Bosch’s international press day: An on-the-spot report
The global automotive industry might still be reeling under the aftermath of the economic meltdown of the past years but that hasn’t stopped Bosch from looking ahead.
During his opening speech, Dr Bernd Bohr, chairman of the Bosch automotive group technology business sector, revealed some interesting numbers. Firstly and most importantly, Bosch’s auto technology sales will cross the 30 billion Euro milestone for the first time within this year, over 26 percent estimated from Asia alone. Employment will also rise from 1,67,000 to 1,77,000 employees over the year, a large portion of the new employees based out of Asia-Pacific. Interestingly, a third of Bosch’s 26,000 research engineers are based in this region.
Speaking on the need for greener solutions, Bohr revealed that though electric vehicles may be the future, they are still at least a decade away from being cost-competitive alternatives to standard cars. Bosch expects these costs to be as much as 45 percent more than internal combustion engine-equipped vehicles in 2020. The high cost of batteries and minimal infrastructure will remain major limiting factors here. In the medium term, Bosch foresees plug-in hybrids gaining ground to other electric alternatives. The manufacturer is also positive it would be able to cash in on its first-mover advantage in powertrain electrification. Bosch already invests 800 million Euros a year in this area and is in talks with Daimler for a JV to develop, manufacture and sell electric motors.
However, Bosch did clarify electromobility is still an area of development. Forecasts suggest the annual demand for cars and lights trucks will touch 103 million units by 2020. Internal combustion engine-powered vehicles (including hybrids) will form a sizeable 100 million units of this number with the rest comprising pure electric or plug-in hybrids. So, the immediate focus is on reducing internal combustion engine emissions and improving mileage. Diesel engines hold huge promise for the components manufacturer.
Growing demand for affordable solutions Dr Bohr in his speech also mentioned diesel’s popularity in India and development in this area. Given the specific requirements for affordable and durable solutions in India, Bosch is developing common-rail systems with injection pressures between 1400 and 1800 bar. Furthermore, Bosch already has the technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emission to make diesel cars of today comply with Euro 6 emission standards that come into effect in 2015. French carmaker Peugeot will launch the 3008 Hybrid4 within 2011, the world’s first diesel hybrid.
The car features Bosch’s axle-split hybrid technology that combines an internal combustion engine on the front axle and electric motor for the rear axle. While such a product may prove to be too expensive in India, the availability of the technology means there is a possibility of such a powertrain coming to India too, albeit in a few years at the earliest. Perhaps the biggest push for mileage enhancement will be given to engine downsizing for both petrol and diesel motors. Innovation in turbocharging technology is sure to ensure engines of the future will only grow smaller. Bosch revealed turbocharger systems for modern petrol and diesel engines will be produced by the Bosch-Mahle Turbo Systems JV, with turbocharger production from this alliance estimated at one million units by 2015. As charge-air pressure through the turbocharger rises, the need to increase injection pressure in common-rail systems arises. Bosch will start series production of the first 2200 bar common-rail system for passenger cars later this year and work is already underway on a 2500 bar system. Efficiency-enhancing start/stop systems are another area of interest for Bosch.
The United Nations has declared 2011-20 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The aim is to save as many as five million lives and avoid 50 million injury causing accidents by 2020. Bosch that has to its credit several safety-enhancing innovations like ABS (1978), traction control (1986) and electronic stability programme (ESP – 1995) is working with several OEMs to make vehicles safer. However, in India the company is struggling to get even essential safety kit like ABS part of automotive regulations. As per statistics, ABS has an installation rate on cars and LCVs of only 12.5 percent in India compared to the global standard of 78 percent. Bosch is relying on its position of cost leadership to make inroads here. The ABS generation 9 system is the cheapest and lightest ABS in the world. Two-wheeler ABS systems have also made it to the market and there is a buzz that a Bosch-developed unit will make it to the next- generation Bajaj Pulsars due for launch at the end of this year.
Speaking on safety and the peculiarities of the Indian market, Dr Werner Struth, president Bosch Chassis Systems Control told Autocar Professional, “India is a complex market. On one hand there is no comprehensive regulation, so safety devices are often viewed as unnecessary expenses. On the other, we have demand for both low- end and high-end devices, the latter for export models. Given the price sensitivity in markets like India, China, Brazil and Russia, we are working to reduce prices. How will we do so? Firstly, the sheer scale of operations allow us economies of scale, so we can produce cheap. Secondly, we are developing products specific to these markets. These will be basic systems that will come with fewer parameters, perhaps fewer sensors that may not be needed in the first place. Airbag Lite and basic two-wheeler ABS systems are examples of such products.”
India is clearly a priority market for Bosch. Sales are rising and the German giant is only expecting India’s contribution to increase with each passing year. That explains why the firm has just allocated a large share of its 3.2 billion Euro R&D budget to its Indian arm.
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