Mahindra works in synergy with group Co. for powertrain development
Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd. is working with many group companies like Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) for new developments in the areas of engine, clutch, transmission, aftertreatment, CNG and other alternate fuel modes. “We have a lot of synergies playing out in the group. The challenge is how do we leverage these synergies. As a Group we are getting better. We are looking at synergies that are beneficial for both,” Venkat Srinivas, Vice President and Head, Engineering and Product Development, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd., told AutoComponents India.
“We carry out application at the Pune centre. MRV developed DigiSense in association with Bosch and Tech Mahindra. The speed of development at Tech Mahindra is such that we have to understand it to leverage it. We are going to have technology days on our premises where they will tell us about relevant technology. This will help us to identify quickly the levels at which we can associate. We have dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive. The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us understand how customers use their CVs, HGVs in particular, in various road loads and applications. We are also very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant,” he said.
Challenges of BS VI
For the vehicle manufacturers there will be huge challenges, and opportunities with the implementation of the BS VI norms. “It was the same in the instance of BS IV. We got an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. For instance, we have been offering common-rail technology on our products as a Group for over 10 years. The experience and synergies we have had as a Group have helped us. The synergies in the area of powertrain have helped us to get a good start. We have been offering BS III LCVs with commonrail engine technology. We have a lot of application knowledge, not just at MRV. It was developed as BS III emission norms came into force. We had some pre-Blazo vehicles – HGVs, in the market. These were 40 tonne tractors. When we launched the BS III Blazo a year and a half ago, we built upon that experience. We added fuel-smart technology to turn the whole equation into a highly successful experience. It gave us the confidence to offer the mileage guarantee. No truck has come back in that regards. The move to BS IV made common-rail technology a necessity. A debate on EGR and SCR played out at the earlier stages.
It was important to finalise the architecture. EGR is a good option for smaller vehicles because of the power to weight ratio. A 5-tonne LCV typically operates with 70 hp engine in the Indian context. It signals a power to weight ratio of 14 hp per tonne. While the loading in smaller vehicles is often partial, it is exactly the opposite in bigger and heavier vehicles. The power to weight ratio of a 49-tonne truck in an Indian context is between 4 and 4.5 hp per tonne. The engine is operating at full load most of the time. If EGR technology is applied, it brings compromises. A 100% fuel air mixture is not provided to the engine. Exhaust gas recirculation is 15 to 18%. The engine is not burning as much fuel in a duty cycle. The result is less output. Thermal efficiency goes down. Carbon deposits rise. Engine life also goes down. We chose the newer generation airless SCR. This technology will help us to migrate to BS VI,” Srinivas said.
Advantages of airless SCR
Airless SCR uses less power over an air-assisted system. Performance of airless SCR is better. There are fewer parts and less complexity. Reliability is high, and the cost of service is low. “We dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive. We had to make the business case work internally for us. The choice of airless SCR makes sense as far as our customers are concerned. Airless SCR is easier and costs less to service. Our move to BS VI will not entail an engine change. Many engines between 5-and 6-litre capacity will be extremely underpowered as BS VI units,” he said.
The cost to graduate to BS VI technology is expected to go up. “From that point of view, we are carrying forward our engines except for 1 engine in our LCV range. We will carry forward our choice of technology. Our BS VI compliant HCV range will be supported by our 7.2-litre engine. We will go with SCR, and with different calibrations. There will be the addition of DPF. There will be cost addition. The cost delta for different manufacturers will be different. We would be leveraging the investments we have made,” Srinivas said.
There is also an opportunity to develop more powerful engines to tap new and heavier CV segments, depending on the growth of such segments. “We also have to consider that we are not that large an organisation at the back- end either. We have ambitious plans. We do have some platforms to consider. We have to pick our battles in the context of priority. There are gaps in our portfolio that we need to fill up. ICVs and some more play in buses,” he said.
New technology for buses
M&M has been having a successful run unlike in the staff bus segment. “We are working towards improving the product portfolio in the staff bus segment. In the current portfolio of up to 40 seats, we have developed a wider body bus. It measures 2.5 m in width over 2.2 m of a conventional bus body. The wider body bus will help us in staff transportation. It will also enable us to offer other bus body, chassis and powertrain level changes. To suit the requirements better, there will be wider seats, and better elbow room on offer. There will be chassis level improvements to achieve superior NVH and comfort. Air suspension is on offer as an option too. Migration to a new platform is a part of the strategy. There will be migration to ICV type of buses. We will also offer new powertrain for ICVs – for trucks and buses. In case of alternate fuel technology, we are already offering CNG. LNG has been in the news. Distribution is still a challenge. LNG storage and delivery in vehicle is expensive. We are working to crack that problem. LNG services are being piloted at Kochi, and availability to LNG is likely to get better along the west coast. LNG engine technology is not a challenge. Challenge concerns its distribution. As far as the engine is concerned, there’s not much change between a CNG and LNG calibration. LNG calls for the packaging of one large tank. Since it is in a compressed form, it should give a good range. Some weight reduction is possible on an LNG vehicle when compared to a CNG vehicle. LNG tanks are expensive. We will therefore continue to watch this space closely. If we feel that the adoption point is close, we will serve the market,” Srinivas said.
M&M has announced the introduction of an electric bus as a part of the electric vehicle portfolio. The company is working on that project focusing on the T32, T40 and T42 range. “From a technology stand point we are well prepared. We have the group company, Mahindra Electric, which has done such projects. We are working with them on the bus project as well. While the project proceeds,
there are some enablers, which need to happen. One is the cost of the electric power pack. There is interest for local manufacture, which should reduce the costs. The other is the range. A conventional, or even a battery powered bus would call for a range of 200 to 250 km. An electric bus should also need range like that for a city operation,” he said.
The range for electric vehicles is still talked to be between 100 and 120 km. Challenges in the area of battery cost and time to fully charge remain. An interesting development in this area is that ministries have come together, and under the purview of union minister Piyush Goyal, are looking at battery swapping for buses. The bus has to travel 50 km before the battery is swapped. The battery thus has to be brand agnostic. The batteries could be charged offline, and away from the bus. The time required is assured. The float can be decided on the number of batteries, and depending on the number of buses as well as the kind of routes to be run on. If the 150 km requirement comes down to 50 km with battery swapping, the cost of batteries will come down to one-third of what it is today. Some level of incentives will be needed, but viability will go up many folds.
“Despite the group experience in electric passenger vehicles, we are approaching electric (commercial) vehicle architecture ground up. We are looking at what the market requirements are for a bus. What learnings of Mahindra Electric can we take so that our learning curve is faster. We are looking at better energy management, better drives, and better storage. We are keen to look at these and the other aspects for an electric bus rather than taking a system and upscaling it,” Srinivas said. About the kind of intelligence that Mahindra and Mahindra want to build, he said that, “We have learnt what we need for the market. Consider the IPR bit, and it is quite complex. Mahindra Electric brings in a good deal of it. The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us to understand how customers use their CVs in various road loads and applications. We have acquired a large database regarding that. This helped us to extend ‘fuelsmart’ technology on the diesel load LCVs that we introduced on the Jayo and Optimo platform. A lot of usage assessment and profiling that we did has given us a detailed understanding of how our products are used. Combine that with Mahindra Electric’s ability to optimise energy management for electric vehicles, and we are looking at a big advantage,” he said.
The resulting vehicle is certain to be state-of-the-art in terms of energy consumption. Externally threr are many people who can integrate an electric power pack. To arrive at an optimal combination is a different ball-game altogether. The control systems and the development of IPR for efficient management of energy are of prime importance. Mahindra Electric has done a lot of work in this area, and is bringing to the table a lot of learnings. We are bringing a market perspective to the project. It could translate into engineering duty cycle.
We have come to look at autonomous vehicles in the form of classical western definitions. It leads to how we are going to look at technologies like adaptive cruise control. This technology is already found on some cars in India. So, it can happen. Technologies like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and AEBS need to be looked at. For example, how will blind spot monitoring work in Pune’s traffic? There will always be someone in the blind spot. Rather than taking a literal translation of western definitions and the feature content that is being defined in this domain, the need is to upscale our understanding, which is small when compared to the western
markets. Our curiosity in this area is very high. We are very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant. We can build intelligence on the top of the ‘fuelsmart’ technology that we have developed. There is no need to look at driverless vehicle as the holy grail. They may happen 10 or 20 years down the line. There is a need to pick up relevant technology and add intelligence to it. For example, drowsiness alert systems. These, I feel, will be quite relevant in the Indian market. Drunken driving enforcement is not high, and makes a technology like drowsiness alert extremely relevant. There is also a need to find out what is relevant for which application. Off-road segments are perhaps a bit more conducive to automation. Onroad there is still an amount of heterogeneity in terms of traffic. In a controlled environment like a mine, an autonomous vehicle can do more. We at Mahindra Trucks and Buses will continue to make our CVs smarter. We will not wait for the regulations to call for it. We will look at other triggers to find out what we can add. A lot of electronics in the form of an ABS system, the engine ECU, the digital instrument cluster, etc., are already there. The need is to leverage them, and to create something better. Every year we will make our trucks and buses smarter. It will take us towards autonomous CVs,” Srinivas said.
In the new CVs driver will become an important part of the ecosystem. We are putting a lot of thought into how we can make the ecosystem better for the driver. It is the driver who spends the most of his time with the CV.
“We are paying attention to how we can get more productivity from the driver by making it more comfortable for him. The instrument cluster has become a lot more versatile in BSIV guise, and would provide a lot of information. It is about using connected technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and our DigiSense platform. DigiSense is a standard fitment in the Blazo BS IV. We will continue to offer it in our other platforms as well. A lot of information obtained as data is made available to the driver. It is also made available to the fleet owner. This ensures better transparency and management of the data. It could be used for service indicators, diagnostics, and for trouble shooting. This, as connected vehicle technology, will empower the driver and the fleet owner in ways that we have not seen or imagined. We are trying to unlock the potential, a result of which productivity will improve. We want our customers to make more money. There are companies like Tesla that are approaching a problem from a very different angle. We need to learn about them. Some of them are sitting with lot of cash that they can spend on various experimental ventures. The industry as a whole, I think, is learning from it. The speed of innovation of such companies is something that we can adopt. We may not spend a trillion Dollars or experiment as much, we will however an experiment in smaller ways and learn from the experiments of others. We have to be a fast mover and identify the application of specific requirements. For an example, Lidar technology will deliver certain application. It muct be done quickly. The basic technology and resolution can be developed by someone else. We will have to move fast in deploying it,” Srinivas said.
Mahindra Truck and Buses is working closely with group companies like Mahindra Electric and Mahindra Research valley to transition into the future
Electronics in powertrain is rising as regulatory pressures and buyer demands mount
The 7.2-litre common-rail turbo diesel engine has come to provide the right power to weight advantage post BSIV implementation
With a use of smart powertrain technologies, Mahindra Trucks and Buses is keen to develop smart CVs
Dr. Venkat Srinivas, Vice President & Head, Engineering & Product Development, Mahindra Trucks and Buses, feels that synergies are useful to develop new technologies