As a key manufacturer of advanced braking systems, automated manual transmission (AMT) kits and air braking technology, WABCO India plans to leverage the efficiency of Indian engineering for its global operations and also to develop new solutions for the domestic market. The recent success of AMTs in entry-level vehicles has also buoyed the company to plan fresh investments towards the same. Auto Tech Review met Jacques Esculier, Chairman & CEO, WABCO, and P Kaniappan, Vice President, WABCO INDIA, to discuss the market potential for air brakes and AMTs in India.
As a Tier I supplier to major CV manufacturers in India, WABCO has 100 % localisation for its ABS technology, and already has a local assembly line in operation for its AMTs. The company intends to localise its operations in two phases. The first phase, scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, will see all mechanical systems being localised, and in the second phase next year, most of the electronics would also be locally produced.
WABCO recently partnered with Tata Motors for its new 1040 hp Prima race truck, with its single-piston air disc brakes (ADBs) offering the advantages of reduced stopping distance combined with balanced braking. WABCO’s ADBs are engineered in order to enable high performance and long product life, said Esculier. These ADB units are claimed to significantly diminish downtime due to reduced wear and tear compared to conventional drum brakes while ensuring optimum brake adjustment.
Esculier mentioned that the adoption of ADBs in high-capacity trucks is testimony to the fact that this technology is a desirable feature, as it is a lot more efficient in absorbing energy and provides increased braking efficiency over conventional drum braking systems. This system is also lighter than standard mechanisms, as almost 25 % weight per wheel is saved over a drum brake. WABCO has been working in close association with its customers to develop these brakes as per specific payload requirements.
Air disc brakes are powered by compressed air, which pushes the brake pads against a disc rotor. As pressure is applied to the disc, it absorbs energy while extracting braking power. This technology demands substantial technological capability to be implemented, particularly the energy absorption bit. It also uses 40 % less parts compared to a drum setup, thus rendering it more reliable, durable and less cost effective.
WABCO was instrumental in launching a breakthrough concept, which uses only one piston to push the brake pads against the rotor. Most other companies use twin-piston units for this task. The initial concern was that with a single piston, the pressure on the disc plate would not be equal, and one pad gets used more than the other. To overcome this, WABCO designed an intelligent technique, whereby the braking force gets evenly distributed, without loss of traction or impact.
In most European markets, all trucks and buses are usually equipped with air disc brakes, due to regulations pertaining to the need to maintain a certain braking distance and an important way to meet these regulations is through the adoption of ADBs. The safety aspects and the cost advantages have also made this technology acceptable globally.
Emerging markets of South America, Russia, China and India are gearing up to adopt this technology, and the Tata Prima truck range is a welcome advent for WABCO, said Kaniappan, as the India operations have been steadily educating OEMs of the inherent advantages offered by ADBs. WABCO expects that in a few years, most countries would shift to this technology across multiple product segments.
Having a strong aftermarket network and fleet connectivity, the company has been supplying this technology to the aftermarket, whereby fleet owners get to enjoy the advantages and after being convinced, are recommending it to others.
AMT FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
A few years ago, the Indian CV market did not have many engines with a high degree of electronics content, which is a prerequisite for AMTs. Hence, the penetration of AMTs in this segment was low. Now with BS-IV emission norms being applicable in India and with engines getting more advanced, this becomes the starting point for CVs to explore the possibility of using AMTs. The technology is expected to penetrate progressively, starting with city bus applications and gradually make its way to trucks.
Driving comfort and higher fuel efficiency would play a key role in influencing buying behaviour, said Kaniappan. In the trucking segment, intra-city vehicles, where the gearshift requirements are frequent, are expected to be the first ones to adopt AMT technology. In Europe, the penetration is already around 80 % and with higher customer awareness, South Asian markets might not be too far away from using AMTs more extensively. Five years from now, WABCO plans to have at least 30 % of the Indian commercial vehicles market move to AMT.
Going forward, the company expects its exports from the Chennai plant to grow, and also aims to cater to an increased number of OEMs in the domestic market. In fact, WABCO is already in talks with several OEMs to market its braking and gearshift technologies, and with a competitive pricing strategy and long-term commitment to the Indian market, aims to increase its businesses in a big way over the coming years.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley