India’s commercial vehicle industry is witnessing a changing regulatory landscape and with emphasis on cutting fuel emissions and saving costs, manufacturers are turning towards hybrid and electric technologies to keep up.
The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) initiative announced by the government in April this year is now showing some results as more and more manufacturers ready their EV portfolio to take advantage from the subsidies on offer.
In this growing list of adopters of electric mobility is the country’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland, which is planning to roll out pure electric buses for the Indian market soon.
Speaking to Autocar Professional, Dr N Saravanan, senior vice-president, product development at Ashok Leyland, said: “A lot of hybrid movement is being promoted by the government through its FAME programme. I think you will soon start to see some of our vehicles getting steered to the market. We are looking at seeding some electric buses in India, through our subsidiary Optare, and we are also working on very interesting hybrid buses.”
Ashok Leyland’s British subsidiary Optare is among the leading manufacturers of electric buses and has three electric bus platforms on offer globally. Ashok Leyland could bring buses based on these Solo, Versa and the MetroCity platforms in India. With an emphasis on zero emissions, these buses are powered by an all-electric motor and are capable of covering an average of 90 miles (around 145km) in one charge.
The company has already showcased the electric Versa at the Bus & Special Vehicle Show organized by SIAM earlier this year. Apart from buses, Ashok Leyland also showcased its all-electric Dost and Boss LCVs which could be rolled out commercially soon.
According to a source close to the developments, Ashok Leyland will also showcase new hybrid buses at the upcoming Auto Expo in February 2016.
Electric vehicles globally haven’t yet made commercial profits but combined with governmental incentives in polluted cities they make for a socially beneficial proposition. Under the FAME scheme, which is based on the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, the EV industry in India is on a firmer ground than before. The 25 percent growth in overall EV sales during the April-June 2015 quarter over the previous quarter could be seen as an indication that the industry is finally seeing some traction.
AMT to feature on more products
The rising popularity of automated manual transmissions (AMT) is not just limited to the passenger vehicle industry and commercial vehicle manufacturers are also betting big on the technology for their products.
Ashok Leyland introduced its own AMT, labeled the LEYMATIC, developed under its partnership with Wabco and is now planning to incorporate it on more platforms.
“We have AMT available on the Boss platform, the Janbus and also on the airport coaches. We are looking at expanding it to more products as market demand picks up. Right now we do not see it much in trucks but in buses we definitely see a lot of potential,” says Saravanan.
AMT on buses not only reduces driver fatigue but also offers enhanced fuel efficiency and engine performance, without a steep rise in costs.
Partnership with Dassault Systemes
According to Dr Saravanan, rising competition and rapidly changing regulatory requirements have transformed the way companies develop their products these days. It is imperative now to have designers, suppliers and companies on board a single platform to optimise the design process and minimise the scope for errors.
Therefore, in a bid to cut costs and the product development time, Ashok Leyland has adopted two offerings from Dassault Systemes’ 3DExperience platform.
Dassault’s ‘Modular, Glocal and Secure’ and ‘Target Zero Defect’ solutions would provide Ashok Leyland powerful collaborative capabilities, virtual analysis and simulation applications that facilitate innovative vehicle development.
“It used to take three to three-and-a-half years to develop a new product, but this is changing now as product development time needs to be cut to almost half and the new platform would enable us in achieving this in a cost effective manner,” says Saravanan.
“With the new platform, Ashok Leyland can define and develop vehicle programs with IP protection, starting from a high-level architecture definition and supporting modularity concepts and configuration, to minimise cost, maximize re-use, and simplify complexity across programs, teams and locations,” he concludes.