Excerpt of the interview with the joint managing director, Lucas TVS during the 37th FISITA World Automotive Congress
EVs are the buzzword at every major conference across the globe. How realistic is vehicle electrification in India?
I don’t think we can dismiss EVs so easily. While there will still be the majority of the IC engines, there will also be electrification and alternative fuels. Right now, it is too early to predict what the right combination will be in future but I don’t dismiss electrification as a technology.
Adoption of EVs in India may happen faster than we may realise. Challenges like EV infrastructure and battery do exist but there are solutions; while these may not be mass market solutions but they are suitable for
some segments like e-rickshaw. I don’t think there will be one solution for everything EV; it all depends on the particular application.
What is your take on the competitiveness of India suppliers in the global automotive supply chain?
Indian automotive suppliers clearly understand the need to develop IPs. Our engineers are extremely capable technically. Therefore, more and more companies are investing in R&D in a big way. I am very happy with this trend and believe India will be the centre for R&D in the future.
As the Indian market evolves, new solutions will come from India and we are very bullish about this.
At FISITA, Lucas TVS was one of the prominent exhibitors. What is the company’s focus area(s) in the near term?
We are part of the TVS Group and our current focus is to expand our business, both in India and in export markets. Obviously, when electrification comes, the current generation of IC engines will be under threat. Therefore, we are developing a new range of traction motors, both for automotive and non-automotive applications. We see this as a new growth, and high-focus, area for Lucas TVS. We have already secured some business in the white goods industry and will start to supplying them shortly.
In the electrification arena, we are working on traction motors which we launched during Auto Expo 2018. In the next two months, we are going to start production. I am excited about our future direction even as our current business remains strong right now. While we are doing our own development, we are also trying to leverage talent outside India by working with consultants, hiring some people outside India. We are engaged in increasing our R&D capabilities.
Lucas TVS showcased an e-rickshaw at Auto Expo? Do you foresee big OEMs entering this segment?
Yes, e-rickshaws are quite popular in the rural parts of the country and are also being used for last-mile connectivity in cities. We are going to supply them with our traction motor developed indigenously by our engineers. We have already received an order and are going to start production in the next two months. At present we are in the process of setting up the manufacturing line.
As regards OEMs venturing into this segment, I think given the current regulations and the cost structure in India, I am not sure any of the large OEMs want to do this. But as the vehicle becomes more complicated like a three-wheeler autorickshaw, then they will find it interesting.
What are the trends in the traditional starter motor and alternator business?
These are legacy products which have been in the industry for a long time. The key trends are lightweighting and more efficiency. To become competitive, we must continue to improve our products in these areas like the new-generation alternator with better efficiency. At Lucas TVS, it is our teams' constant endeavour to improve product efficiency. We are also doing smart motors, both automotive and non-automotive.
Do you think technology in starter motors and alternators in passenger cars has been rapidly evolving compared to CVs?
Yes, this is basically driven by electrification and fuel efficiency norms. It depends on what technology is going to come next as we move forward. For example, if hybrids and EVs come, then the technologies will follow. Until that point, the existing technology is fairly matured and we are there. The question is, really what happens after that which nobody knows.
How challenging is the shift towards EVs and alternative fuels for Lucas TVS?
It’s challenging but there are opportunities too. We see this shift taking place and are fully geared to face the disruption. The conventional business will remain for the next few years but after that is a question mark and we obviously have to be careful how we manage this change.
(This interview was first published in the 15 October 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)