Volvo Trucks bets big on I-Shift tech in India

by Jaishankar Jayaramiah , 14 Apr 2016

Swedish commercial vehicle major Volvo Trucks is betting big on its I-Shift technology for the Indian market.

I-Shift is a 12-speed manual gearbox with an automated gearchanging system offering high driving and ride comfort and excellent fuel economy. The gear lever is integrated into the driver's seat and gear-changes are entirely automatic. The starting gear is selected automatically according to the road's gradient and vehicle load.

Volvo I-Shift is available with a choice of several different gear-shifting programs, including a function that allows a choice between fully-automatic gearchanges and manual gear selection featuring a performance program with kickdown function that utilises the engine's capacity to the maximum. No clutch pedal is needed as the gearchanging software senses the need for gearchange in order to remain optimum performance. Also, long oil-change intervals mean low operating costs and less environmental imprint impact. If special oil is used, oil and filter changes can take place as far apart as once every 400,000km or every three years.

According to Volvo Trucks India, I-Shift with advanced software optimised for mining operations looks to be a game-changer for the company in the Indian market. It is understood that the technology has got a good reception from Volvo’s mining customers and thousands of Volvo truck drivers in the country.

Following its introduction in India last year, Volvo has sold around 400 units of the I-Shift automatic transmission-equipped FMX 440 8x4 trucks in around 12 months. This automatic transmission concept has proved to be very popular in some European markets.

Speaking to Autocar Professional yesterday at the Volvo truck plant in Hosakotte near Bangalore, Pierre-Jean Verge Solamon, president, Volvo India Private, said, “The company is considering introduction of I-Shift technology in other model trucks in India.”

In India, Volvo has trucks on offer in three global heavy-duty ranges –FH, FM and FMX. The While the FH flagship model is built with the driver in focus and popular for on-road applications, the FM is a flexible all-rounder truck which is capable of carrying out multiple applications.

The FMX, which is the largest selling range in India from Volvo’s portfolio, is built for the  toughest working conditions and is extremely robust, powerful and efficient, said Solamon.

Volvo India sells 1,222 trucks in 2015  

In calendar year 2015, the company sold 1,222 trucks, of which more than 400 were equipped with the I-Shift automatic transmission. Volvo’s global sales crossed 208,000 units in 2015 with more than 90 percent falling in the automatic transmission category.

Solamon said, “The driveline is the heart of every truck and at Volvo it translates into our commitment of highest uptime, fuel efficiency and reliability through the life of the truck. I-Shift is designed to save fuel.” 

The benefits are many. Firstly, internal losses are low and in fact lower than manual gearboxes. However, it’s the electronics that really make the difference. When driving in economy mode, every gear change is timed precisely to let the engine work at its most efficient rpm range. There is also I-Roll, a unique feature used when driving downhill which automatically disengages the engine to make use of the truck’s momentum instead of fuel.

Also read: Commercial vehicles see record sales in March 2016

Currently the FMX 440 8x4 is also available with manual transmission. The I-Shift offered on the FMX is specially optimised for mining applications. By continuously monitoring the road gradient, vehicle speed, acceleration, torque demanded by the particular road, weight, rolling and air resistance, the I-Shift can instantly predict and select the most appropriate ratio for efficient utilization of the engine without driver intervention. Further, smooth gear-shifts reduce the stress on the driveline and tyres and in turn increase the lifespan of the drive units and reduce maintenance costs.

According to G V Rao, vice-president (Product Strategy, Brand & Marketing), Asia Oceania Sales – Hub India, Volvo Group Truck Sales, Volvo India, driving pleasure is enhanced with the I-Shift which uses its built-in intelligence to quickly and automatically choose the right gear at all times. And the software provides shifting skills that are impossible for even the best of drivers to match. Nevertheless, if the driver wishes to get more involved, the buttons on the shift selector allows him to step in and shift gear manually.

First among equals

It may be noted that Volvo emerged as the first European truck brand to cross the landmark of 10,000 premium truck deliveries in India in 2015. As is known, the Swedish truckmaker has

become synonymous with the mining and construction industries where the 8x4 concept introduced in the mining segment has become the industry norm.

The landmark 10,000th truck was an FMX 440 8x4 I-Shift, which was purchased by a long-term customer – mining service provider Mahalaxmi Infracontract.

Salamon said it took Volvo around 10 years to sell the first 5,000 trucks in India but the second 5,000 truck sales came within the next five years. 

The total heavy-duty truck industry in India is expected to touch the 250,000 mark this year. This segment is extremely dynamic as it grew by more than 35 percent year-on-year to 210,00 vehicles in 2015. “This year we are experiencing more or less the same pattern and the segment is expected to grow by 20 percent to cross the 250,000 industry mark,” said Salomon.  

Globally, the company is working to shift entirely from manual to automatic transmission in all its vehicles sold across the world by next year including in India. As part of it, I-Shift has already entered into India and the company is in the process of introducing it in other models including in its recently launched mega FMX 520 10x4 dump truck with 26.1 Cu.m body and FMX 480 10×4 dump truck with 24 Cu.m body.

Also Read: Indian commercial vehicle exports surge to a three-year high in FY2016


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