Why Fiat Punto Failed Euro NCAP Crash Test?

Fiat Punto Euro NCAP Crash Test

The deplorable crash performance of the aging car reflects that the driver aid techs and crash safety standards have gone up in recent years.

The crash test of 2017 Fiat Punto by Euro NCAP earlier this month was unprecedented, for both the Italian brand and the testing agency. Fiat is renowned for its solid-built and well-engineered cars, but its popular supermini hatchback has performed strangely bad in the latest crash test results. Embarrassingly, the third-gen Punto has snipped the needless limelight by becoming the first car to score zero rating in Euro NCAP. What’s gone wrong? Is it out of Fiat’s wrongdoing, or the independent crash tests becoming irrelevant and less pragmatic?

Also Read: 2019 Fiat Cronos (X6S) Sedan (Linea Successor)

Let’s delve a little further into the test results first. The crash tested model is a 2017 Fiat Punto 1.2 Easy variant (5-door) that weighs 1,030 kgs and equipped with dual frontal airbags, front seat belt pretensioner and loadlimiter as standard fitment. The result document summarizes the car’s passenger safety performance in four aspects – Adult occupant protection rated at 51 percent, Child occupant protection at 43 percent, Pedestrian protection pegged at 52 percent, and Safety assist (driver aid technologies) at zero percent. The test findings are applicable for all other variants of the Punto, Euro NCAP adds.

In terms of adult occupant protection, the frontal offset test has apparently revealed that Punto’s passenger compartment has remained stable. The knee and femur protection for both the driver and front passenger was good, but dashboard structures seem to present risk of injury. Protection of driver has been rated good for all critical body regions. Passenger’s chest protection was rated marginal, but weak for rear occupant. Front seats and head restraint tests have proved poor whiplash protection during rear-end collision. Lack of head-protection airbag for passengers in Punto meant that the side pole test was not performed.

Absence of i-size compatible seats reflects compromised child occupant safety. The agency has used 10 year and 6 year dummies to assess the protection levels. The head, neck, and chest protection of 10 year dummy was rated either poor or marginal, while the car earned ‘good’ for the other dummy. For pedestrian, the protection offered by the bonnet to his/ her head was predominantly poor or weak, although good in places. The
bumper provided good protection to the legs and pelvis area. The absence of any safety assist features was a huge let down, the Punto earning zero points in this particular category.

Critical Inference

Born in 2005, the Fiat Punto is a twelve-year old model that has seen very marginal design and equipment revision all these years. It was neither replaced with newer model in many global markets, as the brand was busy adopting a new “two-pronged model” approach, especially for Europe. This age factor is perhaps the major cause for the car’s feeble crash safety performance, as the Punto could not match the pace at which the industry standards on safety and willingness on part of manufacturers to offer safety package have gone up. In fact, the Punto has been rated 5-star in adult protection way back in 2005 by Euro NCAP, and 3-stars for both child occupant and pedestrian protection. As Michiel van Ratingen, NCAP’s secretary general, has rightly pointed out, the Punto is a classic example of a product that is sold well past its “best-before date at the expense of the unsuspecting buyer”.

Also Read: Why Mahindra Scorpio Failed Global NCAP Crash Test?

The Punto has still fairly performed in this crash test, but in an “old-school” fashion. The body shell has remained intact, there was hardly any structural deficiency, and the driver protection was earnest. But in the last decade, a lot of importance is given to crash avoidance as a basic tenet of crash safety in the Euro NCAP. This calls for active safety technologies like Blind Spot detection, Speed Alert, Lane Assist, and Autonomous Emergency Braking. The industry’s adoption towards such new standards is also evident. For instance, Fiat Punto’s rival cars in Europe like Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, and Seat Ibiza are all equipped with such driver assistance features as standard fitment. Fiat does not even offer these techs as optional feature in Punto, and the only standard equipment offered is a seat-belt reminder! This stark tech divide not in sync with the present-day safety norms has penalised the Fiat Punto’s rating to a great extent.

Fiat Punto Euro NCAP Crash Test
Fiat Punto has fairly performed in the crash test, but in an “old-school” fashion not in sync with the transforming safety standards.

Of course, we already knew that a modern replacement for the Punto hatch is already out – the Fiat Argo. In Europe, FCA is promoting the new Tipo 5-door as a premium alternative, so it is likely that they may pull-off the Punto very soon. But watch out, the devil is in developing markets, especially India, where there is hardly any announcements on the car’s replacement with a modern hatch in near future. On the contrary, Fiat India continues to offer multiple iterations of the car in India, and, that too without standard fitment of dual airbags and ABS with EBD across the range. With the proposed Bharat NCAP coming into effect next year, it is likely that our Fiat Punto Evo may perform poorer in the crash tests that we would expect it to.

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DAF CF and XF: International Truck of the Year 2018

DAF XF and CF Trucks

The truck scored 104 points; impressed the jury with its energy-efficient technologies.

The prestigious International Truck of the Year (ITOY) annual award for the best truck or model range launched in the calendar year 2017 has been announced. Dutch truck maker DAF Trucks has bagged the 2018 award, for its new CF and XF range of heavy trucks. Iveco Stralis NP gas-powered (LNG) truck and Scania XT range has settled for second and third positions respectively.

Also Read: Irizar i8: Coach of the Year 2018

Since 1977, the ITOY award recognises the best new product introduced in the international truck market based on key parameters including fuel economy, technology, innovation, environmental footprint, road safety, cabin comfort, and lower TCO. For this year’s award, a jury consisting of 23 senior automotive journalists specialised in CVs rated the newly launched trucks. The DAF CF and XF secured 104 points in total to claim the title.

DAF CF and XF_WagenClub(3)
Steering and dashboard of DAF CF and XF Trucks

Both the DAF CF and XF trucks are in production since 1997-1998, and are assembled at Leyland Trucks facility in UK. The new trucks launched this year features eerodynamic optimizations for the cab, advanced powertrain software, and higher efficiency rear-axles with faster ratios. They also boast an improved transport efficiency of over 7 percent lower fuel consumption, 100 kgs additional payload, and extended service intervals of 200,000 kms.

DAF CF and XF trucks are assembled at Leyland Trucks facility in UK

Powered by PACCAR MX-11 and MX-13 in-line 6-cylinder engines, the DAF CF and XF features ZF Traxon 12-speed automatic transmission. The engines are acclaimed for their industry-leading fuel economy, thanks to technological improvements including intelligent auxiliaries, new electronic architecture, improved combustion, reduced frictional-losses, and weight-saving out of engine and chassis optimizations. The trucks are also equipped with GPS-based Predictive Cruise control that aids engine and gearbox integration for improved fuel-saving.

Last year, the ITOY award was won by the new Scania S series.

Also Read: Trucks: Europe’s Roadmap To Double Annual CO2 Reduction Rate

KTM 390 Duke: Indian Motorcycle of the Year 2018

KTM Duke 390 India

The 390 Duke secured 107 points to claim the title, winning over 20 new bikes launched this year.

The most-illustrious Indian Motorcycle of the Year award (IMOTY) for 2018 has been announced. This year also marks the tenth anniversary for the award, which recognizes the best motorcycle newly launched in the Indian bike market every year. The jury for 2018 IMOTY consisted of 15 renowned auto journalists representing eight automotive publications in the country.

Also Read: 2017 KTM Duke 390: Sharp, Aggressive Styling Intensified

The 2017 KTM 390 Duke was voted the winner of IMOTY 2018. It won over all 11 other models that were short-listed for the final round, including  Hero Glamour 125, Yamaha FZ25, Suzuki Intruder 150, Bajaj Pulsar NS 160, Benelli 302R, Bajaj Dominar 400, Harley-Davidson Street Rod, Triumph Bonneville Bobber, Triumph Street Triple RS, MV Agusta Brutale 800 and Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin. The KTM 390 Duke scored 107 points to top the list, followed by Yamaha FZ25 with 77 points and Triumph Street Triple with 68 points.

The jury voted the motorcycles based on various factors including tag price and value for money attribute, styling, comfort, performance, fuel economy, practicality, safety, technical innovation, and their suitability for Indian riding conditions.

Why KTM 390 Duke?

Launched with a price tag of INR 2.36 Lakhs (Ex-showroom price), the KTM 390 Duke took the local bike market by storm! The new design and visual appeal of the the bike was way cooler than earlier, with revised structural geometry and improved engineering. This is a bike that can be (or wants to be) aggressively ridden, thanks to class-leading ride and handling traits. The single-pot 373 cc engine is well-refined and responsive. It comes loaded with superior technology and fancy features too, including TFT LCD instrument display with Bluetooth connectivity and dual-channel ABS.

Also Read: 2016 Best New Bikes Of The Year

2017 KTM Duke 390 – Image Gallery

Hyundai Verna: Indian Car of the Year 2018

2017 Hyundai Verna (2)

Hyundai Verna scored 118 points to emerge as winner, outrunning Maruti Suzuki Dzire in just 1 solitary point!

The 13th edition of the prestigious Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) award, dubbed as the ‘Oscar’ of Indian car industry, has been announced for this year. A jury consisting of eighteen senior motoring journalists from various media houses has cast their votes of all new cars launched in 2017 calendar year. The cars were judged on various aspects such as price and value for money, styling, comfort, features, performance, fuel efficiency, practicality, technical superiority, and safety. Their fittingness for Indian buyers and local driving conditions was also considered.

Also Read: 2016 Best New Cars Of The Year

Of all the 16 new cars launched this year, nine models made it to the final jury round. They include Maruti Suzuki Ignis, Tata Nexon, Jeep Compass, Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Honda WR-V, Hyundai Verna, Renault Captur, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Skoda Kodiaq. The new-generation Hyundai Verna clinched the title by scoring a cumulative score of 118 points based on the various judging paramenters.

The new Maruti Suzuki Dzire narrowly missed the title by just 1 point, pointing out to the fierce competition between the two cars till the last moment. In fact, the Jeep Compass settled for third position with 87 points – look at the huge difference between the first/second and third positions. Clearly, these two cars have won the battle on all counts.

Why Hyundai Verna?

Launched in August this year, the Hyundai Verna is more of a shrunken-down Elantra than an improved Accent-era sedan, unlike most of its rivals. The car comes with an exemplary styling that is smart and well-executed. The fit and finish of the body and interiors are greatly improved than the previous generation, while the features and equipment list is value-for-money. Together with competitive pricing, the car makes a sensible package with lots of value addition.

2017 Hyundai Verna (1)
Hyundai Verna’s booking in India crossed 24,000 in less than 4 months, outpacing its chief rivals Honda City and Maruti Suzuki Ciaz.

The Verna is an exciting car to drive as well. Both its 1.6-litre CRDi diesel and 1.6-litre Gamma petrol engines show high levels of refinement, are pleasant to rev and play with on highways. The 6-speed manual and 6-speed auto gearboxes are pleasing enough for hassle-free driving. The handling dynamics and ride quality has been considerably improved from the previous car, although the rear seating and legroom is still an issue.

Scania unveils DC07 (7-litre) Engine range for City Trucks

Scania DC07 Engines for City trucks (1)

Three power levels, along with improved fuel efficiency, lower NVH levels, and reduced weight.

Scania has introduced a new series of 7-litre engines (DC07) intended mainly for city trucks, including the newly launched next-generation P-series, L-series, and CrewCab models aimed at urban applications. All Euro 6 compliant, the new in-line six has been developed together by Scania and Cummins and is based on the widely-used previous generation 6-cylinder engine. The company claims that a great deal of compactness and light-weighting has been achieved with the new engine, along with improved performance and driveability to suit demanding city applications.

Also Read: Scania’s Next-Generation S and R Trucks

The new 6.7-litre power mill features four valves per cylinder, along with fuel injection system sourced from Bosch. The unit boasts a new fixed geometry turbocharger, and uses only selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for the exhaust gas after-treatment to meet Euro 6 emission standards. The new engine will be offered in three state of tunes – 220, 250 and 280 hp, along with standard 88 kW exhaust brake (at 2500 rpm) and choice of Scania Opticruise automated transmission. Plus, it is also compliant for use with 100 percent HVO (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil) that can give a carbon dioxide reduction of up to 90 percent.

Scania DC07 Engines for City trucks (2)
Scania now completes its new truck generation with the launch of city applications models including P-series, L-series, and CrewCab.

As against the Scania’s five-cylinder DC09 family, the new DC07 saves up to 360 kgs (engine weighing around 600 kgs). The unit is also compact, enabling a G-series cab floor to be used in P-series trucks with low-engine tunnel, thereby offering a 95 mm lower engine floor and more storage space.

Also Read: Scania S and R Trucks: World’s First Rollover Side Curtain Airbag

Scania’s international engine line-up now boasts eighteen different Euro 6 engines from four families – 7-litre, 9-litre, 13 and 16-litre units. They all power the company’s new truck generation, with power outputs ranging from 280 to 730 horsepower.

Next, would you like to read more on Scania?

Antifreeze Coolant and Brake Fluid: “Fluid” Health of Automobiles

There is an essential link between regular fluid maintenance and enhanced vehicular life and safety, may it be cars or commercial vehicles.

In the initial years of liquid-cooled engines, a miscellany of simple compounds were tried as coolants, as mere water proved ineffective at extreme temperatures. Mostly household and kitchen ingredients, like honey, sugar, and molasses! The idea was to simply push the boiling and freezing points of the water to the extremes as much as possible, so that heat transfer from the engine case happens even at sizzling desert temperatures, while engine also catches up when cranked at freezing winters. Then came all-season `antifreeze´ coolant made from ethylene glycol sometime in the late 1920s. It is no exaggeration to say that this invention led to the advancement of internal combustion engine in the next 100 years to come even today. To the extent that our modern day automobiles doesn´t necessary have to boast their radiators in the windward side (front) of the vehicle, may it be rear-engined Volvo 9400 or mid-engined Porsche 911 GT1! The role of antifreeze coolants in an engine´s cooling system is phenomenal.

It is said that the coolant system wards-off almost 30 percent of combustion heat of heavy duty engines used in commercial vehicles, while more than 50 percent of premature engine failures in heavy vehicles are attributed to improper maintenance of cooling system. For instance, modern-day coolants feature certain additive packages to prevent rusting and corrosion in the system, especially to foil cavitation in wet cylinder sleeves in diesels. Further, Therefore, a proper understanding of what coolant is being used in a vehicle and in what formulation (ratio of water mix), along with the awareness of when to replace the coolant is essential for any equipment owners and fleet managers. But truth be told, many truck and bus owners and drivers in India may have no idea of what goes on in their vehicle´s cooling system! Unlike engine oil and other lubricants, coolants hardly get maintenance attention it truly deserves.

Antifreeze cooland and Brake Fluid 2Maintenance

If that’s the case for coolants, then think about brake fluids that is also considered as a low-key affair in vehicle maintenance. Although not applicable in heavy-duty commercial vehicles, brake fluids are used notably in light commercial and passenger vehicles, and in cars, they are the norm. Present-day brake fluids are Glycol-ether based, therefore hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air. This results in contamination of the fluid, especially in tropical climates like ours with high humidity. Further, they must have high boiling point and maintain constant viscosity across a range of extreme temperatures, while their anti-corrosion additives must stay intact for prescribed periods to protect vital components like wheel cylinders, master cylinders, calipers, and ABS control valves. Else, the leakages in fluid or pressure may occur, components may get damaged, resulting in brake failure. Although it is not common for a vehicle to suffer absolute hydraulic brake failure and related accidents are relatively rare, brake failure is still is notable factor for accidents that often goes unrealized.

Largest maker of Antifreeze coolant

“There is a dearth of awareness on regular coolant and brake fluid analysis among the users in their vehicles, as they fail to realize the essential link between these fluids and the vehicular life and safety” says Mr. S K Singh, Director of S-CCI India Pvt Ltd that is authorized licensee of `Golden Cruiser´ brand of antifreeze and brake fluids in India. We are trying to engender best maintenance practices and right perception of high-quality antifreeze coolants and brake fluids among the OEM dealers, independent workshops, and end users, so that incidences of overhead-induced engine failures and braking effeteness can be prevented, he adds.

S-CCI India is taking several initiatives in this regard. During the 4th UN Global Road Safety Week 2017 in May this year, the company ran a series of campaigns to support the use of high quality brake fluids and antifreeze in cars and commercial vehicles. S-CCI India is perhaps the largest manufacturer of automobile antifreeze coolant in India, also holding a substantial share in the country´s total production of high quality brake fluids. It is a joint venture with CCI Corporation of Japan that owns the `Golden Cruiser´ marque of engine antifreeze coolants, brake fluids and other specialty chemicals. The firm boasts two production units in India – Bhiwadi (Rajasthan) and Sitarganj (Uttarakhand), while export distribution networks are extended to Bangladesh and Nepal as well.

Antifreeze cooland and Brake Fluid Maintenance
Best maintenance practices and right perception of high-quality antifreeze coolants and brake fluid usage is the need of the hour.

In the OEM space, S-CCI Golden-Cruiser India is the supplier of antifreeze and brake fluids to various brands including Komatsu, MAN Trucks, Tata Motors, Force Motors, SML ISUZU, AMW, and TAFE in the CV segment among other passenger car makers. In the aftermarket, the company has over 150 distributors across the country, apart from tie-ups with various State Transport Undertakings (STUs) for antifreeze coolants. The company´s market share is pegged at over 70 percent collectively across all vehicle segments in India. “The OEM business contributes to over 80 percent of our revenue, as the dealer-oriented sales channels are vibrant in the recent times with more and more customers using authorized service stations” observes Mr. S K Singh. Acceptability of our products among automakers is tremendous, as we are the pioneers of antifreeze coolants in India and our constant technology and quality upgradation of ancillary products and consumables to the international levels is well recognized” he adds.

Also Read: Stretching A Litre Of Fuel – Car Mileage Tips

For instance, Golden Cruiser offers `Heavy Diesel´ anti-corrosion coolant recommended for trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles. The company claims it to be highly advanced, featuring slow-depleting organic acids that guarantee full anti-corrosion protection for longer periods even in harsh conditions. Quite recently, the company came up with `Extreme´ long life antifreeze coolant with unlimited mileage for over 3 year replacement period. “The technology is advancing towards longer service life and absolute protection from corrosion and cavitation as the engines are becoming more complex and sensitive” notes Mr. S K Singh, also adding that S-CCI India´s constant R&D and testing efforts goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology.

*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

Electric Buses: Local and Affordable Solutions using Lead-Acid Batteries?

Why can’t we engineer a low-cost electric bus platform using Lead Acid batteries, along with charging and mechanized swapping infrastructure tailor-made for specific local needs?

Electric buses are the serious talk of the ‘auto’ town these days, so it may appear as if the era of silent, zero-emission urban transport is finally here. But is it? Any such claims actually amounts to stretching the truth somewhat, perhaps, by over a century! The history of electric buses is as old as the history of buses itself, that the application of electric propulsion and battery technologies in buses precedes that of diesel or even IC engine. For instance, the city of London reports demonstration of electric buses as early as 1893, while the London Electrobus Company introduced the battery-electric double-deckers in 1907. Infrastructure for recharging and swapping of depleted batteries were set up too – a century ago!

Then how did the electro-mobility disappear from the automotive scene you may wonder. Failure of technology? Practicality or affordability issues? Not really, the interest in battery buses waned in the light of improved reliability of motor buses and other urban transports. Historians of technology opine that the booming oil industry and war economy oriented industry’s focus towards internal combustion engines. Further, for a technology to succeed, it has to be commercially bankable for businesses in a capitalist world, its sustainability or humanistic potentials always take a back seat. The IC technology, with the business potentiality of bombastic components industry and ever paying oil base, must have definitely won the case against the impeccant battery-electric technology.

Think about it, what if the industry and governments at the beginning of the last century were smart and humane enough to consider some big-picture thinking on the sustainability of mobility systems? Things would have been very different by now – electro-mobility must have become the norm of the industry; battery-electric technologies may have attained greater heights of efficiency; clean energy may have got greater push, etc. – you can add all those future mobility visions that we are mulling over a century later now. We are reaping all those falls that our previous generation of industry and society sowed long back. We are right at the start point, rethinking the entire construct of urban mobility, once again! It´s a missed opportunity, I would say.

Electric Buses

Okay, even if we take pride in the way the battery-electric technologies (especially Lithium-ion) have improved in our times, how efficacious are they in producing the intended results? Keep aside the range anxiety associated with them, are they affordable in the first place? That too for a developing society like ours, where we still fight several battles on various social indicators that the Western world has already won, how can we expect ourselves to adopt EVs in the same pace as they can? Nor our energy infrastructure is cleaner enough to make a difference.

Having said that, we must try to be the part of solutions to our limitations as well. Discovering local and affordable electro-mobility solutions is crucial for our society to ward-off the ills of present-day urban mobility and embrace EVs. In this regard, we met Mr. H.K. Agarwal of Sympar Associates, Delhi who is currently assisting the development of technology at technical institutes for mass conversion of pre-owned cars and buses to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). With over 65 years of academic and technical experience in the fields of electric traction and electronics, he has a very different take on the scenario of electro-mobility in India, battery-operated buses in particular.

Local and Affordable Solutions

Notably, Mr. Agarwal was involved in a BEV project led by Late Prof. (Emeritus) R. Arockiasamy of IIT-Delhi some 15 years ago. It involved conversion of a standard Tata chassis bus into a hybrid battery vehicle featuring a battery bank with a tiny diesel generator. The project let to an operational working model successfully tried within the IIT Delhi campus. “It was an indigenous, cost effective and short gestation solution for intra-city needs, but we were well-ahead of times that the project was left in limbo” he says. The electric propulsion system of the project used DC Traction motor from Crompton and the controller was designed by Prof. Arockiasamy´s team. The battery pack consisted of 20 Lead-Acid (LA) batteries, recharged by a small generator.

Taking stock of new technological developments, Mr. Agarwal admits that the DC Traction motors are no longer used in EVs, and the AC Traction Permanent magnet (brushless) motors are best suited for e-buses. By why give up LA Batteries for the expensive and much-hyped Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries, when its claimed benefits and reliability are often disputed, he asks. Although LA batteries have relatively low energy-to-weight ratio, they are highly reliable and proven, locally available at affordable costs, easily replaceable, and recyclable. On the contrary, the Li-ion batteries are thrice more expensive and imported, pushing up the cost of the entire EV, while the recyclability know-how is still immature even in developed markets, he adds.

Also Read: Sustainable Mobility: A Global Vision In Indian Context

But doesn’t weight and compactness of battery pack matter in electric buses? Let´s consider the conundrum this way. We are taking about intra-city bus applications having pre-defined routes and trips, with speeds not more than 50 kmph, along with limited passenger payload. Thus, the veteran says, the battery pack can be tailor-made to suit local route requirements by either increasing or decreasing the battery units. Even if the extra weight of LA batteries result in limited travel range, this can be managed by trip and charging time management, he affirms.

Moreover, won’t LA batteries in e-bus applications face challenges in power delivery and charge/ discharge cycles? City buses involve frequent stop and sudden acceleration, for which the battery architecture should be robust enough to supply ample energy for disposal. Mr. Agarwal replies that sound battery management is essential for any EV, may it be Li-ion or LA batteries. There is a heavy drain of energy while starting from idle, climbing up a steep, or during sudden acceleration, whereas while braking or moving down the hill, the energy released can be recuperated. Therefore, he suggests engaging super capacitors as short-term energy repository in the architecture, from which power can be discharged for starting or acceleration needs, and can be replenished out of regenerative braking. This can eliminate the short-term energy demands of an e-bus.

For longer range and quicker charging cycles, he proposes low power gensets of 10-15 kW rating to supplement the battery architecture. They can run on relatively cleaner fuels like LPG, CNG, Biogas, or Biodiesel only on demand with start / stop feature, and maintain constant rpm. Air-conditioning needs can also be taken care, while the size of the battery and its load weight can be reduced as well. An another alternative is replaceable battery pack, where a charging and mechanized swapping infrastructure can be set up at each terminals to avert the charging periods during peak hours. He adds that the fast charging technologies popular in the West may prove fatal in the tropical weather of our country, may even damage the batteries.

Cost effective battery or hybrid-electric powertrains for buses can be locally devised to address our immediate, specific local needs. 

In fact, the concept of swappable batteries has caught the attention of Indian government in place of conventional charging infrastructure as in the developed markets. It is learnt that EV policies may favour such cost-effective battery ecosystem, as the government is aiming towards bringing 10,000 electric buses on road in the years to come. Further, private investments in this regard is also expected to pick up, with firms like SUN Mobility, Exide Batteries, Amara Raja Batteries, and Electrotherm reported as working on swappable batteries.

“We have to think local to find answers to our own problems” says Mr. H.K. Agarwal, adding that cost effective battery/ hybrid-electric powertrains for buses can be locally devised to address our immediate needs. Apart from building e-buses on new chassis, it is very much economically feasible to convert standard diesel buses into BEVs, he claims. For instance, there are over 1.6 million buses running on Indian roads, a huge chunk of those are city buses. With new scrappage regulations like that of NGT on culling vehicles over 10 years in Delhi NCR, they can be easily converted into eco-friendly vehicles. That way, tax payers’ money can be saved, he claims. Mr. Agarwal is approaching various technical institutes, auto components makers, and EV entrepreneurs across the country in search of partners to bring out an operation model of low-cost electric buses for commercial viability.

Also Read: Electric Bus Race: Indian OEM Trio Moving Ahead

Although the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 aims to usher in 7 million EVs on Indian roads by 2020, there exists a huge void in actual number so far since its launch in 2013. The only successful display of EVs on our roads are the e- rickshaws, which again is a local and cost-effective solution. I think it’s time to jump into action with affordable technologies and local ideas, rather than wait forever for a one-stop solution to e-mobility. There isn’t any yet!

Next, would you like to read more on Electric Buses?

*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

LiuGong 611 BS III Vibratory Soil Compactor in India

Liugong 611 Compactor_WagenClub(1)

Designed specifically for the unique working conditions of India. 

LiuGong India, the fully-owned subsidiary of China-based LiuGong Machinery Corporation, is jacking-up its Indian operations by launching new products. The company will be launching the advanced 611 Vibratory Soil Compactor at the EXCON 2017, along with LiuGong 921 Di excavator.

The market for compactors in India is on the go, with an estimated sales figure of 4,000 units sold annually, of which almost 50 per cent are soil compactors. Construction industry demands optimum compaction with minimum number of passes these days, resulting in growing relevance of vibratory compactors as against static rollers. These machines send pressure waves into the soil surface in different directions leading to the particles achieving a dense state of orientation. Although initial capital investment for these products are higher, contractors are starting to realize that an extra premium is bound to pay off in the long run, given the cost savings achieved out of lesser number of passes.

Also Read: LiuGong CLG 921 Di BS III Excavator: “Made in India, for World”

Powered by Kirloskar-sourced engine, the LiuGong 611 compactor delivers a gross power of 77.2 kW (105 hp) at 2,200 rpm. It is claimed to offer lower noise and emission. The machine presents a vibration frequency range of 33 Hz, along with a centrifugal force range of 270 KN/ 150 KN. Its working width is 2,130 mm, while its operating weight is pegged at 11,000 Kgs. LiuGong claims that this product is suitable for road building and full range of road maintenance work.

Liugong India Products
LiuGong India´s product stable consists of excavators, wheel loaders, motor graders, compactors, bull dozers, backhoe loaders, and forklifts.

Design wise, a streamlined approach has resulted in a good appearance for the compactor. Featuring comfortable cab offering high visibility, adjustable operation platform and high-back seat, the interiors are designed to provide the operator with a high level of comfort, adds the company.

*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

LiuGong CLG 921 Di BS III Excavator: “Made in India, for World”

Liugong 921 Di Excavator_WagenClub(1)

Locally designed and manufactured at LiuGong’s plant at Pithampur, MP.

LiuGong Machinery Corporation is one of the titanic player in the CE industry internationally, with a wide array of extreme-duty and advanced product lines. It has an extensive global reach across 130 nations, along with 20 manufacturing facilities including that of Pithampur in India that is in operation since 2009. The China-based company began its Indian journey with a sale of a product way back in 2002, and later established a subsidiary firm LiuGong India that is dedicated to the local market including that of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

At present, the company has over 19 dealers and 50 touch points, with dedicated technical support and marketing teams. And, it feels mature enough in the Indian market to unleash its full potential, by launching new India-focussed products. In the run-up to EXCON 2017 at Bengaluru next week, the company has announced that it will be launching a new excavator is made in India and made for world, along with few other new products.

The all-new LiuGong 921 Di is a heavy-duty, medium-range tracked excavator aimed at best-in-class performance and low operating cost. It boasts a maximum digging depth of 5,875 mm with a bucket capacity of 0.95 m3 and track length of 4,170 mm, with operating weight of 21,000 Kgs. Powered by Cummins B5.9 engine assembled in India, the machine generates a gross power of 104 kW (141 hp) at 2,000 rpm.

Liugong India
LiuGong India´s product stable consists of excavators, wheel loaders, motor graders, compactors, bull dozers, backhoe loaders, and forklifts.

To improve fuel efficiency, the 921 Di is designed with negative flow hydraulics, that optimizes the speeds of main control valve and while working and cutting down on the hydraulic system’s pressure loss. The synchronization between pilot valves and main control valve offers precise control. An advanced Auto Idling system is also in place to lower engine rpm when the machine is idle to save fuel. In terms of digging operations, additional buffer valve is provided for smooth hydraulic operation. While high breakout forces of bucket, arm and high torque of powerful swing motor have reduced the swing cycle time considerably.

*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

BharatBenz 2523C 6×4 Construction Tipper: “Tip” o’ the hat!

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The German-patronised “Indian” truck maker is the favoured marque of Sri Ram Transport of Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu; says BharatBenz makes the correct choice of equipment for construction-oriented tipping operations.

After a retrograded phase in the past couple of years, the Indian medium- and heavy-duty tipper market is finally rejoicing a breath of fresh air. The demand for these trucks are not price-driven, but are largely dependent on the health of infrastructure and construction sectors. The latest bout of government-led investments on infrastructure and increasing per-day road construction targets have given a new lease of life to this segment. Renewed demand from the mining sector in some states have also helped the cause. The dampening impacts of BS-IV implementation has subdued, the demand has bounced back on account of higher mining, road construction and allied activities. The recent trend of market demand of pre-owned BS III trucks has bypassed the tipper segment, as tipper operations call for optimum uptime and reliability, which cannot be assured in used vehicles.

Also Read: BharatBenz 3143 And 4940TT: A Closer Look At Daimler’s Heavy-Duty Trucks

Further, dormant growth in sales owing to GST implementation is also mending up, those who postponed their purchases due to lack of clarity on taxation and accounting changes are back to the purchasing spree. On the whole, industry experts agree that the nation-wide demand for tipper is steadily soaring up to a rough figure of around 50,000 units annually. Moreover, in terms of product diversity, the tipper segment in India is no more duopolistic in nature. Newer brands like that of BharatBenz are fast catching-up, with almost every truck maker offering tippers especially in the 25-tonne capacity category. There is also a clear shift towards higher GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) and power output rating in this segment, as dumpers are preferred for carrying large volumes over shorter distances as against small trucks.

The `Superiority´ factor

Tamil Nadu is traditionally a tipper market, with numerous operators and fleets using a sizable number of tippers for both mining and road construction. The Tiruchirappalli region, in particular, is packed with sand mining and cement production-related activities, for which dumper trucks are lifelines. Sri Ram Transport is one of the leading fleet in this region catering to cements and sand transportation for road construction activities. Led by its proprietor Mr. B. Subburam who has tipper experience for over 20 years, the company now owns 10 BharatBenz 2523C 6×4 dump trucks, including 4 units of latest BS IV models. To achieve 100 percent BharatBenz-only tipper fleet, the company is also planning to acquire 25 more units of the same truck before the end of this financial year.

Why BharatBenz? Mr. Subburam answers, “I have owned over 400 dumpers of different brands in my two-decades of trucking business, Daimler trucks are unique and unparalleled in terms of rugged built, engine reliability, and cabin features. They are a notch above all other brands in the segment”. He explains that managing a fleet of heavy-duty application trucks like tippers isn´t an easy task, as they terribly call for constant maintenance and the downtime is usually high comparing to haulage trucks. Their running costs are usually a nightmare for any operator.

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Sri Ram Transport employs BharatBenz 2523C 6×4 tippers for cements and sand transportation for road construction activities.

“The feel-good factor in owning BharatBenz is that though the spare and service costs per instance is high, the long-run affordability of regular maintenance is advantageous. Longer and synchronized service intervals offer optimal uptime for the tippers, and the frequency of lubrication and oil replacements are comparatively less. The propensity of its components to fail is also far lower and exceeds the usual cycle”, he observes. Sri Ram Transport employs all its 2523C tippers in road construction activities, for delivering sand and cement from local stock yards. “At times, they shunt between the sites day and night in multiple shifts, crossing a variety of roads from broken quarry roads to national highways and city roads. The superior engineering and technology of Daimler has made them reliable workhorses that are up and running in any given point of time” adds Mr. Subburam.

Also Read: Tyre Management For Lower Costs of Trucking

The BS IV-compliant DE 175 engine of BharatBenz 2523C tippers offer almost 90 percent of maximum power and peak torque within engine speeds as low as 900 rpm, thereby ensuring enhanced pickup and gradeability in crawler gears. “Fuel efficiency is exemplary and sets new standards” observes Mr. Subburam, thanks to advanced engine technologies like unitized fuel injection pump system, high-boost turbo charger, SCR, constant throttle valve engine brake, etc. “The Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is an added cost for BS IV trucks, but we are happy that the emissions are controlled and fuel-economy is improved” he added.

Responsive Service Network

Apart from managing Sri Ram Transport, Mr. Subburam is also the regional dealer for JK Tyres and runs a JK Tyre Truck Wheels workshop at Tiruchirappalli. Of course, his BharatBenz tipper fleet uses only JK Tyres and he is quite happy with their performance as well. For periodic service and technical assistance, he trusts the local BharatBenz dealer Jayaraj Trucking. “Being in the trucking industry for quite some time has taught us a lot about tipper maintenance, ascertaining technical problems, spare replacement cycle, etc., and people will find it extremely difficult to hoodwink us in this regard. Jayaraj Trucking is a professionally sound and responsive team, an essential value partner in our tipper operations” observes Mr. Subburam. Even when our trucks called for assistance from farther hinterlands, Jayaraj roadside and mobile assistance team did their best to put them back on running in no time, he added.

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BharatBenz offers a well-built, modern cabin with attractive dashboard, reclining driver seats, and provision for sleeper berth.

Asked on the popularity of BharatBenz tippers in the region, Jayaraj Trucking told us that they are the market leaders in terms of annual sales. “The 25-tonne capacity tipper segment is one of the fastest growing in the region, with the BharatBenz 2523C model taking up a majority of share in total sales. This model is specifically designed for 25-tonne tipper load limit legally permissible on city roads and flyovers. Fleets and contract operators in the road construction sector show great interest in this dumper model” notes Mr. Ajay Jayaraj, Director and CEO, Jayaraj Trucking. One-Stop and express service is the motto of DICV, and that puts us in the pedestal of tipper market, he adds.

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BharatBenz 2523C 6×4 Tippers – Image Gallery

*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.