Products in the Indian automotive industry began featuring electronics in the area of two-wheeler ignition over two decades ago, with the shift from two-stroke to four-stroke engines. This shift towards four-stroke engines was carried out mainly to address the high level of emissions put out by two-strokes, along with a need for increased fuel economy. And to top it all, four-stroke engines are generally easier to tune and maintain when compared to their two-stroke counterparts.
Established in 1989, Flash Electronics India Ltd prides itself with core competencies in manufacturing electronic and electrical automotive components. Auto Tech Review met up with Sanjeev Vasdev, Founder and Managing Director, Flash Electronics India, to find out about the increased shift towards electronics in two-wheelers, the role of BS VI emission norms as well as the company’s development in the area of electric vehicles (EV).
TRANSFORMATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH NEW REGULATIONS
The transition from electricals to electronics happened in the mid-1990s itself. Vasdev said this transition with regards to ignition moved towards electronics, with the usage of different types of Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) systems. These advanced CDI systems have multiple maps that are directly dependent on the throttle position, while earlier there were just a couple for positions such as idle or open throttle. The multiple maps for every position of the throttle enable a different curve at each position, thus enabling optimum fuel utilisation, since the system only burns as much fuel as required. Another result of this optimum fuel burning is that there are lesser emissions being put out, Vasdev observed.
The industry’s move towards EFI or direct injection is only the type of electronics that is changing; for example, from CDI to an electronic control unit (ECU). The role of ECUs comes into play since engines that need to adhere to newer and more stringent emission standards now need to take more inputs from devices like oxygen sensors or pressure sensors before adjusting the fuel mixture. The contribution of electronics to the bill of materials was less than 1 % when the company began, but this figure now stands at about 15-16 %, he noted. Therefore, evolving electronic systems and allied components like sensors and actuators have helped in providing various benefits to OEMs as well as end-customers.
With regards to the introduction of BS VI emission norms in India in April 2020, Vasdev said this is a huge opportunity for Flash Electronics since it began manufacturing by making sensors in 2007. The company is reaping the maximum benefits out of this because it is one of the few companies to carry a rich 12-year experience in manufacturing sensors in India, he added. Flash Electronics manufactures all types of sensors that are required to measure any position – pressure, gear, temperature, etc. Therefore, BS VI means a lot to Flash Electronics because it not only enables it to enter the area of full throttle body assemblies, but will also help in the exponential sales of sensors when compared to the current volumes. In addition, BS VI also provides the company with an opportunity to grow its actuator market by nearly 5-10 times of its current business, the Flash Electronics India MD said.
CURRENT & EMERGING PRODUCT PORTFOLIO
Flash Electronics’ existing product range primarily covers the two and three-wheeler segments for ignition-related electrical products other than the wiring harness. These include magnetos, starters and wiper motors, regulators, actuators, thermostats and sensors. The company also offers piston and oil cooling jets for four-wheelers through a German company called Bing that it had acquired in 2015. However, the four-wheeler segment is a space Flash Electronics is not concentrating on in India. The acquisition of Bing was focussed towards introducing throttle bodies to its domestic customers, noted Vasdev.
Vasdev said Flash has been manufacturing components for throttle bodies for over a decade, and finally made the decision to manufacture the entire throttle bodies. He explained that with the introduction of new emission standards like BS VI, the entire fuelling transitions from carburettor to electronic fuel injection (EFI) requires throttle bodies. The company has already begun manufacturing throttle body assemblies for export markets – it has already received orders and expects to begin production for domestic customers by 2019-end, Vasdev added.
With its products focussed heavily on newer emission standards, Flash Electronics continues to rely strongly on vehicles with internal combustion engines. On the other hand, given the push seen from various quarters for the adoption of EVs, Vasdev admitted that vehicle electrification definitely poses a threat to the company in the future. However, he said the company has started working on its EV platform over three years ago. Flash Electronics currently has developed a full range of EV-focussed products, barring batteries, which have also been tested to enable its market launch. The EV products range includes traction motors, AC-DC converters, and related electronics.
Flash Electronics is looking beyond being labelled as one of the many suppliers of components to a Tier I or OEM. The company is actively working towards developing and manufacturing complete modules that can be assembled directly onto end-products in order to ensure that its customers get maximum benefits, noted Vasdev. This is also the reason why Flash Electronics is focussing heavily on innovation, where it has proven itself with the filing of numerous patents around ignition and power regulation. Flash Electronics believes in innovation, and wants to offer maximum benefits to its customers in terms of technology innovation, which can help them reduce costs while enhancing performance, Vasdev signed off.
TEXT: Naveen Arul