A cleaner, greener automotive sector

A cleaner, greener automotive sector

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 18 Mar 2013 Views icon2614 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
A cleaner, greener automotive sector
Indian automotive OEMs must bring greater depth in their operations rather than spread as seems the case now, said Dr V Krishnamurthy, chairman of the National Manufacturing Competiveness Council and a former chairman of Maruti Suzuki India. Explaining his viewpoint, he said Maruti had brought in foreign capital, technology absorption and Indian value addition in the Indian auto sector. However, in the current scenario, OEMs have not been able to bring all three, he added.

He was presenting the inaugural address at the 5th edition of the Automotive R&D Trends 2015 in Chennai on March 8. Delivering his theme address, the chairman of the conference and executive vice-chairman, Hinduja Automotive, Dr V Sumantran spoke about the need for several initiatives that go beyond just cars and electric vehicles so that ‘we can truly bring about green mobility in India’. He said that a variety of initiatives that span vehicle, technology and infrastructure are the need of the hour ‘if we are to cut carbon dioxide emissions’. Dr Sumantran said that EVs had faced stumbling blocks and that it was important to realise that the process involved technology and commercial viability. The conference brought together a variety of speakers from automotive and research backgrounds including a delegation of Australian companies operating in automotive R&D space looking to network with Indian auto companies.

Meanwhile, Ravi Pandit, who heads KPIT Cummins, said that the issue of green mobility involved three key areas including energy, materials and the use of information technology. Choosing to focus on solar technology, Pandit said prices of photovoltaic cells that fallen from about $3.5 to $1.2 and that this is an area of promise.He also said that prices of lithium ion are expected to fall, another positive development. As far as materials go, he alluded to the potential of manganese ore which can be made safer and cost effective and be harnessed in the service of green mobility. Most speakers, while looking at the challenges of going green, quoted references from overseas studies and personal experiences but the overarching view was an India-specific solution was the need of the hour. And while speakers alluded to technologies including engine-oriented ones, a relatively new area that got mention was IT which is translated as connected cars. Other areas of importance were a conducive eco-system and finally, the all-important aspect of driver behaviour. In his address, the head of the ARAI, Shrikant Marathe spoke about the upcoming norms on crash and aspects concerning safety. He also flagged off an important focus area in inspection and maintenance, a topic that other speakers also picked up. Marathe stressed the fact that if this area was not tackled, all other efforts stood the risk of coming to naught. Ram Kidambi, principal, A T Kearney, who helped author a report on Green Mobility, offered the statistic that carbon dioxide emissions are expected to double by 2020. He also said that emissions such as hydrocarbons, NOX, and CO are set to double as well. Partly summarising the report, Kidambi said that alternative powertrains and fuel options are viable in the medium term. More effective solutions would depend on investment in highways and public transport and looking at the option of moving from road to rail. And echoing Marathe’s concerns, Kidambi said reducing in-use vehicle emissions is an area that could not be ignored.

Heading a session on critical impacts and mitigations on the auto sector, Dr R K Malhotra, director of R&D at IOC, made two important points. The wider distribution of Bharat Stage IV compliant vehicles would be possible except for funding issues partly due to losses incurred due to the prevalent fuel pricing policy. He also said quite categorically that the jatropha experiment to general eco-friendly bio-diesel for auto use (Mercedes-Benz India had conducted its own experiments way back in 2004) had failed and that hydrogen as something that would be the future. But whether any progress on this was likely was put paid, in a manner of speaking, by the sole women speaker, who incidentally was the last speaker of the day who spoke about government-based efforts under the aegis of the Centre for Fuel Cell technology, ARCI. Dr N Rajalakshmi said fuel cell technology that not really generated the kind of momentum it should have despite a fair amount of research. And speaking about the connected vehicle, Prakash Rao Kulkarni, the head of automotive, aerospace and defence solutions at Wipro Technologies, spoke about innovative designs and solutions and seemed to suggest that the connected vehicle holds much promise. Chairing a session on greener alternatives in the auto sector, Kartik Gopal, the head of mobility solutions at Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles, walked the audience through the development or ‘philosophy’ of vehicle at the company which is India’s pioneer in electric-powered vehicles and acquired by M&M in 2010. Even as the company approaches the launch of its first EV under M&M’s stewardship, the e2O, Gopal said in a contextualising sense that 90 percent of all commutes are intra-city and under 60km, a worldwide figure. Alluding to India’s challenges, he said that these included battery design, battery management, thermal engineering and lifecycle studies. Gopal also picked up on the importance of driver behaviour and the importance of lightweight technology in electric cars.

Hiroki Sasaki, vice-president of research and advanced engineering, Renault Nissan Technology Development Center, gave the audience an overview of Nissan’s green programme and in particular, the Nissan Green Programme 2016. The Alliance, he said, hopes to have 1.5 million electric vehicles sold by 2016. Sasaki spoke about another three models that use electric power and are expected by 2016. Other Nissan initiatives included corporate carbon footprint minimisation, minimisation of new natural resources, enhanced use of recycled material in a car to 25 percent by 2016 and 70 percent by 2050. While all these may not impact India rightaway, what was interesting was Nissan's green philosophy.

Among the various sessions was one on mass transit and non-motorised in which NK Kumar, the chief GM of the ongoing Chennai Metro, spoke about his organisation’s attempts to have high standards on the one hand as well as ensure that non-motorised forms of transport are not brushed aside. Chairing this final session, Dr Venkat Srinivas, special director, product development, Ashok Leyland, spoke about the need for a more transparent mass transit policy as well as on the ground enforcement.
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