28 Jun 2006
TVS Motor Company has thrown down the gauntlet in the 150cc motorcycle segment with its Apache. Dealers believe that with its stunning looks, it has the potential to do good business. Chairman and managing director, Venu Srinivasan told Autocar Professional, “The Apache marks the new spirit of TVS Motor which is being young, vibrant and aspirational. You will see this being reflected in our future products too.”
At a price of a little over Rs 52,000 (ex-showroom, Chennai), the Apache will be a keen contender in the power and performance segment where the Pulsar is the clear leader with monthly sales at over 35,000 units.
The Honda Unicorn, which was perceived to be the big challenger, was launched with a lot of fanfare but its relatively staid looks did not go down too well with the more youthful segment and sales have been at the 10,000-unit level per month for a while now.
TVS has targeted monthly sales of 20,000 units for the Apache by May and it will be interesting to see how this will impact the dynamics of the 150cc segment. The bike could eat a bit into the Pulsar market since it has the twin benefits of novelty and price (it is about Rs 3,000 cheaper). Bajaj Auto will not be inclined to go in for a price cut because it could send wrong signals to the consumer especially when it is coming from the market leader in this segment. The Pulsar is also an immensely profitable product and one could expect a less expensive variant to counter the Apache.
There is also no question that the Unicorn will come under pressure from TVS Motor’s new product that has been targeted at the suave, young commuter. This is a bike that could be the turning point in the company’s image as a manufacturer of top-end stylish bikes. The genesis of the Apache can be discussed here.
The company was aware at the time of developing the bike that it was important to get an athletic look. This was largely due to youth demanding the best in styling. Along with this, it was essential to focus on performance. Handling, needless to add, was equally critical and a lot of time was spent in designing a frame that could offer better handling both on highways and city traffic. The five-speed 13.5bhp engine has the highest power to weight ratio in its class thanks to a host of new features. The intake and exhaust surge technology allows excellent initial pick up and responsive acceleration when the throttle is opened.
There is a surge volume provided between the carburettor and air filter. When the throttle is opened, the gas has to go through the air filter before finally entering the combustion chamber. In this process there is a time lag which reflects in the engine responding to the demand.
By adding a small volume in between, it keeps some amount of gas ready as buffer. As soon as the throttle is opened, the combustion chamber is immediately filled in enabling the engine to respond without any delay. This substantially improves the drivability, says senior vice president, R&D, Vinay Harne. The resonator in the exhaust pipe allows the wave action to improve torque characteristics. When the exhaust value opens, there is crowding of gas and the pipe gets fully choked at that time. A bigger pipe will not help as it does not give any back pressure when the engine is operating at low speeds.
TVS Motor has, therefore, provided a surge tank which acts as a reservoir for the excess exhaust smoke during high throttle and releases slowly at slow speeds. This technology makes the smaller diameter exhaust pipe act as a bigger one without actually impacting slow speed response. This improves the torque characteristics.
The exhaust resonator is not new to the company as it first introduced this over a decade ago. The intake and exhaust resonator was first tried out in the Shogun and Shaolin, both high-performance motorcycles. In 1994, the exhaust resonator was introduced in the Scooty followed by the TVS Excel moped in 1997. Another new feature in the Apache is inductive digital ignition (IDI) engine technology that helps in improved engine response, consistent fuel economy and better cold starting. In the conventional ignition system, the magneto charges the capacitor. Electrical energy generated by the magneto is directly proportional to the speed but the time factor determines the charge of the capacitor.
At higher speeds, the magneto develops more electrical power but the time available to charge the capacitor is relatively less because of its size. At lower speeds, the capacitor has time to charge itself though the electrical energy produced is less.
In passenger cars, the energy to ignite the spark comes from the battery followed by an amplifier and micro-controller to control the time. For the Apache, TVS has introduced a battery ignition with digital control, which results in three times the spark energy compared to conventional systems. Experts say that this is possibly for the first time that this technology is being introduced in a two-wheeler. The conventional ignition gives 10 millijoule of spark energy while the one in the Apache gives 30 millijoule. Similarly, the duration of spark is 200 microseconds in the conventional system and 1,200 microseconds in the bike.
With the long spark duration of the Apache, the probability of correct fuel air mixture crossing the spark plug is six times more when the spark occurs. This improves lean burn. Typically, where the throttle is suddenly opened, only air rushes in since it is lighter than the fuel-air mixture. With the long spark, the engine responds in the first cycle without waiting for a second rotation. Both IDI and intake/exhaust surge technology give better passing acceleration characteristics. This results in achieving zero to 60 kmph in 5.6 seconds. The bike combines sporty performance and exceptional ride comfort both on highways and city roads. The company has developed a high stiffness chassis using the multi-body dynamic simulation model. This improves slow speed handling without compromising on handling higher speeds.
The stiffness is synchronised between the front and rear wheel setting the rhythm for better performance irrespective of speed and handling. The bike has black alloy wheels that give a sporty look. The front and rear wheels are different in terms of diameter. While the front is a 17-inch wheel, the rear is larger by an inch. Moreover, the bike has the widest tyre -90/90 in its class in the front. With smaller front wheels, it gets a particular angular stance which is part of the styling. The shorter wheelbase is suitable for low speeds while the stiff frame ensures better handling at high speeds. Monotube inverted gas-filled shock absorbers give better performance and comfort. The bike has 240mm disc brakes and a handle bar balancing mass for low vibrations.