Ashok Leyland driving technology at Indian innovation
The Hinduja Group flagship firm Ashok Leyland (AL) reveals its future plans on the technology front and how the new Intelligent Exhaust Gas Recirculation (iEGR) works on the BS IV trucks. When all the European OEMs opted for Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system for reducing emissions and making their trucks BS IV ready, Ashok Leyland, the Chennai-based truck major proved its iEGR system enhances fuel efficiency by 10%, is cost effective and is also a lot more reliable. To achieve this, the truck major minimised the use of electronics in the new engine.
To know more about iEGR and how Ashok Leyland plans to compete with the global OEMs, Auto Components
India spoke to the Chief Technology Officer of Ashok Leyland, Dr Seshu Bhagavathula. He said, “Today all the bus and truck companies are busy with BS IV and facing challenges in terms of telling customers how to handle the small amount of electronics that you have, how to handle the new system and service it and how fast you can repair. Now we have one more challenge of meeting BS VI by 2020 for which we have only 3 years. But we won’t stop here for BS IV, before rolling out BS VI we will come up with 3 more upgrades by understanding the customer requirement. The reason to do this is the market moving towards higher power to weight ratio, air-conditioning cabins, fully built solutions and I also observe the trend towards battery infrastructure. Also I see the speeds are going up, which will change the long haulage segment. So you have to match the requirements of the duty cycle much more and change your engine calibration parameters, and collect lot of data. All the works will be done during the next couple of years.”
Ashok Leyland launched BS IV trucks with iEGR system and said EGR is more suited for the Indian conditions than SCR. Bhagavathula explained that, “I can still offer the SCR system at a price of an iEGR system but still you have maintenance cost to it. Depending on the driver behaviour you need synthetic urea, which takes 5-10% of diesel, who will pay for it? And it also has electronics. But I am not saying SCR systems are bad, we belive that iEGR is something that helps our users in the long-run. Fuel emissions is just not only the function of the engine, it is the function of the fuel quality, driver and the road conditions. Separating them is never easy, so we have to keep rice and husk separately, you cannot mix them. Moreover less number of parts means less problems and if you compare the bill of materials of iEGR and SCR, iEGR has less parts. We have done a lot of research and collected a lot of data for iEGR and we found it has less complexity.”
Since the EGR system can operate only up to 180 HP, Ashok Leyland’s iEGR allows to operate even
400 HP engines. When asked how it is possible and how this iEGR works, he said, “We worked extensively on cooling the exhaust gas in an intelligent manner by controlling the valve. The rest of the optimisation is done in the in-cylinder combustion of the common rail system. We combined intelligence with EGR, so we gave only 5% back and maximum of 10% of exhaust gas instead of 20%. So the intelligence actually happens in the combustion not in the EGR, this reduces the Particle Oxidation Catalysts (POC) and in some case it is completely eliminated. To achieve this we have done lot of optimisation and now it is a combination of 2 systems. In-cylinder temperature optimisation is based on new combustion techniques.”
Normally higher injection pressure is used but in iEGR the injection pressure is optimised by altering the nozzle. There are around 6 to 7 parameters to optimise, and the company has optimised every degree of it. This results in better fuel efficiency and life. The company is also planning to reduce the electronic content in BS VI as much as possible, but electronic content will be much more than BS IV. Leyland wanted to gradually increase the complexity rather than giving it in bigger standards.
Currently the efficiency of the engine is around 40%, which has more potential for improvement and here the potential is for the material technology and how fine are the materials. The CTO said 60% of engine efficiency can be achieved by having fine materials, which allows for no corrosion, no sound, no oil requirement but this is not possible practically. He is optimistic that one fine day this would be possible if everything is manufactured at a zero gravity atmosphere. Ashok Leyland is optimistic about enhancing the performance of the engines because all the engines are made by themselves and it concentrates more on the engine technologies. In Ashok Leyland a separate team is working on improving the combustion and the company is optimistic and said its BS VI will be entirely different from others.
As part of its modernising its trucks, Ashok Leyland is working on high powered to weight ratio trucks and these trucks will hit the road even before the implementation of BS VI. Currently for AL, 80% of the market is between 170 and 190 HP, but this is shifting. The truck manufacturer is also working on above 400 HP engines but the market is very small to enter now.
Bhagavathula said, “Today we are shipping a load of 49 tonne with 180-190 HP, in the future the same 49-tonne will have 200-220HP. The majority of our trucks will be doing this in the future and this will be part of modernising our trucks. We are also working on air-conditioning the cabs, which will have very different fit and finish. There is also a big initiative going on light-weighting the trucks, if I go for lighter weight materials somewhere it has to give me a plus point, typical plus point will be less repairs or more weight to
be shipped or some cushioning where the driver feels better. The future of light-weighting lies on how my suppliers are going to reduce the cost of the end product. I can say to my suppliers that if you give me a cost reduction right now, I will give you a longer term contract, where they can optimise the cost over the time by doing different material processing.”
Out of the 3 improvements that the company will be doing the first will be fuel efficiency, second will be derived out of the data that the company collects from its customers, and the final one will be the outcome of the market demand. Ashok Leyland has a chance to do all the 3 improvements.
Replying to the question on alternate fuel vehicles, Bhagvathula said, “On the high-tech side you can image electric vehicles (EVs) where everyone is into it and we have our good roadmap. In EV space we are working on new kind of management systems, it is all about how do you control the vehicle and battery functions. With Optare in the UK, we are developing the system for a long time. With Optare buses, we have already increased bus range by 45% and we are working continuously to increase the range.”
Since AL is present in the Indian market for more than 6 decades now, it is continuously growing in the components sourcing for its global operations. But on the other side the company get access to the new technologies in Europe because of its presence there through Optare. So the fruitful exchange of technologies is happening in AL. Instead of driver assistant system AL is working on driver warning system. There are 3 systems available; basic, mid and premium level systems. Under the basic system it is just a warning system for drivers. In the middle level where the unorganised sector goes into organised like big fleet operators, where they want their goods to reach on time. And the final is on autonomous system. AL is working on all the 3 systems by having cheap, affordable, simple warning systems all the way to complete control. The CTO said when introduced these systems will depend on the market requirement. Currently the manufacturer has ‘i Alert’ and ‘Ley Assist’ where the i Alert improves viability of the transportation industry through state-of-the-art, innovative, userfriendly and cost effective services. Through the Ley Assist app an owner/ driver via Bluetooth can get all information about his truck from GPS location to what problem the engine is facing.
Banking on its strong M&HCV portfolio, the company is now looking to expand its range in the light commercial vehicles (LCV) segment where it has currently products like the Dost and Partner. In the LCV segment, AL plans to double its market to 30% in the domestic LCV business. This will enhance the presence in LCV segment for Ashok Leyland and help it become a full range CV player in the future. To support the target, the company will be launching 1 new product for every 3 months for the next 2 years at least. The company will be investing around Rs 400 crore in LCV business in the next 2 years. At Ashok Leyland, frugal innovation is going to come into play and it is spending a lot of time to become a major player in reliability engineering.
Ashok Leyland’s Neptune engine
Dr Seshu Bhagavathula, Chief Technology Officer, Ashok Leyland.