V RAMANATHAN is Vice President of OE Sales and Marketing at WABCO India Limited
THE WORLD OF AUTOMATICS
The Indian automotive industry has undergone remarkable transformation in the past few years. With rising GDP and vast strides in infrastructure, the industry has been positively impacted in recent years. Moreover, with the implementation of BS-IV norms, the sector has taken huge strides to enhance safety and efficiency on the road.
The introduction of electronic engines becomes an ideal platform for companies like WABCO to further penetrate the market with advanced technologies like automated manual transmission (AMT) and add on to the consumer experiences. WABCO OptiDrive is the only pneumatic AMT solution for the Indian commercial vehicle industry that is designed to benefit fleets by improving fuel efficiency and enhancing driver comfort.
BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE IS NECESSARY
According to Central Government statistics, India has the second largest road network across the world pegged at 4.7 mn km. This road network transports more than 60 % of all goods in the country and 85 % of India's total passenger traffic. Buses and trucks are major contributors to road transportation, which has gradually increased over the years with the improvement in connectivity between cities, towns and villages. The construction of highways and the last mile connectivity has reached an all-time high of 6,029 km during FY 2015-16, and the increased pace of construction is expected to continue for the coming years.
MARKET DYNAMICS OF AMT
Analysts at Technavio have forecasted that AMT penetration in the Indian CV market would grow at a CAGR of 10 % during the period 2016-2020. With strict environment regulations and surge in the demand for fuel efficient vehicles, the global AMT market in the CV space is on a rise. Newer technologies are also aimed and implemented at lowering the global carbon footprint.
The growing demand for AMT technologies can be attributed to providing efficient means of maintaining fuel efficiency of a vehicle. This provides the right balance between cost and fuel economy of the vehicles. Many AMT manufacturers have already tied-up with OEMs to address the growing demand for AMTs.
The push for AMT in CVs is essentially to reduce driver dependency. A fleet owner, for instance, needs to invest heavily in terms of capital, operations and maintenance. An efficient technology like AMT gives them more value for money and can help reduce costs by a significant percentage.
INTRODUCTION TO OPTIDRIVE
While automatics come in different formats and technologies, the recent introduction of the cost-efficient AMT has proven to be a game changer. It has an improved vehicle control through optimised gear shifting process.
OptiDrive is an award-winning modular transmission automation technology that can be easily adapted to a wide range of existing manual gearboxes and provides an alternate cost effective and reliable solution for CVs. It combines comfort and ease-of-use of an automatic transmission with the efficiency of a manual transmission and is engineered as a modular system.
It reduces by 50 % the development time required for vehicle and transmission makers to apply OptiDrive to their platforms. This time reduction is in relation to Integrated AMT used by global OEMs. For this, the whole hardware is designed for AMT integration while in OptiDrive the existing hardware is adapted with some minor changes. On the software side, the base software for transmission shifting/ clutch control/ gear detection is a common modular software that is adapted to the individual vehicle and not developed from scratch.
To ensure gear optimisation, WABCO has its own proprietary software algorithm. That is developed to ensure improved performance in terms of drivability and fuel economy. This algorithm aids to choose and select the right and the best gear and clutch position.
OptiDrive automatically engages the vehicle's clutch and gear shift actuation. It takes into account the driver's operation, engine torque, vehicle load and road inclination, resulting in optimised gear shifting, which increases fuel economy up to 5 % for trucks and buses in congested city traffic and on long hauls alike. In addition to that, AMT solutions reduce wear on clutch and transmission components, lowering maintenance costs over the vehicle's lifetime. Optimised gear-shifting also reduces emissions, resulting in an environmentally cleaner footprint for fleets.
The general practice that is even followed globally is taking all engineering requirements of various OEMs and have single and unique product for each platform. At WABCO, we have developed a single product platform to cater to the need of multiple driveline/ vehicle platforms of various OEMs. Considering a country like India, where time and cost is looked as a big factor, this definitely makes the whole modular system unique as compared to others.
OptiDrive offers a lot in terms of features. It is a complete system that includes AMT hardware and shift software. System modularity in OptiDrive easily adapts to existing gearboxes. It minimises space requirements at the gearbox and is available for five-speed up to 18-speed applications. OptiDrive has been designed for constant and synchromesh gearboxes and it offers a wide range of driver functions. It frees the driver from shifting gears and depressing the clutch, hence helping him to give full attention to the road. It interacts with other vehicle control systems like ABS & ESP to improve safety.
OptiDrive can be fitted in all released vehicles as a retro-fitment and provides better fuel efficiency in traffic condition, driver comfort and lower maintenance cost. OptiDrive significantly reduces mechanical wear, lowers maintenance costs and vehicle downtime. It simplifies vehicle handling and increases driver comfort and enables comfortable, smooth and safe driving like an automatic transmission.
With a rise in global CV production, there will be an increased level of competition among auto component makers to contribute to the rising demand for AMT technology. OEMs have to continuously invest towards consumer awareness towards adoption of AMT technology. The fleet owners would also benefit greatly from adopting this technology in a much more planned way.