The automotive industry’s most-sought-after requisites over the recent past have been that of increased engine efficiency and performance, along with systems to cut emission levels. However, in addition to these demands, there is also the need for comfort and convenience, since a larger amount of time is being spent in vehicles, owing to increasing urbanisation and expanding traffic. The recently-held Symposium on International Automotive Technology (SIAT) 2019 in Pune, witnessed a number of companies addressing the primary needs of engine efficiency and reducing emissions, with a few others also showcasing convenience technologies.
One such innovation is claimed to be a world-first, patented personal cooling solution by Padmini VNA Mechatronics Pvt Ltd. Auto Tech Review caught up with Kabir Bhandari, Managing Director, Padmini VNA, to know more.
COOLED SEAT CONCEPT
Traditionally, the concept of cooled seats works on a fan or blower pushing conditioned air through perforations in the seat, which is not very effective, observed Bhandari. However, Padmini VNA has developed a completely new cooled seat concept that employs conductive cooling, which is claimed to be much more effective. Cooling is aided by a patented water recirculating system. The company is now working with key players in Europe and the US with regards to implementing this new cooled seating concept.
This new cooled seat concept ensures that the air-conditioning system in the vehicle does not need to work hard on cooling the entire cabin, since the individual cooling needs of occupants are met. This will also lead to lesser power consumption in the car with regards to the amount of power required to run the air-conditioning compressor and related components, explained Bhandari. The cooled seat concept enables custom temperature selection for each individual seat, ensuring that each occupant in the vehicle has the optimum temperature set for their individual needs. This concept is especially beneficial for electric vehicles, where every bit of power saved translates into an increase in the vehicle’s drive range.
A highly R&D-oriented company, with over 45 patents to its credit, Padmini VNA has over 140 employees working in the engineering division, which accounts for around 30 % of its total workforce. The company undertakes complete in-house engineering, right from design to final manufacturing of its products and components. The new cooled seat concept is also a solution that the company has completely developed in-house, thus showcasing its innovative capabilities.
Bhandari said virtual testing and simulation has a big role to play in product development. Padmini VNA mainly carries out magnetic simulation in both 2D and 3D, along with simulation for motor design, stress analysis, vibration, and heat and mass transfer. The company leverages industry-leading simulation software from various solution providers, especially since simulations carried out need to be shared with customers, who also use similar software, Bhandari noted.
In terms of autonomous driving technologies, Bhandari said every market is looking for different methodologies of adopting such technologies. Padmini VNA is currently not working on any technologies directly related to autonomous driving, but will possibly look at developing products in the area of sensing solutions. The autonomous driving space will be dominated by large players for reasons of competition, safety and legal risk, Bhandari said.
OTHER PRODUCT OFFERINGS
Padmini VNA has been originally manufacturing components that help enhance engine efficiency, and reduce emissions, in addition to its solar and thermal solutions that are not focussed towards the automotive industry. However, the thermal solutions business consists of products for personal cooling, a derivative that finds applications in the automotive industry. At present, about 95 % of the company’s total business comes from the automotive domain. Padmini VNA’s domestic business currently stands at around 75 % and it forecasts exports business to grow to 50 % by 2021-22, having bagged a large amount of business from customers in Europe and the US, Bhandari stated.
The company offers traditional components for non-hybrid vehicles including valves, throttle bodies, high-efficiency vacuum pumps, electric water pumps, and control valves and actuators for turbochargers. Downstream from the engine, Padmini VNA offers products like selective catalytic reduction (SCR) pumps, smart actuators for low pressure, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems, as well as actuators for acoustics control.
In the area of hybrid systems, the company produces key valves for high-pressure tanks such as fuel tank isolation valves, refill vent valves, anti-corking valves, and canister perch valves. In addition to these products, Padmini VNA also offers gearbox solutions, comprising hydraulic power packs for dual-clutch transmissions (DCT) and automated manual transmissions (AMT).
While Padmini VNA is continuing to offer solutions to help enable engines to be more efficient and cleaner, it is clearly developing efficient comfort systems as in the case of the cooled seat concept. Efficient and clean engine technologies are becoming increasingly important for the automotive industry, especially given the growing trends of engine downsizing and the enforcement of stricter emission norms by governments across the globe. However, it must be noted that vehicles are getting more sophisticated, particularly with regards to the convenience features they are required to offer to occupants. The company’s completely new personal cooling system, which also enables better engine efficiency, provides a view into its future course of action.
TEXT: Naveen Arul