OEMs walk the talk for a greener future in India

Vehicle manufacturers have taken the implementation of Bharat Stage IV norms in their stride but are also making their manufacturing operations more sustainable.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 27 Apr 2010 Views icon5554 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for companies and business at large to lead the way in pursuing eco-friendly and sustainable business models. For the automotive sector, this has been particularly important given that the increasing use of passenger cars, bikes, and commercial vehicles has implications for clean air and the environment.

While OEMs have aimed to launch fuel-efficient vehicles, they themselves have been keen to boost their environmental credentials by making their manufacturing operations more sustainable and investing in R&D in order to bring out 'greener' products. We, at Autocar Professional, decided to speak with key players in the auto sector and ask them what they are doing to make their operations and vehicles more eco-friendly.

Not surprisingly, this is where the players we spoke to were unanimous about how the uneven quality of fuel, and more importantly rampant adulteration, is giving them sleepless nights. As one OEM put it, efforts to bring in the latest technology are defeated by problems with fuel quality. That’s an area that government and the authorities concerned must focus on in a major way.

HONDA SIEL CARS INDIA On manufacturing, R&D and products Our manufacturing facilities at Greater Noida, and Tapukara in Rajasthan have been modeled on the lines of Honda’s latest global plants with great emphasis on environment protection and safety. These facilities promote greenery through plantations (25 percent of land cover) and have advanced infrastructure for water recycling and waste management. Both our plants have set very stringent carbon dioxide emission and waste reduction targets. In addition, we have deployed eco-friendly technologies like flexible drive systems for energy conservation, VRV systems for selective air-conditioning, CFLs for energy conservation and solar heaters. The plants are equipped with eco-friendly waste management techniques for substitution of hazardous chemicals making them zero-discharge plants. Honda Motor Company has a history of actively dealing with emission problems with industry-leading technologies and products. Technologies like iDSI, VTEC, i-VTEC for class leading fuel efficiency and development of the first hybrid and fuel-cell cars is clear evidence of the company’s long-term commitment to the environment and society.

All Honda cars in India have been designed to be compatible with E10 fuel (10 percent ethanol blended in petrol).

On meeting the challenge of BS IV: All our cars are BS IV compliant. We have ensured compliance with OBD1 for all models that are being manufactured starting from April 1, 2010.

On making vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient:We use high-tensile steel to make our vehicles lightweight yet strong and safe. Also, high quality materials like magnesium, aluminium and high-quality plastic are used. The use of hazardous materials such as asbestos, crome6, lead, cadmium and mercury are completely restricted to ensure our vehicles are safe and eco-friendly.

On working with global suppliers to make vehicles ‘greener’: At present, all our OEM vendors supply auto components for our vehicle range as per Honda’s global standard technical norms.

On concerns about fuel quality and availability: It is a big challenge for our government to ensure good quality fuel and its availability across the country as per new norms. While BS IV fuel is now available as per scheduled implementation date in select cities , the staggered and delayed implementation of BS III norms across the country is a cause of concern. Moreover, issues related to fuel adulteration worry us. Fuel adulteration affects emission management and defeats the very purpose of introducing advanced environment-friendly technologies.

TOYOTA KIRLOSKAR MOTOR

On manufacturing, R&D and products Toyota’s operational excellence is based on the improvement tools and methods developed as part of the Toyota Production System which emphasise quality and minimal waste. At our plant at Bidadi, near Bangalore, we have used advanced technology for the purification and recycling of waste water. The plant is bordered by a green belt and meets high environmental standards (a major afforestation programme is currently underway at the plant and covers an area of over 40,000 square metres). TKM achieved the ISO 14001 certification in its very first year of operations. Our second plant, slated to open in mid-2010, has been built as a sustainable unit.

A key Toyota initiative for a sustainable future lies in technological innovation. All our engines, for example, are eco-friendly.

On meeting the challenge of BS IV : In our product portfolio, it was only the Innova that had to be modified with the introduction of the BS IV norms. The Innova has now been equipped with an intercooler and the exhaust system has been fine-tuned to meet the new norms.

On making vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient: TKM uses high-tensile strength steel to reduce thickness. We also use aluminium and composites to reduce the weight of parts that go into our vehicles. This will help boost the fuel economy of all our vehicles. We have also tuned our engines in order to bring about balance between power and torque for optimum fuel economy.

On working with global suppliers to make models ‘greener': Both in-house and our suppliers use new technologies, recyclable materials of various grades and SOC- free material On concerns about fuel quality and availability: It sure is a big concern for us at Toyota because we may modify our products with the latest in technology but all that effort does become useless if good quality fuel is not available.

GENERAL MOTORS INDIA On manufacturing, R&D and products GM’s plants follow globally-accepted best practices in waste disposal and recycling. All our products have been designed with potential recycling in mind and we follow stringent global standards and norms for recycling. Our R&D facilities follow national and local standards for handling and disposing chemicals and other bio-hazardous materials. GM is proud of the fact that it has been recognised as an industry leader in developing hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and extended electric vehicles like the Volt. In addition, we offer a fleet of LPG/CNG vehicles that emit lesser greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide.

On meeting the challenge of BS IV: We have been designing and developing all of our vehicles to meet BS IV emission norms for a while now. Other than the Tavera, which we are working to make BS IV compliant, we have not faced any challenges. Our world-class engineering centres in Korea have been manufacturing and selling Euro IV (equivalent to BS IV) models for a while now.

On making vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient: We are evaluating alternate lightweight materials for various applications in our vehicles. Many of our new products in the US have aluminium bonnets and rear tailgates. Our R&D facilities are developing new parts expected to be much lighter than existing products. We also use state-of-the-art simulation tools in the design phase to reduce and optimise weight. With increasing application of plastics, SMC, magnesium and aluminium, we expect to develop lighter vehicles as technologies evolve.

On working with global suppliers to make models greener: We ensure our suppliers provide us with parts and materials that meet global 'green' standards through what we call the International Material Data Standards. We have dedicated engineers who work closely with suppliers to ensure we meet these global standards and specifications. Also, our suppliers are conscious of what it means to be green and the need to protect the environment.

On concerns about fuel quality and availability: It is a challenge to get high quality fuel uniformly across India. Our cars are designed to manage all variations in fuel quality. GM has done extensive testing on our new products across the country to ensure that all fuel quality variations can be handled.

SKODA AUTO INDIA On manufacturing, R&D and products Even before its cars are made, Skoda uses software such as Pro/ENGINEER to design the engines that go into the cars. This has led to an improvement of technical parameters of the engines, shortening their development time and leading to substantial energy savings. According to the Skoda website, the company lays a great deal of emphasis on recyclable material. For example, oil filters have been designed for easy removal and ecological disposal. As far as products go, SkodaAuto has Greenline versions of the Fabia, Laura and Superb in its international portfolio. On meeting the challenge of BS IV: All our vehicles in India are BS IV compliant. We have adopted the new common-rail technology in our diesel vehicle portfolio and upgraded our petrol engines to the new emission standards.

On working with global suppliers to make models greener: We adopt the technologies and practices developed and followed within the Volkswagen Group. On concerns about fuel quality and availability: For us at Skoda Auto India, it is, indeed an area of concern in the smaller cities and towns, especially with regards to the availability of good quality petrol. Hopefully, with the stricter emission norms mandated by the government in most cities as well as in smaller towns, we do not see this as a problem in the future.

Renault Nissan plans green cover for Chennai plant Renault Nissan Automotive India Pvt Ltd (RNAIPL) is in talks with the Tamil Nadu horticulture department to grow a green belt around the factory premises at Oragadam inaugurated last month. Of the 640 acres, an estimated 10 percent currently has green cover. This will increase to 25 percent once the company finalises the species it plans to grow. It will also enable RNAIPL to become a zero-discharge plant.

RNAIPL kept in mind the environment when building the entire structure. The assembly lines have been made flexible so as to optimise energy and other consumables including lubricants. The plant’s stamping XL/L lines were planned with the highest production output while the body shop has in-built flexibility. Automated transfer systems such as a stamping line has been installed to minimise human intervention just as is the case with the company’s plants in Japan, Europe and the US. The company has not gone in for full-scale automation keeping in mind the implications of power consumption.

RNAIPL has also introduced several advanced technologies including three-wet painting and a high-efficiency applicator. Its painting process is currently solvent-based but will shift to water-based paints when the relevant regulations kick in. To minimise inventories and contain energy costs, RNAIPL has introduced its global Alliance Integrated Manufacturing System (AIMS) methodology right from the conceptual stage. AIMS gives flexibility in vehicle assembly line enabling it to make four different vehicle platforms. Besides, it also has helped to optimise TAKT time.

In addition, AIMS also helped RNAIPL to minimise floor space by eliminating separate lines for each platform thus saving resources significantly. Productivity has been enhanced as a result of flexible lines. In addition it also helps it maintain high efficiency and reliability levels by standardisation and integration of manufacturing processes.

The Oragadam plant has two water storage reservoirs with capacities of 40,000 and 65,000 litres respectively. While the former collects water from the roofs of plant buildings, the latter will store water that collects on the roads. The roof water will be treated and used in the manufacturing process including painting. Water collected from the roadside will be treated and used for non-manufacturing processes. Water from sewage treatment plant will be used for gardening.

REVA ELECTRIC CAR COMPANY On manufacturing, R&D and products Reva is committed to mitigating the impact of climate change with the creation of ultra-low carbon cars – it has only made EVs. Its state-of-the-art plant has been futuristically designed with a vision of energy, ecology and technology leadership. Developed in accordance to IGBC-India standards, the facility incorporates energy efficient and eco-friendly features such as rainwater harvesting, maximum use of natural light usage and optimal ventilation that will minimise the use of electricity during production; its insulated operational area with a high roof and a translucent honeycomb mesh on its eastern flank makes for cool conditions and promotes soil conservation.

The plant incorporates recyclable steel structure technology that significantly speeds up construction process and solar rooftops which ensures abundant solar energy for industrial use and to power the street lighting. Its flexible production lines have been designed with adequate space for the on-site storage of line materials.

Reva plans to launch two new models – NXR and NXG – both of which will have one of the lowest dust-to-dirt carbon footprints of any car in mass production. The NXR has been designed to use an estimated 80 percent fewer parts than either a conventional or hybrid car, with the first boost of charge coming from solar energy.

On collaboration with General Motors for the Spark EV: Our decision to collaborate with GM will make electric vehicles more affordable, reduce time-to-market and ultimately increase their availability by deploying the GM dealership network. This collaboration will enhance our core competencies in R&D and is currently proceeding as per plan.

On the current status of Reva car production: Our new plant will commence operations coinciding with the introduction of our new car, the Reva NXR. The NXR's pilot production has been scheduled for Q4 2010 and customer shipments for early 2011. The feedback we received from the Frankfurt Motor Show where we premiered the NXR, followed by a five-country road show in Europe (Norway, France, Germany, Austria and Hungary), a 50 car, six-month lithium-ion and telematics pilot programme in our Reva L-ion model and a winter testing programme in Sweden will give us inputs to improve the performance as well as build of the NXR.

MARUTI SUZUKI On manufacturing, R&D and products At Maruti, the concept of 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle' (3Rs) has been a driving principle, and over the years the company has made efforts to inculcate this concept in its value chain – supplier network. Its Manesar plant was certified as ISO 14001 about two years ago and its Gurgaon unit including the K-series engine plant, has been re-certified to ISO 14001 for the next three years.

The company has an Environment Management System (EMS) at all facilities and a clearly-defined environment policy. Maruti Suzuki continues to work on establishing End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) recyclability for all its vehicles.

The K-series light weight aluminium engine has been designed to be environment friendly and fuel efficient. Introduced in the A-star, this engine is a significant initiative towards offering the latest technology to its customers. Maruti’s engineers put together a host of innovative technologies, such as the use of plastic parts, reduction in piston skirt area to reduce weight and resin-coated pistons to minimise friction, enhance performance and provide high acceleration. Besides reducing CO and NOx emissions, the K-series engine offers better fuel efficiency and Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) characteristics.

The A-star complies with the prevailing emission norms both in India and Europe and is also ready to meet future emission norms. Maruti plans to introduce the K-series engine progressively in other models. Several other initiatives planned for non conventional clean fuel include giving factory-fitted CNG options on several models. The A-star and Ritz meet the ELV norms that are still not mandatory in India. Over time, most of Maruti’s models will be ELV compliant. Every June, Maruti Suzuki celebrates ‘Environment Month’ to promote awareness about the need to protect the environment protection among employees, suppliers and local communities. During the month, activities such as tree planting , street shows for local communities and training programmes for employees and suppliers are organised.

On meeting the challenge of BS IV The A-star has been positioned as an environment-friendly car in Europe by Suzuki Motor Corporation. The K10B and K12M engines, mounted on A-star and Ritz respectively, have introduced environment-friendly technologies to the Indian auto sector. Maruti Suzuki is the first car manufacturer in the country to launch vehicles (Ritz and Estilo) which conform to the Bharat Stage IV norms.

On making vehicles lighter and greener Maruti has taken various initiatives to reduce paint and thinner consumption such as use of advanced painting robots in paint shops and the painting of vehicles in batches of the same colour to minimise paint wastage during colour changeover. The installation of a three-stage rectifier in the Electro-Deposition (ED) paint shop has led to paint conservation. It also uses the tailored blank manufacturing method in which steel parts of different thickness and tensile strength are laser welded in sheet condition and pressed together. This eliminates the need for additional parts, thus keeping weight under control. The A-star makes extensive use of this tech. As part of its 3R programme, Maruti focused on steel coil blank size reduction by changing the radius of the blank, and modifying the bead design, die face and punch profile. Scrap generated from press operation has been recycled for use in making small parts for maximising sheet utillisation. A total of 23,626 metric tonnes of metal scrap was sent to vendors for reuse in 2008-09.

ASHOK LEYLAND'S GREEN EFFORT AT PANTNAGAR Ashok Leyland’s recently inaugurated Pantnagar plant has been designed to be energy efficient besides being eco-friendly. The facility has 24km-long rain water drains to manage rain water and a large-capacity water body has been created for water harvesting, with water treatment and recycling ensuring zero discharge. Over 75 acres, representing around 40 percent of the total area, is designed green cover area and over 10,000 trees have already been planted.

The new-generation electrical lighting employed at the plant reduces energy consumption significantly. The manufacturing, canteen, office buildings have been designed on the principles of green building. Though space is not a constraint, the planners have optimised the factory while also considering the future expansion.

The Pantnagar plant is a study in layout optimisation and flow, contributing to the high benchmarks in high productivity and operating cost efficiency. Besides, it is also been designed to accommodate manufacturing of future models.
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