Dana enhances product range to target EVs

by Nilesh Wadhwa 14 Mar 2022


For American tier 1 supplier, Dana Inc which is a supplier of axles, driveshafts, transmissions, electrodynamic, thermal, sealing, and digital equipment for conventional, hybrid, and electric-powered vehicles, India represents a huge opportunity.

“Our domestic portfolio offers all kinds of ICE and electric drivetrain components. Over the last few years, Dana has expanded its offerings from traditional ICE drive systems (driveshafts, gearboxes, torque hubs, differential assembles, axles), sealing, and thermal management products to include a portfolio of low-to-high voltage permanent magnet motors, inverters, and ECUs such as vehicle control units. We have also started to expand into software for vehicle controls. With our  complete access to Dana’s Global Engineering resources as well as the complete gamut of electrified powertrain solutions, we can provide solutions to Indian customers,” said Saket Sapra, MD, Dana TM4 India and head of Electrification, India and Southeast Asia, Dana. 

Dana was amongst the first auto component companies to establish a base in India going back to the 1960s and, through its facilities and joint ventures, now manufactures its entire product portfolio, including axles, driveshafts, sealing, and thermal technologies for the automotive, commercial, and off-highway markets. It has a staff strength of over 5,000 including over 250 engineers who work at its Pune-based Dana India Technical Center which serves as a tech hub for Dana globally.

In December 2021, Dana opened a dedicated EV drivetrain manufacturing facility in Pune. The facility will supply technologies to OEMs for a variety of electrified vehicle applications, including buses and trucks. With the addition of electric motors, inverters and vehicle control units to Dana's current capabilities in India, its strategy is to position itself as a preferred supplier with in-house capabilities that can deliver complete and fully integrated e-Propulsion systems to OEM customers across all mobility markets. Dana is also bullish on demand from manufacturers of electric two- and three-wheelers as well as small CVs which need low-voltage application.

India outlook
While the trend of electrification is picking up, the verdict is still out on the technology that will be the dominate the industry. In Sapra’s view, “We have solutions for all segments and our aim is to be power-agnostic. Just as we have solutions for Battery Electric Vehicles, we also have solutions for hybrid and hydrogen cell. Ultimately, infrastructure and regulations and incentives will have a huge bearing on the technologies that will be chosen. From a purely Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculations from some studies, BEV is expected to be much lower than ICE or hydrogen cell.”

As Sapra says, “India has leapfrogged directly from ICE to pure EV, by skipping the hybrid phase in case of commercial vehicles. We feel that battery technology will be prominent considering ZEV (zero-emission vehicles). This will be supported by evolving battery technologies, indigenous battery suppliers and declining battery costs. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is gradually maturing. While we are talking of different propulsion systems, efficiency of the different systems will play a role. Studies indicate that BEV to be the most efficient. Unlike BEV, fuel cell power trains are more suited to power delivery and steady-state operations, typical of long-haul duty cycles. Fuel cell cost reductions, storage solutions, infrastructure are needed for the mass adoption of hydrogen as the energy source and companies have started working on the same,” adds Sapra.

Sapra also said the company is seeing “an increased inquiry from customers for BEV powertrains for inter-state transport.” He believes that in the case of inter-state buses, coaches and long-distance commercial vehicles, battery technology will be an important energy source.  However, as hydrogen fuel cell technology matures, it will also have an “important role to play.”

Investments and partnerships
As the trend towards electrification intensifies in the Indian auto sector, the future will also see more fostering partnerships that leverage each partner’s strength as well as spend resources rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

In the last three years, Dana has invested around $400 million (approximately Rs 2,960 crore) at a global level for various product developments and R&D. As far as investments in India, he says, “For ICE components, we are increasing our capacity 15 to 20 percent in the near term in India. For EV products, our new 70,000 square-feet Chakan facility with its state-of-the-art motor and controller manufacturing assembly lines and the end-of-line testing equipment, equips us today  to provide locally manufactured and assembled low-and high-voltage permanent magnet motors and inverters. We are already a preferred supplier to deliver fully-integrated e-propulsion systems to OEMs.”

Setting Dana’s India journey in perspective, Sapra says strategic joint ventures, acquisitions, partnerships have been integral to Dana’s strategy to business strategy and growth. In the last three years alone, Dana has undertaken numerous acquisitions such as – drive systems business of Oerlikon in 2019, which enhanced its off-highway operations (agriculture and construction) in the local market in India. In the The same year the company also acquired Nordresa and Rational Motion to strengthened its vehicle integration, vehicle level embedded software and control systems programming expertise.

In 2020, the company acquired UK-based Ashwoods that has given it access to low-voltage IPM motors for off-highway and two-, three-wheeler and small commercial vehicle segment. The products are now localised in India. Last year, Dana acquired Pi Innovo, that gives it access to embedded software solutions and ECUs to support the light vehicles, commercial vehicles, and off-highway markets.

“All acquisitions done globally, automatically giving us access to these products in India, and they are already being localised in India.  In Dana too, we have a focus on electrification and have a separate organisation dedicated to the same, of which Dana TM4 India is a part of,” shares Sapra.

Talent hub
India is also home to some of the best engineering talents globally. It comes as no surprise that many global companies have or are planning to set up R&D or software development centres to fuel growth.  Dana too has established its India Technical Centre in Pune. The centre which has already started building software and mechatronics capabilities now supports a variety of global and domestic projects with automotive software development, verification and validation projects.

“We are supporting domestic customers with our engineering teams working on product engineering, application engineering for mechatronics and electrification products. Recently, there has been a lot of hirings in the mechatronics and electrification areas, and we are expanding our Indian capabilities so that we can support not only Dana in India but also Dana globally,” says Sapra.

This feature was first published in March 1, 2022 issue of the Autocar Professional magazine.

Interview: Saket Sapra, MD, Dana TM4 India and Head, electrification, India and Southeast Asia. 


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