Future mobility will witness an increasing adoption of alternate fuels, with electric mobility (e-mobility) expected to lead this move. The situation in India isn’t too different, with domestic companies focussing on possibilities around e-mobility, and beginning to develop products & solutions that will aid growth of the segment.
Lucas TVS has been producing starters, dynamos & distributor products, and system solutions in automotive electricals besides specialised motors for air compressors, stop-start systems, engine cooling modules, ignition products and diesel fuel injection systems. Auto Tech Review met up with Babu KSV, Business Head – E-Mobility, Exports, Cooling Solutions, Lucas TVS Ltd, to know more about its offerings for the auto industry.
Acknowledging that the areas of electric mobility and automotive motors are greenfield in nature for the company, Babu said Lucas TVS has conducted an in-depth market assessment and concluded that two-wheelers and three-wheelers will witness the fastest electrification adoption in the country. Of course, these are also segments where the total cost of ownership (TCO) is a major concern, for which the company sees an opportunity in providing solutions, Babu added. Buoyed by the opportunities, Lucas TVS is looking to roll out a portfolio of products and solutions for these segments.
The company has begun production of electric motors and controllers for these two segments, starting with e-rickshaws. Although e-rickshaws appear like a ubiquitous and underdeveloped product, it is a good solution from the point of view of last-mile connectivity and has the lowest cost of ownership. E-rickshaws also appear to be apt for rural and semi-urban areas, apart from urban point-to-point transport inside cities, Babu observed.
The company wants to be a motor controller manufacturer, along with the production of DC converters and allied components. This strategy is aimed at providing solutions to all vehicle manufacturers, with a focus on being a unified supplier to all OEMs. The company is convinced that when there is scale, the cost can be controlled. Babu said if the basic contents of the motor can be commonised, the scale can be achieved, which can thereby help keep a tight rein on costs.
The electric motors for e-rickshaws are production-ready at the company’s Pondicherry plant. The small volume of e-motors production at the plant has attracted a high level of interest among e-rickshaw makers. The company has also carried out internal trials and performance validation of e-autos, but no vehicle trials have been done yet. Babu confirmed the company will undertake vehicle trials towards the end of April, following some development work, while a small volume of e-motors production is expected to start by 2019-end.
OTHER FOCUS AREAS
Lucas TVS has a division that takes care of radiator cooling, for which it manufactures fan motor shrouds. The company has the complete capabilities to design, develop and manufacture such cooling fans. Babu said the initial focus of these cooling fans was on the four-wheeler segment, but the growth in the number of two-wheelers with high-powered liquid-cooled engines has prompted the company to focus on this segment. In the case of liquid-cooled two-wheeler engines, the company intends to offer complete solutions that include radiator, fan, pump and the cooling circuit. Further, Babu said the same cooling solutions can also be extended to battery and battery management systems (BMS). In the long-term, the company plans to develop a cooling solutions business for all electric vehicle sub-systems like powertrain and energy management system.
EV ADOPTION, CONCLUSION
Awareness and affordability will be key for the growth in adoption of electric vehicles in the market, Babu said. There is a need to bring about more awareness in the academia, where students are taught about pollution reduction and alternate fuels, he stated. While EVs may not be the only solution, the thought process of adopting alternate energy sources needs to come at the academic level, Babu pointed out. To make EVs affordable, there is a need for additional government support for the initial growth, following which the market will make the technology self-sustained.
From a manufacturing perspective, Babu said as the scale of production increases, costs would automatically fall. He further said strong hybrids could be an intermediate step towards the adoption of pure electric vehicles. Lucas TVS is focussed on powertrain products for which it is developing electronics, and does not have any immediate plans in the area of BMS. Therefore, it is clear that Lucas TVS is focussing strongly on developing indigenous solutions around the area of e-mobility, and is also looking at providing customers with integrated system solutions for relevant segments.
TEXT: Naveen Arul