When the industry undergoes a downturn, we have seen how mature suppliers make best use of the phase by investing in newer technologies and products. Bosch, the largest supplier in the automotive world, has always been in the forefront of technology innovation. In India, one area that hasn't had the right amount of focus till the recent past, be it from manufacturers or the customers, is that of safety. We spoke to RK Shenoy, Senior VP, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions to understand the kind of work being done by his team for two-wheeler safety, as well as other important areas.
NEW & FUTURE PRODUCTS
One of the newest products to be launched by the company is the second-generation ECU for motorcycles, which is aimed at improving fuel-efficiency. Electronic control along with the new fuel injection system can monitor the system better and enhance the engine timing to improve overall efficiency, Shenoy said.
He told us that the main focus for them is to bring down the cost of this unit, making it accessible to more buyers. Presently, the KTM motorcycles in India are using this ECU and injectors from Bosch. While efficiency is one side of the equation, the new unit also aids safety in two-wheelers significantly, he added.
A two-wheeler being prone to falling over is exposed to the chances of fuel leakage, leading to potentially dangerous implications. A tilt-sensor in such a situation can determine if the vehicle has fallen and cut-off the fuel accordingly. This can be made possible by the presence of the ECU in discussion, as electronics open up a wide array of function integration possibilities. Even functions such as the side-stand indicator can be paired to the ECU, improving safety further.
Talking of addressing the needs of the commuter segment, Shenoy said that the company is still working on concepts for bikes below 150 cc. He added that there is no immediate interest or ongoing project with any two-wheeler manufacturer, as the fuel-efficiency difference between carburettor and fuel-injection isn't too high, making it hard to add cost in such a price-sensitive segment. However, as emission norms get stringent, fuel injection will gain importance due to its advantage in that area. He added that it might take another four to five years before we start seeing wide acceptance of fuel injection instead of carburettors.
Elaborating further on the company's safety developments, he told us about the world's smallest ABS system developed by Bosch for motorcycles. The system in discussion can work with a front disc and rear drum set-up, limiting its use on front-disc equipped vehicles only. With the front disc brake gaining popularity in the Indian market, he believes there's good potential for the technology in the long-term.
The cost challenge with this system is that in order to balance between the different braking abilities and nature of the disc and the drum, it needs certain amount of hydraulics. In the present scenario, it's not possible to make this system based on cabled operation solely, he added. In the next five years or so, Shenoy expects about 10 % of the bikes to be equipped with ABS, reflecting the kind of large volumes that can be achieved.
SUB-SYSTEM LEVEL BENEFITS
As electronic content in two-wheelers goes up, there will be numerous features beyond safety and efficiency, which can be integrated into the vehicle to offer a better riding experience. One such area is connectivity, which can benefit significantly from the usage of smartphones. In four-wheelers, machine-to-machine connectivity can be used for prognosis instead of diagnosis. As technology evolves, two-wheelers too stand to benefit from this, he added. He added that something as simple as an E-clutch can offer the convenience of not operating the clutch in traffic and saving additional fuel as well. Various engine maps to suit rider's preferences are also a present technical reality.
The two-wheeler landscape of India could witness a huge change in the coming years, and to start with, engines should be upgraded to support electronics, especially given the expertise prevalent on frugal engineering in India, Shenoy concluded.
Text: Arpit Mahendra