Mahindra Truck & Bus Division (MTBD) has been carving out a robust presence in the commercial vehicle segment. Riding the success of its Blazo trucks, MTBD is geared up to consolidate its truck business with the recent unveiling of its ICV range of trucks – a segment it was not present before. I spoke to Vinod Sahay, CEO, Mahindra Truck & Bus Division to know about the success of Blazo, and the technologies it is leveraging in the trucking industry, among others.
Give us a perspective about the Indian CV industry and how it is shaping up for the future.
The Indian CV industry has been buoyant in the last year and half. I think the CV industry has settled well following three significant developments – demonetisation, switch from BS III to BS IV emission norms and GST. For a country as big and complex as India, I must say that GST has been one of the smoothest tax reforms. GST has helped the CV industry because the average utilisation of trucks has gone up, the number of km/day covered by trucks has gone up and many needless stops at border checks at state borders have come down. So owing to all these positives, there is buoyancy in demand led by HCVs, ICVs and LCVs.
The Blazo range of trucks has been quite a success in the Indian market. What differentiators are MTBD looking to offer with its Furio trucks to consolidate the good run of Blazo trucks?
MTB has been working on the ICV (7.5-16 tonne) range for the last four years. When we launched the Blazo two years back, there were already established players in the market. We were mindful of the challenge that was ahead of us. Despite that Blazo has clearly positioned itself as a leader in the Indian CV industry – 15,000 Blazos are currently running on Indian roads. For rolling out a product like Furio, we wanted to be absolutely sure that we are offering customers a product and service that they are not getting anywhere else in terms of fuel efficiency, service guarantee, parts guarantee, etc.
We are well aware that we’ll be the sixth player to launch an ICV product in the Indian CV space. We realise that we cannot afford to be a me-too product. MTBD looks at customers from the product lifecycle point of view. Every business runs on two phenomenon – maximising profit and reducing cost of operations, and with the Furio we have offered one of the safest, comfortable and coolest cabins, where a driver with the same level of body fatigue can drive the truck for two more hours every day, which effectively means that he is driving more than any other truck in the industry. It also ensures the truck is running more and generating more revenue for a truck owner.
With the Furio, MTBD has increased service intervals and also offered additional payload as compared to a like-for-like truck; in fact, we are offering 5-20 % additional payload that straightaway goes into the earnings of the customer. On both revenue and cost side, Furio promises a product that earns more for you and reduces your cost of operations, thus making your business more profitable.
Talk about the capabilities that FuelSmart technology brings to the Blazo trucks. Are you offering the same technology with the Furio ICV range?
Everyone talks about best-in-class fuel efficiency but no one offers guarantee about it. We literally did the ‘unthinkable’ with the industry-first FuelSmart technology on our Blazo trucks. We offered fuel efficiency guarantee for our Blazo trucks, else committed to take the truck back. Not a single Blazo has come back to us in the last two years.
The FuelSmart technology offers three driving modes – light (174 hp), heavy (230 hp) and turbo (274 hp). The same engine delivers these three driving modes at the click of a button. If a driver is driving on an empty road on a plain highway, he operates at a lower power mode of 174 hp, and if a driver is driving a fully loaded truck in a slight gradient he can shift to 230 hp – it makes the trip faster because the truck moves fast in a loaded condition. The truck driver is driving in a higher gear (either third or fourth gear) despite the higher hp as compared to any other truck that would be driving in second gear.
For example, a truck driver of a fully loaded Blazo passing through Lonavla or Khandala ghat (mountain pass) can shift to 274 hp and can still drive on the ghat in a higher gear with lesser rpm as compared to other trucks that would literally crawl because these trucks operate at low gear, have a low hp and a higher rpm, consuming higher fuel. Such fully loaded trucks, while passing through ghats end-up losing a lot of their time – something you won’t see in a Blazo.
Blazos operating at 274 hp help save fuel, increase speed of the truck, reduce turnaround time and do more number of trips. Importantly, the driver does not have to stop the truck and can change engine modes as per road conditions. MTBD is offering the same technology with Furio with three driving modes – the peak is 140 hp, followed by 125 hp and 110 hp.
Give us an insight into the R&D that has gone into developing the FuelSmart technology.
It is not just about providing an engine or three switches, since it is an electric engine controlled by an ECU at every gear point. With every power mode in a different duty cycle, we capture the data and get the engine running at the most efficient brake specific fuel consumption (BSFC) curve. It is a complex algorithm, where we drive our truck via different applications. The algorithm with which we have designed our truck is much more complex than just offering three switches. Many have tried to come up with these power switches – in fact, some players have removed it because it was doing more damage to the vehicle.
MTBD has offered the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology on its Blazo trucks. Can you give us an insight about how SCR and Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) technologies are being leveraged in the Indian trucking industry?
As far as the Indian trucking industry is concerned, most BS IV trucks have opted for the SCR technology that has AdBlue® consumption, while a few brands have opted for the EGR technology that has no AdBlue consumption. There was a debate in the industry as to how can a player like us offer guarantee, when the SCR technology has additional AdBlue consumption. MTBD’s guarantee is not just on fuel but also on fluid efficiency. If you compare the cost of AdBlue and diesel of a SCR technology truck with the diesel cost of EGR technology truck, we are still offering guarantee because the SCR technology is much more fuel efficient than an EGR technology truck.
Mahindra is the only manufacturer to offer the latest generation SCR called Smart SCR. We are offering an industry-free airless SCR technology through this Smart SCR, where admin dosing happens through the ECU input. It helps in two ways – first it reduces the maintenance cost because you need to change one filter instead of three filters in a normal SCR, and second, it enables precise dosing and AdBlue consumption is around 30 % lower. So, owing to lower AdBlue consumption and higher fuel efficiency we were able to offer fluid efficiency guarantee.
How is the Indian CV industry responding to the challenge of migrating from BS IV to BS VI?
For all CV players, the biggest challenge is the timeline itself. In my opinion, the level of technical change the industry went through with a product in the CV space is much bigger than the switch from BS IV to BS VI. I cannot comment on the cost implications but the biggest change is the engine itself; we don’t have to go to the new generation CRDe. The big work will be on refining your aftertreatment; there are manufacturers who will do with only SCR and there are manufacturers who will do a mix of SCR and EGR. I don’t think any player will be able to achieve much with EGR in BS VI vehicles. The BS IV verdict of EGR is not yet out as most BS IV trucks have not travelled 150,000 km and beyond, because that is where EGR-related concerns will start reflecting in the truck as well as in the engine performance.
AC driver cabins have always been a talking point in the Indian trucking industry. How has MTBD looked to address this area?
Indian truck drivers find it hugely challenging to drive under hot and humid conditions but do not opt for an AC cabin option owing to apprehensions that it will reduce fuel efficiency. MTBD tried to make a much cooler non-AC cabin with the Furio and is at least 5 °C cooler inside the cabin as compared to any other truck in the industry. MTBD offered a lower rack angle that not only provides the best visibility but also ensures the intensity of the sun falling on the truck is far lower than what it is in other trucks. There are a total of eight air vents – six air vents on the dash and two air vents on the driver’s feet. Of the eight air vents, four each are for natural ventilation and blower & air-condition. The Furio’s adequate natural ventilation will keep the cab cooler and also increase driver productivity.
The country is abuzz with talk about walking down the EV road – how do you see the CV industry embrace EVs?
Electric vehicles for trucks are a long way off – let it first settle in the passenger car segment. EVs come with multiple challenges; you have to create an ecosystem to support it, be it charging facility, battery disposal facility, etc. All these need to be built in cities as it is far more difficult to set these up in highways.