The Symposium on International Automotive Technology (SIAT) held in Pune provided a peek into the automotive engineering of the future.
Sound and vibration testing, safety integration and vehicle crash development for internal combustion engines, advanced sensors, solutions for hybrid and electric vehicles, engine signal interfaces, pedal robots, solenoids, temperature and humidity chambers…all this and much more was at display at the Symposium on International Automotive Technology (SIAT) held in Pune from January 18-22. With innovative technologies occupying centre-stage in an attempt by component manufacturers to make the vehicles of the future more secure, efficient and comfortable, SIAT turned out to be an eye-opener in many ways.
Leading from the front was the host Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) that unveiled the Lithium ion battery ingeniously developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). While the battery is for space applications, the ARAI demonstrated how it could be used for two-wheelers also. Officials from the ARAI and ISRO said that both the organisations were working jointly on this battery project. “The Lithium ion battery is used in space for surface transport vehicles and has now been tested for electric mobility solutions for two-wheelers. This is a landmark development and we have been working on factors like battery management system, lab testing, automotive duty cycle at different temperatures, charge and discharge, etc,” said Anand Deshpande, Convenor.
“In space applications, reliability is of paramount importance. Whereas, in the automotive segment, affordability is equally important. Thus, our teams are now engaged in this direction. The prototype that was unveiled at the show is loaded with 49 volt, 50 ampere per hour battery and successfully runs up to 90 kilometres after it is charged for two hours. We are working on reducing the charging time and have set a target to bring it down to one hour initially. It does not use much electricity for charging and the running cost per kilometre could be as less as 20-30 paise. The vehicle can attain a speed of 40-50 km/hr,” Deshpande added.
Meanwhile, showcasing next generation automotive transmission and suspension technology was ZF Friedrichshaften AG-India under its USP of ‘See-Think-Act’. The company’s products included semi-trailing arm rear suspension, ecotronic commercial vehicle automatic manual transmission, and aluminium control arms. The ZF portfolio ranges across products for driveline, chassis, steering, braking and also electronics and occupant safety systems. “The recent announcements by the Indian government to bring in more emphasis on safety and environment regulations have been a great accelerator for the introduction of advanced technologies in India and has opened up several business growth opportunities for us,” said Suresh K V, Country Head of ZF.
The SIAT also brought into play the increasing importance of making vehicles safer given the fact that accidents and fatalities have been on the rise in recent years. One such company projecting this need was MIRA Caepro India, which provides full passive safety integration and vehicle crash development for internal combustion engine, electric and hybrid vehicles. The company provides the services of an indoor crash lab and an external crash site, a HyGe sled, gravity sled, pedestrian impact rigs, numerous component testing rigs and a suite of computer simulation tools. “Crash tests conducted in our internationally recognised laboratory can be individually tailored to meet all global regulatory standards, including NCAP and development crash tests. Our non-destructive trip rollover rig mitigates the risk of occupant ejection in vehicle rollover scenarios,” informed Aditi Tiwari, the company’s Marketing Executive.
Elaborating on the need to cater to the best of automotive safety norms, S Ramanathan, Managing Director, Automotive Test Systems (ATS), said, “Over the years, there have been significant developments in the area of safety (passive and active), emissions and powertrain including EV/hybrid, etc. HIL systems have become common now if you visit state-of-the-art R&D centres in the automotive domain. As the global automotive industry is moving towards Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving, a company like ours has taken the lead as well by proving solutions from simulation and testing up to validation. We have launched portable systems for particulate measurements as well as ‘fast response’ emission analysers for cold start emission testing and catalytic converter testing. We have also installed a number of hardware in loop systems from IPG Germany and have developed testing solutions in-house.”
In fact, manufacturers of testing and measuring systems were out in full force at SIAT, one such company being BEP India, which is a global supplier of electric chassis dynamometers for a variety of automotive testing applications. Speaking about the most significant technological advancements seen in the automotive testing and safety areas in India over the past decade, Sandeep Sharma, Country Manager, BEP India, said, “The major changes are developing concepts and machines which can simulate real work situations in a lab. For example, BEP has developed machines that can simulate road conditions and do 100 per cent centre-stage production vehicle testing. The reduction in test cycle time, improvement in accuracies and repeatability of the reading are the most advancements in the automotive testing domain. Indian automotive safety standards are catching up very fast with global standards. Areas of active safety need immediate improvements by introducing various concepts of driver assistance in our vehicles.”
Elaborating about emission testing and vehicle safety norms in India, Sharma said, “OEMs are keen on supporting the environmental improvement drive. They are investing money in upgrading the existing machines for future emission standards and also planning to set up new labs for the same. Meanwhile, the Indian norms are getting more and more stringent, thereby making vehicles safer and reliable. We expect Indian standards to be at par with global standards over the next few years. BEP is providing machines to various OEMs in India for their EOL (production department). Very short test cycle time allows OEMs to test their production vehicles on high-end machines and keep a record of each test vehicle. This will eventually increase the reliability and quality of the vehicle and Indian cars will achieve better ranking.”
Robotics too came into focus at the show with Vehico displaying its pedal robots. Each robot offers multiple control modes which can be used right away without complicated parameterising. “You can switch between the control models within a test run to cover most comfortably your individual test requirements. Thanks to an intuitive scripting language, all driving robots offer extremely high flexibility to program desired manoeuvers. Standardised tests are available as per templates. The typical application areas include automated emergency braking testing, HBA tests with high pressure gradients, ADAS testing and development, tyre testing and autonomous driving projects,” a spokesperson for the company said. At the booth of Frankonia, manufacturers of anechoic chambers and RF-shielded rooms as well as antennas and amplifiers, Philippe Capron, Director Sales (EMC), informed, “Our RF-shielded rooms and anechoic chambers are designed as a modular concept. In order to use the maximum available space of the existing installation area, special adjusting modules are available which allow the realisation of almost any dimensions requested. In the normal configuration, the individual shielding modules are bolted from the inside so that they can be installed close to the walls of the building. However, if required, these panels can also be bolted from the outside, as for example, when the chambers must be attached to one another.” Interestingly, vehicles for the rural sector also found a platform for discussion at the show when Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra, stated that there was greater scope for autonomous vehicles (tractors, for example) in the farm sector. He revealed that his company has developed a prototype for this kind of a vehicle but there is still some way to go before it can be manufactured commercially. “Our company believes that the place for autonomous vehicles may not be the roads but the farms,” he said. For autonomous tractors to become viable, Goenka clarified that they would have to be subsidised.
“Either the government will have to offer a subsidy or the OEM will have to chip in. Even if the acquisition cost of such tractors would be very high, they would become a necessity and pay back over a period of time. The present scenario is such that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find farm labour. So if you replace labour with autonomous vehicles, the payback will happen for sure,” he added. About 80 per cent of farm holdings in India belong to small and marginal farmers – those owning less than two hectares of land. “Autonomous tractors will be of major help to them,” Goenka said.
Elaborating on the concept of vehicle autonomy, Goenka said that autonomous did not necessarily mean ‘driverless’. “The vehicle could be driver-assisted. The person in the tractor may not be driving it but only controlling some important functions,” he said. In his opinion, when autonomous vehicles are adopted for Indian roads, the taxi segment will be the first to deploy them and that might happen sooner than we think.
- Huned Contractor