Automotive Electronics Special - Hella plans host of e-solutions for cars

Starting with vacuum pumps, Hella India Automotive also aims to offer start-stop systems, battery sensors, DC/DC convertors, oil and pedal sensors and other products for passenger cars. Amit Panday reveals the new product gameplan.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Sep 2013 Views icon6549 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Automotive Electronics Special - Hella plans host of e-solutions for cars
Hella India Automotive (HIA) is all set to introduce vacuum pumps for Indian passenger carmakers. This is in line with energy management being one of its core development areas.

Speaking to Autocar Professional, Naveen Gautam, managing director, HIA, says, “A vacuum pump is required to ensure that constant and effective braking power is available at all times. Until recently, most vehicle brake boosters used the vacuum generated from the manifold of the engine. With new downsized engines, which focus more on enhanced fuel efficiency or certain operating conditions (cold start, high altitudes, air-conditioning usage), the vacuum provided by the engine is not sufficient. Hence, to counter that, electric vacuum pumps are used to ensure safe operation of the brake booster.”

According to Gautam, Hella is a global leader in supplying vacuum pumps with a market share of nearly 70 percent. While General Motors and Volkswagen are two of its largest clients globally for vacuum pumps, these were not found in the passenger cars made in India until recently the company supplied them to Mahindra Reva.

“A vacuum pump complements the current requirement of downsizing the engines and thus contributes to lightweighting, cost reduction and better energy management, thus enabling enhanced fuel efficiency for small cars or compact SUVs. We are working with an OEM in India and an upcoming passenger car will soon have our vacuum pumps in it,” says Gautam, refusing to name the client.

New products with an India focus

HIA has three focus areas: environment, safety and security and comfort. With the passenger car segment being the only category that Hella caters to in India, it has lined up a host of relevant solutions for locally-made cars.

Under the environment section (which focuses on better energy management) besides vacuum pumps, the company has developed engine start-stop systems (or engine on demand as Hella calls it), intelligent battery sensors, DC/DC convertors, oil sensors, pedal sensors for drive-by-wire, intelligent grill shutter actuator (which controls the engine cooling) and many other solutions. According to Gautam, a one percent improvement achieved in energy management can result in upto 20 percent fuel economy improvement.

On the safety and security front, Hella has developed a bunch of solutions for driver assistance systems such as cruise control modules, accelerator pedal sensor systems, steering control modules, theft alarms, door locking/unlocking modules, radar sensors and others.

In-house strengths

Hella has 100 percent in-house competency of designing and manufacturing the radar sensors and has provided these to more than 25 car lines across eight OEMs worldwide.

These radar sensors monitor the car’s surroundings and provide lane change assist, parking assist, blind spot detection, red-cross traffic alert and many other driver assist features.

HIA designs and develops body control modules, interior/mood lighting solutions, rain/light sensors (detects rain and controls the wiper system, controls the front light for tunnel functionality, detects humidity and sun light as well), temperature and climate sensors, keyless entry solutions, virtual pedal sensors (which enable the boot to open up automatically) as a part of solutions under the comfort category.

“We are currently working with Indian OEMs to launch features such as body control modules and remote keyless entry for cars by December 2013,” says Gautam.

Hella says it is already a market leader in supplying remote keyless entry solutions worldwide manufacturing 22 million units a year. In India, it makes around 6-7 million horn systems per year at its Dhankot facility and is a market leader in supplying these to four-wheelers. “We export nearly 50 percent of horn units made here too,” he adds.

HIA also makes around one million units of accelerator pedal modules in India and supplies these to Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and many other OEMs. It also supplies these to Hyundai Motor India from its Korean arm.

Exports and engineering services from India comprise a substantial chunk of Hella’s operations. The company exports horn units, pedal sensors, body control modules, remote keyless entry modules, switches, relays and actuators. Its design centre in Pune, which has 165 engineers, works in tandem with Hella’s global design centres. “While our focus is on cars for India, we work on global projects for commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Daimler AG and others,” says Gautam.

Upgradable electronics

According to Gautam, an average of 14-18 months goes into designing and developing an electronic-based solution for a car.

Going forward, he foresees that car electronics would be expected to be upgradable to keep up to the speed to the lifecycles of consumer electronics. “The lifecycle of products like handsets, tablets and navigation devices does not exceed 3-4 years while for a car in India, it is 8-10 years. As these devices get upgraded, they should continue to stay in sync with the in-car electronics. Hence, the features and functionalities in a car should be highly advanced and upgradable,” he says.

Even as it adopts a wait-and-watch approach to the current market slowdown, Hella has allocated resources towards the development of improved and cost efficient products for Indian OEMs.

The company, which posted a Rs 200-crore turnover last year, hopes to achieve a 10 percent growth this year against the above-20 percent growth it recorded last year in a growing market. “Good monsoons apart, the market can recover if the government takes a call on some stimulus packages for the auto industry,” Gautam concludes. It's a theme which found a lot of followers at both the SIAM and ACMA conventions held in the first week of September 2013.
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