2012 Lightweighting Special: Inergy Automotive guns for new business opportunities

Inergy inked a joint venture in January 2010 with Suzuki Motor of Japan and Maruti Suzuki India and floated Inergy Automotive Systems Manufacturing India (P) Ltd (IASMIPL) to make plastic fuel tanks for Maruti.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 May 2012 Views icon7376 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
2012 Lightweighting Special: Inergy Automotive guns for new business opportunities
Carmakers in India are slowly transitioning to the next-gen technology of harnessing plastics for high temperature areas such as the fuel tank. Plastic tanks are not only completely recyclable but have high resistance against fire, and can be designed optimally for the vehicle layout.

Maruti Suzuki has begun to use plastic fuel tanks in its Swift and Dzire models while Toyota has equipped its Etios and Liva with them. The supplier to both these companies is Inergy Automotive, a group company of the French plastics solution provider, Plastic Omnium.

Inergy inked a joint venture in January 2010 with Suzuki Motor of Japan and Maruti Suzuki India and floated Inergy Automotive Systems Manufacturing India (P) Ltd (IASMIPL) to make plastic fuel tanks for Maruti. While Inergy Automotive holds a 55 percent stake in the JV, Suzuki holds 19 percent and Maruti, 26 percent. The JV’s facility at Manesar in Haryana went on stream in July 2011 with an investment of Rs 25 crore.

Since commercial production was flagged off, IASMIPL has been able to meet 100 percent of the fuel tank requirements of both the new Swift and Dzire. The two cars are averaging cumulative monthly sales of over 35,000 units.

“We are going to double our capacity in this plant by 2013 which will allow our Manesar JV to follow the production growth of Maruti Suzuki,” says Stanislas de Novion, general manager – plant head, IASMIPL.

Inergy Automotive also set up its first independent manufacturing facility at Vellore, Tamil Nadu around end-December 2010 to supply plastic fuel tanks for the Etios and Liva. Later, other OEs in the region will also be targeted for which the southern plant is also expanding capacity. The company is also considering setting up a plant in Gujarat. With this, Inergy Automotive (inclusive of its JV) is targeting a 10 percent market share in 2012-13 with plans to double it by 2018.

Several OEs have confirmed plans for units in Gujarat with Maruti Suzuki proposing an investment outlay of Rs 18,000 crore of which Rs 6,000 crore will be for its vendor’s park. Ford India and PSA Peugeot Citroën plan to build plants here and lately, there has been some interest from Volkswagen India as well.

Separately, Inergy Automotive is beefing up its production capacity with a proposed second unit at Sanand in Gujarat where the Nano is made. The Inergy plant will commence production in 2014.

At present, 75 percent of Inergy’s business comes from Maruti Suzuki with the balance from Toyota but this could change going forward. The IMT Manesar plant that exclusively supplies to Maruti is located on 15,750 square metres of land owned by Maruti and has been leased out to the Inergy JV for 13 years. The plastic fuel tanks made by Inergy Automotive use a special blow-moldingcoextrusion technology that facilitates a 30 percent weight reduction compared to steel. The material used is high-density polyethylene with special characteristics of enhanced fuel resistance. The coextrusion process is of several layers including a layer to reduce emissions. The coextrusion blow moulding technology that has gained importance in recent years requires use of a resin with good processing properties in combination with superior barrier properties to gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Under this technology, the polymers for the different layers are extruded separately and then are brought together in a die that extrudes them as a multilayer tube. The tube is then blow moulded: two halves of the mould close in on it, a seal is formed at the bottom and air is blown in at the top, which expands the tube until it fills the mould.



In both the Swift and Dzire models, the fuel tank has a capacity of 42 litres. The capacity of the tank, architecture, number of bought-out parts and attachment to the vehicle body are different from one model to another, says de Novion. In Europe and North America, plastic fuel tanks are in common use with 90 percent of the market optimising their use as they lead to fuel efficiencies and lower emissions.

In Asia, the percentage totals 50 percent of the market while in India it is around 20 percent. Plastic is able to withstand continuous temperature of 80 degrees while tanks are developed and approved as per the latest safety regulations, including fire tests.

While Inergy Automotive makes plastic fuel tanks in India, sister concern Plastic Omnium Auto Exterior develops and supplies plastic bumpers, tailgates, fenders, and offers plastic solutions to replace some structural parts of the vehicle body.

SHOBHA MATHUR
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