Diversification has long been the way of expanding business and distributing risks and the automotive industry is no different. Gurgaon-based JBM Auto too had taken up a similar path by showcasing their CITYLIFE low-floor city bus at Auto Expo 2014. The bus is claimed to be unique in a multiple ways. We caught up with Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group, to understand what makes the bus different and what prospects drove the company to spend ' 500 cr on the bus project.
The bus has been positioned uniquely to offer technology, comfort and safety to the end-consumer at an affordable price, said Arya. He told us that the popular approach to buses in India is body-on-chassis. JBM, however, decided to use the monocoque construction in favour of durability. Monocoque structures being singular fares better in the long-term in comparison to the body-on-chassis, which has multiple pressure points.
Durability is an extremely important concern for city buses since they're generally used beyond the prescribed limit by their makers, he said. The company has also used waxing inside the tubes within the structure, which prevents corrosion inside the bus body, which usually isn't known till a failure takes place.
Another interesting feature, Arya told us was the inclusion of disc brakes on all four wheels, leading to improved safety beyond that of improved braking efficiency. City buses are generally overloaded making braking tougher. The drum brakes at the rear tend to heat up beyond their tolerance level at times, sparking off a fire. Disc brakes all round nullifies this risk, added Arya.
Another crucial issue with buses is the extreme climate in areas such as Delhi, which can heat up the interior of a full-metal bus to an uncomfortable extent for passengers. In order to address this issue, JBM has replaced metal with resin. Using resin material lowers the heating up of the cabin and helps maintain/ bring up ambient temperature quicker than metal. This would also mean lesser load on the air conditioner and hence improved fuel-efficiency.
Another technology that JBM has brought from the passenger cars into their bus is the independent front suspension (IFS). Using this set-up translates into higher comfort for the bus occupants as the bus goes over potholes on roads. The IFS absorbs a larger part of the jerk rather than transferring it to the cabin.
Talking of the cabin, Arya told us that the buses in the market today aren't low-floor completely since at the rear, the height of the floor is more, leading to lesser headroom for the occupants. CITYLIFE, on the other hand, is 100 % low-floor and offers more headroom along with more occupant capacity due to the optimised interior design. This design has been made possible due to the usage of inverted portal axle, making JBM's bus the first in India to have a 100 % low floor.
In addition, the seats in this bus are mounted on the side walls and not on the floor. This layout frees up space on the floor, giving passengers more luggage room or leg-room. The space between the seats too is more than conventional buses and yet the seating capacity is higher, owing to a well-optimised design, Arya added.
During our conversation Arya talked to us about many more innovations and unique features, which set the bus apart. In one of our upcoming issues, we'll bring to you a detailed technology feature on the JBM CITYLIFE and the range of technologies and innovations it brings to the market.
Talking of overall business, Arya said the JBM Group is open to both organic and inorganic growth, provided there is a fit in all aspects of business and operations. The company's philosophy is to work as a key supplier to customers rather than supplying less significant products. Hence, it becomes imperative to look at only those companies for expansion, which fits with the core values and objectives of JBM. Business has been favourable for the company in the past five years with a CAGR of about 20 %. Going forward, he expects the company to continue with similar levels of growth. Arya also told us that the aim for JBM is to grow faster than the market rate, which will enable it to become an industry leader in the segments it operate in or will operate in the future.
Text: Arpit Mahendra