Tuesday, April 16, 2019

FAME II Scheme's Reduced Incentives A Pain Point for Electric Two-Wheelers

The subsidies announced by the government under the FAME-II scheme was seen as a leg-up for the nascent Indian electric vehicle industry – in fact, the government’s proposed move to invest Rs 10,000 crore over a three-year period aimed at supporting ten lakh two-wheelers, five lakh three-wheelers, fifty five thousand four-wheelers and seven thousand e-buses, is being seen as just what the doctor ordered for the electric vehicles in the country,

But just a month after the government’s big-bang announcement, the FAME II scheme has left a pall of disappointment among the electric two-wheeler segment simply because the scheme has outlined a stringent eligibility criteria that will make it exceedingly tough for EV players to avail the scheme.

The FAME II scheme specifies that e-scooters in order to avail the scheme need to have a range of 80 km – a specification that could turn out to be a dampener for electric two-wheelers – electric two-wheelers currently have a range of around 60 km. It is generally felt that around 95 % of electric two-wheelers may not benefit from the scheme.

Range is not the only ‘concern’ point. The FAME II scheme also stipulates that companies that wish to avail the scheme must produce vehicles that have at least 50 % localisation. This could be a huge roadblock for adoption of EVs in India because given the current low volume of EVs the Indian component suppliers are not ready yet to manufacture EV components.

If the stringent eligibility criteria for 80 km range and 50 % localisation are not, the country's EV players are also unhappy with the government reducing the incentives from Rs 22,000 per kWh (as announced in FAME Scheme I in 2015) to Rs 10,000 per kWh in the FAME Scheme II for all vehicles save for buses. 

The apex body for EVs in India – the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEVs) has said such a move has seen prices of city-speed electric two-wheelers increasing by around Rs 10,000-12,000. Further, the SMEV has already sounded out the NITI Aayog and Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) over its strong reservations about the reduced incentives under the FAME Scheme II. It remains to be seen whether the government acts promptly and ensures the scheme really benefits the electric vehicle industry and not defeat the very purpose of doling out subsidies for rapid adoption of EVs in the country.

Important To Build On FAME II Subsidies By Indigenising EV Components

Cleaner mobility is an absolute need, and there’s widespread acceptance that of all alternate fuel technologies available in the market, electric mobility is the most pragmatic solution. However, it won’t be a far-fetched exaggeration to suggest that policy makers in the country have been quite indecisive with its EV policy – in fact, a slew of policy flip-flops has been nothing but a dampener on India’s EV push.

All these uncertainty appears to be a thing of the past with the government allocating Rs 10,000 cr under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) II scheme, which will be implemented over a period of three years with effect from April 1, 2019. It may be worth noting that the latest move is an expanded version of the FAME scheme that was launched on April 1, 2015 with a total outlay of Rs 895 cr. The FAME II scheme plans to support 10 lakh electric two-wheelers, five lakh three-wheelers (meant for public transportation), 55,000 four-wheelers (meant for public transportation) and 7,000 buses.

INDUSTRY BUZZ

Understandably, there is a buzz of excitement and hope across the automotive industry over FAME II. There is no denying the fact that the scheme will not only fast-track the electric vehicle ecosystem, but also provide a certain degree of clarity and direction for EVs to thrive across the country.

Mahindra Electric, one of the pioneers of electromobility in India, said the FAME II scheme is just what the doctor ordered for the Indian EV ecosystem. “The scheme assures a long-term stable policy and outlines a clear vision for OEMs, component suppliers, fleet operators and dealers to have a clear direction for the next three years and help India to be one of the global EV leaders,” said Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric. He added that the scheme aligns well with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP) and addresses key issues such as national energy security, mitigation of adverse impact of vehicles on the environment and growth of domestic technology and manufacturing capabilities.

The FAME II scheme accords high priority to electrifying the public transportation space and talks little about electrifying the personal mobility space. Babu felt that the move will work well for the Indian market, as fleet becomes the first priority given the impact on oil import, pollution and asset utilisation. The focus on public transportation is the need of the hour, he said and added that electric three-wheelers, shared fleet of electric cars and electric buses will in a way create an ecosystem for personal buyers to consider EVs.

The FAME II scheme talks about offering incentives only to those vehicles that are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which effectively means that lead acid batteries will go off the EV radar in due course. Babu said globally lead has been phased-out given its negative impact on the environment and Mahindra Electric is aligned with the government’s view of leveraging advanced battery technologies as defined by FAME.

ADVANCED BATTERY TECHNOLOGIES

Akshaye Barbuddhe, Business Head, EV Charging Solutions, Delta Electronics India said lithium-ion batteries are also more efficient as it provides a constant voltage through the whole discharge cycle, whereas lead acid batteries experience a constant drop of voltage. Maintaining constant voltage also translates into better efficiency. Of course, lead acid batteries are the cheapest to produce but as Barbuddhe pointed out, the real cost of owning a lithium-ion battery is far lower when factoring in performance and battery longevity. They are safer to use and offer a superior option in terms of environmental impact too.

One cannot overlook the fact that charging infrastructure is perhaps the biggest roadblock for EVs to thrive in India. And the FAME II scheme appears to address this as it has proposed establishment of 2,700 charging stations across metro as well as across other smart cities, Tier 2 cities and hilly regions and at least one charging station in a grid of 3x3 km.

Barbuddhe underpinned the role of DISCOMs in the EV push. “The government should push power DISCOMs to provide much-needed assistance, in terms of facilitating knowledge sharing and installation procedure to its consumer base,” he said. He urged the government to map out a long-term strategy to develop software solutions that will cater to the future needs of connecting all public charging stations with a common platform. Doing that would provide easy access to charging stations for end-users as well as ensuring 24/7 monitoring of charging stations by respective agencies as well as Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Effective grid management is critical towards ensuring EV charging infrastructure. Without adequate grid management, the system created to cater to EV infrastructure would eventually collapse, he said.

LOCALISATION OF EV COMPONENTS

Although appreciative of the FAME II scheme announcement, the industry has been equally critical of the scheme’s position on localisation of EV components to avail of incentives upfront. Ashim Sharma, Partner, & Group Head, Nomura Research Institute (NRI) Consulting & Solutions India, said India must attach importance to cell level manufacturing for EVs.

“If we import battery cells from abroad and assemble it together in India and make a battery pack, then there is limited value-add happening in India. A cell importing approach will reduce the manufacturing base in India in EVs when compared to ICEs,” he pointed out. Delving deep into battery management system (BMS), Sharma said the hardware of the BMS will continue to be imported as India does not have a vibrant semi-conductor, sensor manufacturing base, while the software testing for the BMS is readily available.

Electric motors are another area India can explore indigenising for EVs be it induction motors and permanent magnet motors. “Performance wise, there has been a slight shift towards permanent magnet motors but these are made of rare earth materials and large extraction of such materials happens in China. India needs to bring about technological innovations to reduce the amount of such rare earth materials used or look at other alternatives. Induction motors have overheating deficiencies and again innovation is needed to reduce this overheating.”

Kaushik Madhavan, Vice President – Mobility, South Asia, Frost & Sullivan felt that electric motors can be the first step towards indigenising components and sub-systems in the EV mobility ecosystem. “The electric motor technology in India is far more advanced as some Indian players are developing this technology. We could then look at battery manufacturing, including cells, and battery packaging.”

Madhavan called for intense discussion on how the industry can approach recycling of used batteries. There is a need to study and understand what we can do with used batteries, recycle them and make them viable for second life applications, he said. “As for now, there is no clear mandate or roadmap for battery recycling and this area can be the next stage of discussion so that a framework is in place for second life applications,” he suggested.

Given India’s limited EV manufacturing base and the evolving battery technology, it is imperative to incentivise the manufacturing ecosystem in order to optimise manufacturing costs that would ultimately cascade towards reduced EV prices, said P Pranavant, Partner, Deloitte India.

The FAME II scheme is clearly just what the doctor ordered for the Indian EV space. But it is equally critical that adequate steps are undertaken for indigenising EV components in areas of BMS, motors, controllers, etc. The EV push can only be a viable customer proposition in India when end-users feel that there is a ‘fundamental need’ to buy it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

‘Fundamental Need Has To Be Created for Adoption of Autonomous Vehicles’

Autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars have been generating plenty of buzz across the automotive industry globally. Autonomous cars are increasingly seen as something that will transform the way people ‘drive’. However, in the Indian context, the jury is still not out on whether such self-driving cars would be adopted in a big way, as there are strong reservations in various quarters over whether autonomous vehicles would end up eliminating jobs of cab drivers in a large way and whether the country will be ready with required infrastructure in years to come.

Mumbai-based Unlimit IoT has been working on ensuring next generation vehicles such as autonomous vehicles run in the manner it is supposed to run. Pradeep Sreedharan VP – Sales & Operations, Unlimit IoT, said the global automotive industry is a rapidly evolving space and is exploring different possibilities of how mobility can not only be less time-consuming, but also score high on safety and comfort parametres. In fact, autonomous vehicles are talked about as the most anticipated thing to happen across the industry alongside hyper loops, supersonic flying trains, flying cars and land airbus, he noted.

The Unlimit IoT top official said autonomous cars will not only transform the way end-users operate, but will also change the way end-users think since it is all about sensing the environment with very less human input. Of course, mobility has undergone a significant shift over many decades. 150 years back ago people were driven by animals, subsequently by animals and then by humanoids, in terms of robots or any artificial intelligence.

Sreedharan said the industry is even looking at a scenario where no one may want to drive the vehicle in coming years given the stress involved around it be it traffic snarls, rowdy driving, etc. Level 4 autonomous cars are absolutely available, but also added that Level 5 autonomous cars will be slightly difficult to grow as no one can say for sure how fast is the industry moving toward Level 5, he pointed out.

It is pertinent to mention that the automotive industry will witness a huge data explosion even as driverless cars are being adopted across the globe. Sreedharan said data will emerge as the new ‘oil’.

Sreedharan said every autonomous car roughly takes around data conception in the present standards equivalent to 3,000 people. Every such car will churn out 4,000 GB of data every day and one can well image the data generation in such cars, he added. There is huge data generation for autonomous cars because such vehicles are equipped with hundreds of on-vehicle sensors. It is said that cameras alone will generate 20 to 40 Mbps, while the radar will generate between 10 and 100 Kbps. There is no denying the fact that going forward automotive firms will become big computer organisations, Sreedharan stated.

Sreedharan also underpinned safety as the biggest USP of autonomous cars. He cited a US survey which revealed that people using autonomous cars in the US believe that the amount of insurance they pay out significantly reduces for autonomous cars and they quantified that in 191 million dollars. The survey stated that 91% of accidents is related to human error, which only underlines the essence of safety in such cars.

More importantly, Sreedharan said autonomous cars will ensure a peace of mind for vehicle user besides offering fuel efficiency and increased productivity. For an Indian scenario, any office-goer will reach office with less stress because he does not have to drive manually and also because traffic management in India is much better because vehicles move in directions and not in lanes, he noted.

He said driverless cars are a concern area for a country like India, where driving as a profession provides livelihood to thousands of people, especially cab drivers. Even insurance companies will have to change their business model completely, he opined.

Sreedharan touched upon how driverless cars could potentially reduce carbon footprint. If people start living outside cities, it means they will travel from outside the city, which will result in an increase in fuel consumption but will reduce carbon footprint in the city, he explained.

Sreedharan said autonomous cars have interesting advantages and challenges and it will require a huge amount of work before such are cars are widely deployed across the globe. “Automotive companies have to figure out how they can jump the castle – how you are going to manage it or adopt it. Price is a big thing in India and there must be a fundamental need created for people to use autonomous cars as adoption will not happen just because of a general want,” he concluded.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Telematics Steadily Making Inroads in Tractor Space

Telematics has been steadily gaining prominence in the automotive industry globally, going a long way in helping vehicle owners, especially fleet operators to not just improve turnaround time but also ring in a certain degree of accountability in the way the overall operations are run. The tractor space is increasingly looking to adopt telematics in a big way, as it paves the way for heightened productivity and weeds out any scope for argument between the contractor (deployed to operate the tractor) and the tractor owner over payment matters.

It is critical to point out that farmers in India are going through a difficult phase. Increasing fuel costs coupled with rising inputs costs like seed costs and fertilizer costs are resulting in increasing cost of cultivation. What’s more, the minimum support price (MSP) farmers are getting from the government hasn’t increased on desired lines, thus leading to immense pressure on the profitability of farmers. Thus, the bottom line is clear – farmers need to reduce their cost of cultivation and improve their yield.

With this in mind, Pune-based John Deere India – a subsidiary of US-based Deere & Company – has placed high focus on incorporating telematics in the Indian tractor space, rolling out the JD Link technology – a mobile app-based telematics solution through which customers can remotely monitor the health and safety of a tractor on a farmer’s phone. 

It is observed that customers that operate a fleet of tractors in India, often have to grapple with myriad issues such as fuel theft, detailed information of proper utilisation, etc as previously there was no scientific method to measure the acres cultivated that often led to ineffective fleet management . This is where the JD Link technology will come in handy as it not only improves productivity but also augments farmers’ income.

Further, the JD Link also enables customers generate various generate and store it for future use as well as receive automatic alerts in case of any malfunctions.

Algorithms for Autonomous Vehicles Take Decisions Based on Data

There is a great deal of buzz generated over autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars across the automotive industry globally. However, in the Indian context, there are reservations over adoption of autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars. The general line of thought is that autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars would end up eliminating jobs of drivers in a large way and India will not be ready with required infrastructure in years to come. Sharing his perspective on adoption of autonomous vehicles, Prashant Deshpande, Founder & Managing Director, EC-Mobility (a company that offers future mobility solutions in Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Autonomous Driving among others), said autonomous vehicles are no longer considered a futuristic dream and could turn into reality sooner than many among us probably think.

Given the transformations witnessed across the automotive industry, the EC-Mobility’s top official said going forward the industry will be hugely dictated by usage of software and data. Automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers across the globe are working towards achieving Level Four and Level Five automation but how these levels of automation pan out remains to be seen, he noted.

The rapidly-evolving automotive industry will see data emerge as the new ‘oil’ and the onus will be on automotive companies to turn these data into value, Deshpande said. Vehicles in contemporary times need oil to drive but tomorrow it will need data to move.

Autonomous cars typically necessitate the need to perceive a situation or scenario and accordingly plan and act. Deshpande said the most important step is to interpret with precision if the user is launching any driver assistance feature, as it is critical to ensure data interpretation, as distinguishing between perception and interpretation holds the key. For algorithms to understand there is a need to carry out labelling and even that is not enough because algorithms has to take decisions based on data, Deshpande explained. It may be noted that tonnes of data are being generated in the automotive space. For autonomous driving or any driver assistance feature, every care must be taken to ensure data is correctly labelled and prepared for a vehicle’s algorithm to take the right driving decisions, the EC-Mobility MD observed.

In addition to box labelling, 2D semantic segmentation is another key focus area of autonomous vehicles. Deshpande said the vehicle’s algorithm will not be able to define a scenario in isolation unless semantic segmentation of that particular scenario is carried out.

He also threw light on semantic labelling for driver behaviour monitoring. “If a driver is sleepy or not adhering to traffic rules or driving instructions, one needs to look at his eye movements also. Eye tracking can be captured in a video. Interpreted data is valuable data and without data labelling one cannot make interpretations and without interpretations one cannot arrive at logical decisions,” Deshpande quipped.

Clearly, correct interpretations are critical and that explains why so much of data is captured in various scenarios such as day/night, rainy/snowy conditions and from various sensors like RADAR, LIDAR, Cameras, etc. Deshpande said all scenarios need to be captured in order to provide intelligence to data that will enable users to run algorithms for driver assistance features like lane departure warning, parking assistance, collision detection warning, etc. The machine or algorithm has to learn and such learning happens when learning data is provided to the machine or algorithm. Deshpande said it’s all about offering inputs to the vehicle’s algorithm and the algorithm will come to the conclusion that the pedestrian will cross the road or not based on the data that is available.

Deshpande said whether the vehicle’s sensor is performing correctly or algorithm is performing correctly can be determined by comparing trained and untrained data. In case the vehicle’s algorithm is not performing correctly and data is not labelled, a vehicle user will encounter driving challenges, he added.

Deshpande has no doubts that data is going to be crucial towards make L3, L4 and L5 a reality and this data has to be enriched every time one has new sensors, new cars and new situations. The need for refined data is equally important for autonomous cars. Deshpande said in scenarios where the vehicle has sensor data, there is a need to carry out annotation on the ground truth data and that is the value addition required. A process called ground truth labelling is used to annotate recorded sensor data with the expected state of the automated driving system. The test vehicle needs specialised software tools for labelling, annotation and for various other functionalities, he noted.

Deshpande said it is critical for autonomous cars to ensure control and execution as there is no way one can work in isolation, as one must have a perception where the data will be used and how critical is that aspect. There are tools available where in a guided environment one first does it manually, then perform semi-automation and then achieve automation, in terms of data annotation or data preparation, he noted.

Indian Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Can Leverage Type 2, CCS Charging Standards

The Indian electric vehicle ecosystem is still in its nascent stage and for EVs to thrive across the country, the availability of adequate charging infrastructure is the need of the hour. The talk of charging infrastructure also brings into focus what kind of charging standards the country should embrace if EVs are to be adopted on a large-scale across the country.

It may be worth recalling that in late 2017 the government came out with Bharat EV standards, namely AC-001 for AC charging and DC-001 for DC charging, on the recommendations of a committee constituted by the Department of Heavy Industry, and headed by Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala. These specifications are meant to cater to the immediate needs of electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers and cars having battery voltage of less than 100 V. However, Bharat EV standards are seen as a more basic charging standard and are only currently adhered to by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. The rest of the electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers plying in the country are out of this ambit, as they depend on their plug-in-at-home mechanism to meet their needs.

On the global front, the electric vehicle space is witnessing adoption of different charging standards across geographies. As far as Europe is concerned, Type 2 Connectors are used for AC charging and Combined Charging Systems (CCS) are used for DC charging. The CCS has gained acceptance in the US as well. CHAdeMO charging standards are widely prevalent in Japan, while GB/T charging standards are widely deployed in China. It is important to note that the Combined Charging System is currently used by the Volkswagen Group, Ford Motor Co, Daimler AG and General Motors Ltd in the US and Europe.

So what kind of charging standards would be ideal for the Indian EV market? A senior government official on condition of anonymity said Type 2 Connectors are very much workable for India. “Globally, many countries are using Type 2 Connectors and it would work for the Indian EV space for AC charging. But we need to figure out what standards we want to adopt for DC charging – whether we opt for controlled area network (CAN) or power line communication (PLC). Leveraging CAN means you have to use CHAdeMO or GB/T standards and using PLC means you have to use CSS. Vehicle users in India are familiar with CAN and knowhow to manage this network,” he said.

The senior government official further added that CHAdeMO or CCS standards are essentially designed for highway capable cars. It is too small to fast charge (carry out DC charging) two/three-wheelers or small cars and is too big to fast charge buses. If India has to leverage CHAdeMO or CCS standards for two/three-wheelers, small cars and buses, there is a strong need to adapt to it and maybe rejig if needed, he suggested.

Another senior government official said automotive OEMs must shoulder more responsibility in the EV charging space. He said there is reluctance among OEMs to get into the space of designing charging standards themselves. “Everything cannot be provided by the government. The government can facilitate charging stations on highways, but OEMs have to take the lead in designing charging standards themselves,” he said.

Welcoming the Power Ministry’s notification that anyone can set-up charging stations for EVs, the official said the move will work provided it is backed by intelligent and well-networked electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). “It is a good policy provided you are dealing with a network. However, if it is not a network and many people are tapping into the grid, it becomes difficult to manage the grid. Over the long run, a controlling software will be needed to manage the network,” he noted.

Akshaye Barbuddhe, Business Head, EV Charging Solutions, Delta India, said there is nothing called ‘ideal’ in terms for charging standards for EVs. As per him, all charging standards are ‘complete’ on their own, comprehensive and can work in any geography and demography. The global automotive industry is dictated by four forces – US, Europe, China and Japan and various charging standards have become prevalent in these nations due to certain merits and demerits of these regions, Barbuddhe said.

Elaborating further, Barbuddhe stated that Type 2 and GB/T standards can work to a nicety for AC charging in India. He was of the opinion that combined charging system (CCS) is the best ‘engineered’ and can fulfil most applications, thus paving the way for meeting dynamic business needs. Ideally, any charging solution will work anywhere and has to be the most versatile, most comprehensive, most engineered, most scalable that can make the business sustainable over the long-term.

Further, he advocated different standards for various vehicle segments. “It is a wide and open market and you cannot put everything in one block. There should be choices for end-users and it will be unfortunate if we don’t have a market of choices,” said the Barbuddhe.

The EV ecosystem in the country needs a proactive approach from all stakeholders and in terms of charging standards, government agencies such Niti Aayog, Power Ministry among others must spell out whether the country is looking to leverage the globally prevalent charging standards such as CHAdeMO, CCS and GB/T standards for the Indian charging needs or looking to expand the specifications of Bharat EV standards.

Steel Import Restrictions Could Hamper Automobile Production in India

The Indian automotive industry is going through a stress over the government imposing restrictions on domestic automotive manufacturers over using imported steel. It may be worth recalling that the steel ministry in a bid to promote local manufacturing had in June 2017 mandated Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)-certified locally produced high-grade steel.

The ministry had set December 17, 2018 as the deadline to meet the new norms but was subsequently extended till February 17, 2019 after automakers were up in arms over the government move. In fact, auto companies sought an extension of the deadline until the end of 2019.

There is a great deal of unease in the Indian automotive industry over restrictions imposed on imported steel as there are apprehensions that the new regulations could disrupt the production of cars, government and industry. Even the automotive industry body - Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has been vocal about the restrictions on imported steel and has made its displeasure known in public domain.

In fact, Rajan Wadhera, President, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), said at a recent event that the import restriction issue needs to be sorted out at the earliest or else automotive production could get hampered.Automotive manufacturers have been voicing their reluctance to source locally produced source high-grade steel citing reservations over the quality and consistency of such locally produced steel. 

It is important to understand that a large chunk of the steel requirements for the Indian automotive industry is catered to by domestic steel producers. Around 90 % of steel sourced for domestic automobile production, is manufactured in India. 

The rest 10 % of high grade steel that is used for meeting safety standards among others, is not manufactured in India and sourced through the import route largely because there is no economy of scale to manufacture these in India.


It remains to be seen whether the steel ministry softens its stand on restrictions on imported steel or else automotive production may come to a standstill.

John Deere India Expects Growth Through Innovative Products, Solutions

John Deere India (JDI) – a subsidiary of US-based Deere & Company – is striving hard to make its presence felt in the highly competitive Indian tractor market. The company recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in India as well its 100,000 tractor production milestone. Auto Tech Review caught up with Satish Nadiger, MD & CEO, John Deere India, on the sidelines of the anniversary function in Pune to know more about the latest tractor trends, its various industry-first technological features among others.

Precision farming has gathered pace across the global tractor industry, and John Deere India is doing its bit to tread on that path. The company developed the Auto Track System, which essentially is a vehicle guidance system that enables farmers create specific tracks in straight lines without the involvement of the operator. This technology lets the tractor system take control of the vehicle, while moving in straight rows. It is only at the end of the track that the system disengages itself and the operator takes control and heads to the next row, where it allows the system to take charge after pressing the ‘Resume’ button. This technology has helped farmers not just reduce costs, but increase their yield as well.

Farmers in India, after buying a tractor, generally head to a local village to get the implements. This is not what JDI recommends, because implements of incorrect size adversely impact the performance of a tractor, Nadiger said. This is an area of great opportunity, he said.

Formed in 1998, the company has been consistently coming up with technologically advanced products aimed at offering farmer comfort. It recently rolled out its patented technology PermaClutch that can be specifically used for loader, construction and other agricultural applications, where the clutch usage is high. PermaClutch ensures a clutch life of around five years, said the JDI MD. Dry clutches tend to wear out and maintenance is usually expensive, with customers shelling out about ` 20,000 annually.

PermaClutch, on the contrary, also eliminates the need to adjust the clutch in case of carrying out a replacement, as is the case in a dry clutch. The PermaClutch technology can be deployed in all segments, but its real value lies in above 50 hp segments – construction and agricultural activities happen in above 50 hp segments – where the clutch usage is high. PermaClutch is priced higher than the dry clutch but Nadiger is confident that customers will embrace this technology once they start to understand its value.

JDI currently offers tractors in a wide band of options, starting with 28 hp to 120 hp, after initially starting the Indian journey in the above 50 hp segment. Nadiger strongly believes that JDI has the right product range to make significant inroads in the Indian market.

With a high focus on incorporating telematics in the tractor space, John Deere India rolled out JD Link – a mobile app-based telematics solution that enables customers to remotely monitor various parameters (engine RPM, fuel level, oil temperature, coolant temperature) of a tractor on a farmer’s phone.

It may be pertinent to mention that customers that operate a fleet of tractors in India have been facing issues such as fuel theft over a period of time. Additionally, for the want of scientific methods to measure the acres covered and lack of detailed information of proper utilisation, often resulted in ineffective fleet management. This is where the JD Link will come in handy, in terms of improving productivity and augmenting farmer income. The JD Link technology also helps customers generate various reports and store it for future use as well as receive automatic alerts in case of any machine malfunctions.

Within JD Link, JDI for the first time in India has rolled out the Acreage Metre that helps customers accurately determine how much land is tilled – such a technology rings in more accountability on part of the tractor operator. Nadiger said many farmers in India use tractor for contracting and the Acreage Metre eliminates any scope of argument over payment matters.

However, there are challenges confronting the Indian tractor industry as it braces up to migrate from Trem3A emission norms to Trem4 in 2020. Nadiger said the new emission norms are expected to trigger a surge in tractor prices, but will not significantly impact demand as the Trem4 norms will come into play for tractors powered by more than 50 hp engines. More than 90 % of tractors sold in India are less than 50 hp tractors, he noted.

The journey for JDI thus far has been exceedingly challenging, as it had to compete with powerhouses like Swaraj Tractors, Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE), Sonalika International Tractors, Escorts, etc. Although JDI is tight-lipped about its revenue figures, its market share is estimated to be less than 10 % in India. Nadiger knows that merely rolling out a good product is not enough; the company has to back that up with good channel partners – an area it continues to add to.

With electric vehicles generating a lot of buzz in India, will the tractor industry embrace electric tractors? Nadiger said it won’t be correct to say no, as some amount of development work is happening outside India, although not much is happening in India.

PPAP Automotive Focussed On Building In-House Technical Capabilities

Catering to the needs of the automotive industry since 1985, Noida-based PPAP Automotive Limited has carved its niche in supplying body sealing, interior and exterior parts. Auto Tech Review caught up with Abhishek Jain, CEO & MD, PPAP Automotive Ltd, to know more about the advancements in body sealing, interior and exterior parts among others.

PPAP Automotive has largely been focussing on manufacturing Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) sealing systems unlike its competitors, who manufacture rubber-based automotive sealing systems. The company manufactures outer waist seals, inner waist seals, moulding roof, trim door openings & moulding windshields from PVC. PVC was widely used for automotive sealing products in India for which raw material was sourced from Japan & Thailand – it is comparatively cheap, easy to process, highly flexible, water retardant, highly chemical-resistant and design-versatile. Jain said the usage of PVC that had gained large-scale acceptance over the years is gradually reducing owing to halogen content, poor recyclability and high volatile organic compounds (VOC) content, prompting customers to look at thermoplastic elastomers as an option.

The PPAP Automotive MD said thermoplastic elastomers provide a blend of polypropylene (PP) & ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) that carries good aesthetics of a PP compound, good mouldability and has the characteristics of a rubber compound like compression set, formability and sealing qualities.


Jain said there were huge expectations that the Indian automotive industry would shift to thermoplastics elastomers from the prevailing PVC sealing systems, but it did not happen that way as thermoplastic elastomers was considered an expensive compound as compared to PVC. The cost difference at the component level was around 10 %, something customers were reluctant to pay for, he noted.

The PPAP Automotive top official said the arrival of thermoplastic elastomers in the market generated buzz because it is lighter in weight, chemically resistant, have very low water transmission and enhanced long-term performance, is environment-friendly and fully recyclable. The polymer has high degree of stability and a very low shrinkage, said Jain. Thermoplastic elastomers can be compounded to get high hardness and increased mechanical strength. Such materials lead to a reduction in the part cost & part weight as well as ensure easy processability.

Jain said thermoplastic elastomers eliminate the need for carriers like steel, aluminium, etc, which reduces the weight unlike a PVC system, where such carriers are required. However, PVC & thermoplastic elastomers cannot be blended together due to their different chemical structure. The individual use of both the material for different parts is carried out as per the customer requirement, Jain noted.

The automotive industry has moved away from rubber or EPDM-based glass run channels towards Thermoplastic Vulcanisate (TPV) glass run channels. TPV glass run channels are much lighter than a typical rubber run channel, which reduces weight by around 15 %. Jain said the positive thing about TPV is that one can play around with its density & design and is much easier to make, and ensures better production efficiency. Rubber can be a difficult compound to handle, because of factors beyond one’s control. Due to environment or process conditions, a product can turn out to be a different product. TPV is made completely in a factory and is much easier to handle, Jain explains.

Lightweighting of products has been a focus area for automotive component manufacturers and PPAP Automotive is striving for the same with its sealing and injection products. The company had earlier used four materials for extrusion and is now striving to do it in three materials combining the properties of two materials into one material. Jain said such an approach helped it reduce the cross section from 10 mm to 8 mm, while maintaining the same product performance, and also reduce the wall thickness from 2 mm to 1.7 or 1.8 mm.

On the R&D front, PPAP Automotive is focussing on adopting a solution-based approach and offers an integrated print-to-build model. The company has augmented its capabilities and now offers product design, tool design, product & materials validation and mass production in-house. PPAP Automotive is consistently focussing on localising its products. Jain said the import content of its raw materials was around 60 % five years back but it has now whittled down to 27 %.

PPAP Automotive has derived significant technological expertise from its long-drawn technology partnerships with Japanese firms – Tokai Kogyo (it later formed a JV firm with them in 2014) and Nissen Chemitec Corporation. The company’s tie-up with Tokai Kogyo (from 1989 onwards) is for its automotive exterior and sealing products, while its partnership with Nissen Chemitec Corporation (from 2007 onwards) is for its automotive injection moulding interior products. PPAP Automotive is keen to expand its customer base and is now looking beyond OEMs.


Sintercom Is Betting Big On Sintered Components

Pune-based Sintercom India has made its presence felt in manufacturing sintered components in areas such as engine, transmission and chassis. Besides engines and transmissions, sintered components are also used in steering, suspension, door lock parts, brake parts, seat assembly components and alternators, among others. Auto Tech Review met up with Jignesh Raval, Managing Director, Sintercom India, to understand the growing adoption of sintered components in the automotive industry.

Sintered components are steadily gaining prominence in the automotive industry across the globe. According to data released by the Powder Metallurgy Association of India (PMAI), approximately 17-18 kg of sintered components are being used in a vehicle in the US, whereas around 12 kg of sintered components are used in a vehicle in Europe and Japan. The working depth of the sinter technology is huge in Europe and spans across industries beyond automotive – aerospace, medical industry, consumer goods, etc. Needless to say, the sinter technology has immense potential within the automotive industry, but this technology hasn’t been adequately leveraged in India, where around 4-5 kg of sintered components are used in a current vehicle.

Sensing this huge opportunity, Sintercom forayed into the Indian market to manufacture sintered components. The company’s journey into manufacturing sintered components began developing idler and driven gears through a sintering process for Bajaj Auto – its sintered components were successfully tested on around 100 vehicles of Bajaj Auto.

Raval said 30 % of automotive components have an impact load; these components with impact load cannot be sintered because there is low density than forging. Almost 70 % of automotive components do not have any impact load and these components can be converted into sintered components but there are obvious limitations, in terms of the process itself. Since this process works on a vertical motion and not on a horizontal motion, one cannot produce a thin-wall product or product that has much more cavity on the horizontal side products, he noted.

The automotive industry across the globe is increasingly shifting its focus from forged transmission gears to sintered transmission gears. Over the years, such transmission gears have been aggressively produced from the forging industry and were identified by the European Union as one of the root causes of producing emissions. It is significant to mention that the EU has been urging OEMs to leverage sintered products for future transmissions in a bid to reduce emissions. The EU is determined to encourage manufacturing of sintered transmission gears globally and is willing to invest on R&D – in fact, around 100 vehicles have been deployed in Europe with sintered transmission gears.

Raval said a sintered gear can work in a transmission, save for the first and the second gear. Sintered components cannot come into play for the first and second gears because there is a jerk in the car. However, the EU has been urging OEMs to conduct tests of the third and fourth gears.

With the impending rollout of BS VI standards in the country, many products designed to meet the stringent standards are getting converted from ‘forging’ to ‘sintered’. Raval said these products, such as variable cam drive and variable valve drive, have been added to the engine to control emissions. There are products within the variable cam timing (VCT) and variable valve timing (VVT) that have to be produced through the sintered route owing to the complexities associated with these parts, he noted.

The automotive industry is also focussing on ‘sintering’ of mass balancers. Such mass balancers are produced through forging, but if produced through the sintered route, it can reduce engine weight, resulting in improving fuel economy. Split gears too are generally known to produce more sound because of the gear backlash. Sinter technology has ensured the male and female gears are of the same size, and the assembly job not only ensures zero backlashes but also reduces the sound produced by split gears, Raval explained.

Sintercom also converted the casting bearing caps on the Mahindra Scorpio and Bolero into sintered bearing caps. Leveraging sintered bearings caps resulted in a nine per cent weight reduction, translating into significant fuel savings. Delving deep, Sintercom said it did not change the dimensions while developing the synchro hubs and only inserted some pockets in the hubs that reduced its weight by 4-5 %. Each weight of a synchro hub is 250 to 300 gm, and when one calculates 300 gm over five per cent, around 75 gm of vehicle weight is reduced. This result in 2-3 % weight reduction, he noted.

Electric vehicles are a big buzz despite not much headway being made on the ground. For now, Sintercom does not manufacture any EV products, but it is betting big on manufacturing magnetic planetary gears used in EVs, as these gears are poised to be eventually sintered, Raval said.

Sintercom currently operates its plant at Talegaon, near Pune and has drawn up plans to set-up a plant in Gujarat by 2021. The nascent Indian automotive sintering market is pegged at around Rs 1,200 cr at the end of FY 2018 and based on the expected increase in the passenger vehicle segment, this market has the potential to touch Rs 2,000 cr by 2020, Raval stated. Further, with BS VI emission norms coming into play, there will more demand for sintered components owing to complexities and criticalities involved in the components, he said.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Propeller Shafts Witnessing Growing Adoption: RSB

Pune-based RSB Transmissions (I) Ltd, part of the RSB Group, has built a robust reputation over the years in manufacturing propeller shafts, axles and transmission components, among others. I caught up with Nishit Behera, Executive Director – Business Development & Strategy, RSB Transmissions (I) Ltd, to know more about how it is according high priority to manufacturing excellence in serving the automotive industry.

Excerpts:


EVs are getting a big push in India. What kind of innovations can one expect in transmission components going forward?


Nishit Behera _ Regulatory pressures on ICEs coupled with technological improvements in electric powertrains and batteries will drive the demand for EVs. Most incumbent car manufacturers are rolling out models and are also joined by new entrants without ICE legacies. There will be a paradigm shift globally as EVs will be dominating the future to mitigate climate change and keep the environment emission and pollution-free. The government’s thrust on making India an e-vehicle nation by 2030, has prompted Indian and overseas OEMs to rejig their technology and facilities to be in line with the e-initiative.

Drivetrain manufacturers will start focussing on developing multi-gear transmissions that will offer several benefits such as increased vehicle range, in terms of distance travelled in one charge & reduced battery pack sizes, and also improve the low-speed pull away & high-speed driving.

The industry is witnessing companies equip electric cars with a secondary gear ratio. Leveraging this gear ratio ensures a vehicle’s efficiency range is substantially widened, which effectively means that it moves at top speed without spinning the electric motors faster or using more electricity. This is because the motor is spinning at lower RPMs, reduces the amount of current needed to drive the motor and significantly increases the range by maintaining the “sweet spot” areas of efficiency for longer periods. Additionally, the range is improved at highway speeds by reducing parasitic losses due to aerodynamic drags due to the sustainable gear ratio.

Battery is heart of the e-vehicle to transmit power and there will be a huge requirement of rugged, durable and fast-charging batteries. The industry can expect more players to put in place a separate facility to meet the e-vehicle battery requirements with knowhow from overseas. RSB is aware of the fact that e-cars are going to be order of the day in future and have already launched its exploratory exercise to get ourselves ready for a smooth transition.

With BS VI emission norms rolling out in April 2020, what kind of challenges component makers like RSB face in catering to the customer/ OEM demand?

Since RSB has global environmental standards in place and annual audits for our products and process is performed by a globally accredited external agency, we see the migration to BS VI as a welcome development for us. Our processes are built on the strong edifice of total quality management (TQM) and have built-in checks for environmental aspects, impacts, risks, product life cycle & opportunities. Accordingly, our operation control procedures are designed and monitored through environment audits at planned intervals to ensure they meet all norms and compliances.

What is your assessment of the disruption-fuelled Indian automotive market?

The Indian automotive industry will undergo a qualitative change in the digital arena, boost enthusiastic participation and healthy interaction between man and machines to resolve complex issues as well as upgrade to innovative and smart intelligent thinking. The EV technology will witness robots and humans working together, while autonomous vehicles taking over online feed to production lines. Cloud computing will be connecting designers to factory employees through sensor networks; communication technologies & software interacting autonomously besides facilities being connected in real time to its suppliers and customers.

The industry has huge potential in terms of speed and quality of deliverables with utilisation of smart technologies, where instant feedback of costs, accurate prediction of performance, machines and logistics speak with each other to give the factory process the destined results. The manufacturing operations will be more flexible, witness improvised productivity and facilitate more efficient business practices and entrepreneurial approaches. With EVs, we will get back our healthy share of “green”, which we lost in the bygone years.

Give us your perspective about the advancements witnessed in propeller shafts within the automotive industry?

Vehicle production is witnessing an upward swing globally, thus driving the demand for propeller shafts. The propeller shaft market is driven by the thriving aftermarket demand in emerging economies. The power-to-weight ratio influences a vehicle’s performance and the industry is witnessing an increasing adoption of lightweight propeller shafts. Apart from body and frame, some leading car manufacturers such as Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo have incorporated carbon fibre propeller shafts in some of their models. Given the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, the critical focus on powertrain is expected to drive significant changes, in terms of component/ system design and material utilisation in the propeller shaft market.

Our wide range of new-generation propeller shafts enjoy a dominating market presence in the M&HCV segment in India and are light, cost-effective and cover a torque carrying capacity from 4,000 Nm to 30,000 Nm with higher torque range capability in the offing. Our propeller shafts are focussed on catering to the current as well as the futuristic commercial vehicle and transmission requirements, meeting the stringent quality norms.

What about axles? What kinds of advancements are happening in the axle space?

The growth of the auto industry directly translates into increasing demand for axles. They are an integral part of a wheeled vehicle, which enables better steering and handling control. Our well-equipped manufacturing lines are dedicated to develop and supply a variety of axles. Since axle is part of a vehicle’s driveline, it plays a critical role in the complete product life cycle.

As far as axle advancements are concerned, the focus is on enabling a longer product life cycle; ensuring it is lightweight and suitable for complete vehicle infrastructure and attaining cost advantages as well as enhanced comfort & safety for end consumers and OEMs. At the same time, we need to focus on advanced axle with minimum power losses through mechanical actions.

What’s your take on the advent of electrically-powered axles in the automotive industry?

This new technology has been incorporated by many vehicle manufacturers in some of their hybrid SUVs. The e-axle improves performance and boosts fuel economy and can be seen deployed in the current models of the hybrid Volvo XC90, Toyota RAV4, and BMW i8.


RSB is also going strong in the transmission space – can you give us a perspective about the mega trends witnessed in this space?

The increase in per capita income of emerging countries like India and China has triggered increased purchasing power and spending on fuel-efficient vehicles that have subsequently bolstered the growth of transmission systems (both automatic and semi-automatic), replacing conventional mechanism. There is a huge market potential for technologies such as dual clutch transmission and continuous variable transmission due to their fuel efficiency.

The passenger car segment is the fastest growing segment worldwide and with passenger penetration hovering around 190 per 1,000 people globally, the transmission systems market is poised to grow significantly. The passenger car segment is fast emerging as an affordable reach for common man in developing countries, which resultantly, has fuelled the growth of the transmission market.

How critical is aluminium and ferrous castings in the auto industry?

The growth of aluminium casting in the auto industry has been boosted by the rapid shift towards replacement of heavy metals such as iron and steel by aluminium, along with its wider usage in the construction industry. Aluminium casting has been increasingly gaining popularity owing to its strength and lightweight features that are contributing to its rising demand in the automotive industry. As you know, lightweight features in these aluminium castings help improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, apart from meeting stringent regulatory norms. The availability of various aluminium casting options and the ability to customise the product according to diverse customer needs are spurring the growth of the overall aluminium casting market globally.

Like in the case of aluminium casting, the growing preference for lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles in the automotive industry will boost demand for non-ferrous castings. The increase in the usage of various casting methods for the manufacture of lightweight automotive components will drive the growth of this market.

The introduction of the green car incentive policy is critical towards promoting the purchase of new eco-friendly vehicles aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions. The shift in preference for new eco-friendly vehicles will bolster the growth of the auto industry, which in turn, will propel the growth of the non-ferrous casting market.