat in their sentiment having received the technological advancements well. Volvo Trucks will go to the customer on a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) basis after the commercial trials conclude through which the OEM expects to learn more about the various factors crucial to the commercialisation strategy.” Not new to reverse engineering advanced technology at its disposal before marrying it to the commercial opportunity in the target market, the company plays the waiting game well. On the way to ensure that the productivity and efficiency levels of the customers graduate to the next stage, shared Dinakar, the company is well aware of the niche segments where the advanced products introduced can be applied in the near term.

The nine-metre, Eicher skyline Pro-E.
The H2-ICE- based engine.

Looking at opportunities relevant to the niche segments the company operates in, the strategy is to build an island around these. While the company has had to wait for the ecosystem desired by its products to come up, it prefers to focus on advancing as a niche player, tapping into the low-hanging fruits. A testimony to it is the manner in which the company was able to push its high-performance, road trains for express logistics when the industry was heavily dependent on rigid trucks. From clocking 10-15,000 kms monthly, the segment running rigid trucks has taken notice of the capability brought in by Volvo tractor-trailers. The new transportability has operators carrying higher loads with a lesser TAT. It has resulted in operators being able to clock 25,000 kms on a monthly average with the tractor-trailers clocking 29,000 kms on select occasions too. The game-changing transport solution is only expected to find more takers in the future given the success story.
Nilsson, expressed hope for a faster adaptation of the product in the future, once the industry emerges from the Covid-19-induced slump and can set aside the volatilities like the changing geopolitical equations. The company even on conventional ICE has added advanced features to convince the customer of a value proposition to switch to next generation of Volvos as per Dinakar. Apart from offering enhanced fuel efficiency, he informed, the company would soon roll out an improved generation of trucks which includes a more efficient engine management system, gearbox and after treatment system, automatic electronic braking system, and driver assistance among key internal components built around CVP. The objective is to offer a superior technology backed by the requisite ecosystem. This includes best loading and unloading practices, and truck utilisation at optimum levels in addition to driver skilling exercises to get the best out of the trucks, he said.

The Volvo FM 420 4×2 LnG tractor Head is on commercial trials in India.

India vis-a-vis global markets
The strategy is to partner with other progressive companies to create a market for the Group’s products as a follow up move to the government interventions. “In India, from 2015-16 there have been a series of changes driving progress. From the GST rollout, the transport between states followed by a series of policy interventions that have led to the road network development strengthening,” explained Nilsson. This is a big boost to the company’s strategy to offer efficient transportation at a pace faster than in the rest of the world. Akin to Indonesia, also a dense market, for example, the latter being in a landlocked state as an island country is also developing expressways. In comparison, India, with a broader landmass is developing on a larger scale, he admitted.
In Indonesia, the scale up of the Total Industry Volume (TIV) for the LNG Tractor Head is still some time away however the market is similar to India on the commodity front like the prioritisation of coal, copper, nickel and gold which gives the company the added advantage of leveraging knowledge sharing in business for the two regions of interest. On India as a hub for Volvo Trucks globally, Nilsson admitted that the market was the fastest growing economy, and the company’s over two-and-a-half decade presence has set itself up for success on a global scale. The next five years look very promising, Nilsson quipped. With the LNG Tractor Head up and running since 2019 for Volvo Trucks in the EU region, the company has a repository of learnings from running it on LNG as well as on biogas using by products of household items and agricultural waste. It can be made available in different axle and horsepower configurations too for different cycle requirements, he confirmed.
The market evolution has the company closely assessing the business viability of diverse solutions like Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) up to the H2-FCEVs on the other end of the spectrum according to Dinakar. 2025 onwards, Volvo Trucks, independent of the National Hydrogen Mobility Mission would introduce the H2-FCEV range as an example. The group representatives, however, hailed the announcement of the programme as an encouraging move for the development of the ecosystem desired by such trucks. The use of hydrogen in ICE was credited as being a step in the direction of speeding up the evolution of the hydrogen-based economy. The company is confident of stepping up the gas beginning with trials in line. The objective being to fulfil various requirements suitable for the company’s target segments.

(Ltor): Boddapati dinakar. Executive Vice President – Volvo trucks India – VECV, Jonas nilsson, Vice President, India and Indonesia, Volvo trucks in talks with Ashish Bhatia, Executive Editor at CV Magazine.

Volvo Buses india
Volvo Buses India upped the ante and reminded of its prowess in building state-of-the-art, premium coaches. It displayed the 15m Volvo 9600 coach in an uber luxury avatar. The coach was built to offer first-class luxury seating for what the company claims will lend an exclusive travel experience. The coach comes with a surveillance system, full-length sun visor, retractable type front windshield area, child-friendly soft touch handles, ladder and restrainers without metal surface exposed, individual USB charging ports, individual AC louvres and reading lights, theatre-type saloon, ergonomically placed switches/controls, the rear view camera with a seven-inch TFT as standard features. The variant displayed at the Auto Expo is known to have been built for transporting delegates arriving in India for the various rounds of G20 meetings. The cabin design with an all-new driver environment offered a modern, clean layout, curved around the driver for an ergonomic working environment. An on board toilet and a working pantry complete with kitchen counter and appliances added to the appeal.
The Group companies will push a wide variety of customer-centric solutions. Backed by a 100 per cent, connected fleet and state-of-the-art Uptime centres.


Also read, Setting The Bar Higher

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