KPIT Cummins’ Revolo plugs in

India’s first-of-its-kind plug-in hybrid solution for cars and light commercial vehicles is ready for commercial launch. Sumantra Barooah looks at the promise of the Revolo, after a first-hand experience at KPIT Cummins' headquarters in Pune.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 03 Jan 2012 Views icon6424 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
The wait is finally over. Revolo, aiming to be India’s first plug-in hybrid system, will be unveiled at the Auto Expo 2012. Autocar Professional is privileged to be the first publication to get an exclusive look at this technology.

Its manufacturer, KPIT Cummins, has so far, filed 40 patents in the last two years, 13 related to hybrid technology. The parallel hybrid solution provides a peak power of 27 kilowatt. As we had reported first in our June 15, 2010 issue, the Revolo is designed for vehicles with engines ranging from 800cc to 3000cc. In effect, the Revolo can be fitted in passenger vehicles ranging from a Maruti Alto to a Tata 207 DI. The company says that tests at Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and independent driving tests in cities with ARAI-certified equipment have shown fuel efficiency improvement of 35 percent in a petrol-run hatchback and 30 percent improvement in a diesel vehicle.

KPIT Cummins claims that using its hybrid technology will help reduce fuel costs by at least 35 percent and cut Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by over 30 percent. “In an Alto, which delivers a mileage of 14-16kmpl, you can expect it to go up to 20-22kmpl. In a 207 DI, which delivers around 7.5kmpl, the fuel efficiency can go up to 10kmpl,” says Tejas Kshatriya, senior program manager – hybrid, KPIT

Cummins says that apart from the savings in fuel and emission, Revolo also can help OEMs to downsize engines. “It’s almost like what the OEMs are getting by adding a turbocharger,” says Ravi Pandit, chairman and Group CEO, KPIT Cummins, in an earlier interview with this publication.

The cost for the Revolo system will range from Rs 65,000 to Rs 1,50,000. It will be an additional cost to a vehicle, whether retrofitted at factory-level or in the aftermarket. KPIT Cummins is lobbying with government ministries for the provision of incentives for a hybrid solution like the Revolo.

“I believe that we were one factor behind the government’s plans to set up a hybrid mission,” says Pandit. KPIT Cummins is lobbying for Revolo-fitted vehicles to attract a lower 10 percent excise duty. KPIT Cummins hopes to market the Revolo through three channels: factory fitted by OEMs, factory fitment by Impact Automotive Solutions (the KPIT Cummins, Bharat Forge joint venture), and the aftermarket.

If the company’s new hybrid solution gets a good response in the market, the automotive business of the software provider is set to grow at a healthier pace. An estimated 60 percent of KPIT Cummins’ turnover comes from automotive clients. It hopes to clock a turnover of $300 million in this financial year. KPIT Cummins expects to begin serial production of the Revolo from March 1. Two hundred vehicles will be fitted with Revolo as the company begins to gather data. There has been a delay in the Revolo’s launch due to issues concerning battery specs, but KPIT is confident that all hurdles have been overcome. “Tests showed that the battery makers and we miscalculated the specifications but those are sorted out now,” says Pandit. “We have tested the Revolo over 80,000 kilometres cumulatively in trials,” he adds.

During the development stage, KPIT Cummins brought down the weight of the battery pack from 130kg to 90kg by replacing UPS application batteries with batteries that were specially configured for Revolo’s requirement.

The hybrid solution consists of electric motor, electronic motor controller, battery pack, mechanical assemble and coupling, proprietary software for controlling algorithms of the motor and batteries and an intelligent battery management system to enhance battery performance and life.

The batteries for the Revolo are sourced from both Chinese and Indian manufacturers. The initial trials used UPS batteries and later batteries for electric vehicle application were sourced from China. KPIT Cummins, which has been supplying battery management systems (BMS) to foreign OEMs, developed the Revolo’s BMS in-house. With an eye on the future, KPIT Cummins is in talks with some US-based battery makers for strategic “tie-ups”.

Alto-gether new feeling

To get a better understanding of the Revolo, we drove an Alto fitted with the hybrid system for a few kilometres. We found a remarkable difference in in-gear performance as the hybrid system provides a high flat torque curve. It results in effortless city driving. There isn’t much difference in peak power output as the system doesn’t add to the torque of the engine. In stop-and-go traffic, the stop-start feature kicks in. During the driving cycle, up to 20 percent of the battery power can get recharged with regenerative braking. The charging can be done through a regular domestic 220-volt plug point. It takes three to four hours to recharge the lead acid battery pack to 90 percent in a hatchback like the Alto. A full recharge takes six hours.

Undoubtedly, the Revolo promises plenty. Pandit doesn’t want to limit the Revolo’s drive through the joint venture in India alone. He sees good potential in the US. The distribution could be done through car dealers there. Even as the hybrid solution undergoes trials, it has received accolades from some prestigious institutions. KPIT Cummins won The Wall Street Journal 2011 Technology Innovation Award in the transport category for Revolo. Revolo was also awarded the Knowledge@Wharton innovation award 2011, the Indian Semiconductor Association’s Technovation Award for 2011 and the 2011 NASSCOM Innovation Award for the Promising Innovation of the year.

More than just Revolo

Even as Revolo gets ready for the marketplace, Pandit and his team are looking at other solutions in the automotive space. “I believe we can deliver more solutions in the developing markets like India or China. We are getting ready for more solutions in a whole bunch of other areas and not just Revolo.” In infotainment, KPIT Cummins’ infotainment team has developed a new platform that will offer infotainment solutions for OEMs. However, it has no plans to manufacture them, unlike the Revolo. “If you were to look at automotive electronics, after powertrains, the largest avenues are in the infotainment because people are looking at multiple applications,” says Pandit. KPIT Cummins hopes to make an official announcement about the new infotainment platform soon.

Revolo will be the highlight of KPIT Cummins' display at Auto Expo 2012 which has a fair share of green technologies to boast of, ranging from the homegrown Mahindra Reva NXR through to the Nissan Leaf, the world's first full-electric car.

(With inputs from Shapur Kotwal)
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