Leading engineering and technology company Robert Bosch GmbH has always been at the forefront of technological innovations
The transformation of the automotive industry into encompassing more facets of the mobility sector has opened up new opportunities for the German multinational. During his visit to India around the Auto Expo 2020 in February, Auto Tech Review spoke to Dr Markus Heyn, Member of the Board of Management, Robert Bosch GmbH, on a multitude of subjects. Excerpts:
Born in Aachen on December 9, 1964, Dr Markus Heyn has been a member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH since April 2015. He bears responsibility for mobility solutions sales and marketing worldwide, as well as for the Automotive Aftermarket and Connected Mobility Solutions divisions. In addition, he is also responsible for the subsidiaries ETAS GmbH and Bosch Engineering GmbH, which includes the cross-divisional Commercial Vehicle & Off-Road organisation. He also bears regional responsibility for North and South America.
Dr Heyn started his career at Robert Bosch GmbH as a consultant in the corporate office for coordinating productivity and process optimisation in 1999. In 2007, he was promoted as the head of the Passenger Car business unit at Diesel Systems, and five years later in 2012, he became the President of Diesel Systems at Robert Bosch GmbH. Heyn is married and has four children. He studied at RWTH Aachen University, and also completed a doctorate there in mechanical engineering.
ATR _ What’s your reading of the current market situation in India? Has the slowdown come across as a surprise to Bosch, or has it forced you to restrategise some of your business decisions for this market?
Dr Markus Heyn _ I think, overall, we consider the situation in India as a consequence of not having enough credit, which basically led to the fact that the necessary means to buy vehicles in the market has been constrained. We are monitoring the overall trends in the market, and they are all valid. In terms of demand for mobility and in terms of new technologies coming in, it is all intact and in line with our forecasts, which we are doing since a long time. The market is a bit constrained, but demand in the market will come back both for vehicles as well as other mobility solutions that will be demanded in India.
How do you view this transition from the automotive industry to a mobility industry? What sort of transformations do you see coming in, and what are the kinds of solutions that Bosch is looking at bringing in?
First, there is a fundamental change in the automotive value chain. In the automotive industry, we are used to looking at a rather linear value chain, let’s say from sub-suppliers to suppliers to OEMs and then to the end customers, whoever the end customers might be. In the transition phase, we need to be clear that this value chain is more or less becoming a sort of a value network, where new players are coming, including the mobility service providers and mobile network operators.
The number of players within this mobility value network are simply growing. This also leads to new opportunities for us. If you think about it, the number of customers for us is also growing. I think this is a natural consequence of the change taking place. With the growing number of customers, there are increasing opportunities for us to find who all we can deliver to, which technologies, and also the specific pain points.
Just to give you an example, the pain points of operating a fleet certainly are a little bit different to the pain points for an OEM. So, there are various requirements to which we have to respond with providing the right technology solutions.
Talking of customers, there are your traditional automobile customers and then there are potentially new customers like city corporations or cities. India too has an ambitious smart cities project. Are you engaging with such cities?
Yes, we do because we believe that mobility and the framing for mobility is something that is happening locally. Every city has the ambition to ensure that mobility for the respective inhabitants is working well and consider to be okay, and not just an everyday hassle. Everybody is trying to get the traffic more fluid and decrease congestion. We work with the cities from various angles – can we monitor the traffic situations that are really critical? Can we help in terms of improving air quality, including measuring hotspots in cities? What are the technologies that will help on this front?
So, the answer is yes. We are doing this and I think it’s good because it also helps us understand better, where we can help. Parking, for instance, is one of the biggest headaches for all people and all cities, and we are working on solutions to improve parking situations with smart approaches. We already have established cases, which have been done differently compared to today. We’re also working on specific solutions for India, for example. That might serve as examples in which direction we orientate ourselves in addition to things we have done so far. Clearly, India and India-like markets have different mobility problems compared to what it is in more mature markets.
From a technology development perspective, what new opportunities does the Indian market offer Bosch? What are some of the areas, where India could become a hub of sorts for the group globally?
We already have a situation in India today, where we have many very qualified people specifically for software-related solutions in India. We already have Indian colleagues setting-up, on an international basis, new software locations for Bosch. It is something that we already benefit from the competence and the workforce we have here. When I talk about mobility solutions – the parking problem might be a good example – then certainly this will be an India-specific solution that we are going to do with the people here. I would foresee that to some extent this will also make its way outside India, but we start from here because the capability of really doing frugal innovations is a core thing and is very strong in India. We would like to build on this and then later maybe also take it elsewhere.
Within the Agile Project House to develop India-specific electric mobility solutions, do you see new technologies developed here being taken to other mature markets?
On electrification, I do believe that it may be wise to make a focused approach on segments, where there are high chances to do sensible transformation to other powertrains, meaning electric powertrains that still are affordable. This goes for two- and three-wheeler segments, as well as four-wheelers. We have to keep in mind that affordability plays a major role, and that’s why I believe the two- and three-wheeler solutions we’re developing here will also be very relevant for exports. That is a fair statement to make today because given the size of the Indian two- and three-wheeler market, these solutions will also be adopted in other places. I’m very sure about it.
Within electrification, batteries continue to be one of the biggest pain points for the sector. Please talk about Bosch’s battery in the cloud concept and tell us how can that percolate down to more mass market solutions.
The idea for the Battery in the Cloud solution is simply derived from the fact that batteries are one of the most, if not the most, expensive part in electric vehicles. Any idea that extends the lifetime of the battery is very much welcomed by anybody, who is operating such vehicles. Since we have a decent knowledge about the insights of batteries, and knowing what temperature can do to the chemical situation of a battery, we came up with profiles within which you want to operate the charging of batteries to have more life.
The general idea was to see if we can build a digital twin for a battery, with which we can control the charging operations in a decent manner to give 10 % or 20 % more lifetime to the battery with basically a digital solution, which can be applied by almost anybody. This is the idea. What is it that you have to really monitor, and what is it that you really have to consider is part of our domain knowledge, which is an integral part of the solution.
The user doesn’t have to care about this because this has all been integrated into the solution. These sort of solutions, such as having a digital twin, in the vehicle is something we consider being a general trend going forward. To make it simple, all systems in a vehicle down the road will have their digital twins, where you monitor the behaviour of a lifetime, understand the exposure to real use cases or fuel quality or temperature. This is something we can come up with as a technology, which I think it will be of great help for operating vehicles.
Are we talking of over-the-air (OTA) updates for vehicle charging?
Of course it is possible, and I think it’s very relevant use case. As opposed to in the past, vehicles today can learn over the course of time. Vehicles’ capability of flashing OTA updates or upgrades is something that will be broadly in use in the future. At least that’s our view. To do it, while vehicles are charging, maybe is a good point because the vehicle standing still has no risk of anything negative happening.
One can utilise the time, while the vehicle is charging, for any updates that are either desired by the customer – with regards to infotainment or powertrain – or is mandated by the OEM, because it figured while monitoring the vehicle that there’s something that could be improved by this specific functional update. It works both ways and I think it’s something that will be the new normal in the automotive industry worldwide.
Road safety continues to be a huge concern in the Indian market. What sort of technological interventions can we expect in the future to help bring down fatalities on our roads?
We are glad that from a regulations perspective ABS and ESP is now mandated. I think that’s a major step forward. If I look into the future, I believe all sorts of further help like automated emergency braking and forward collision warning should also be made mandatory, because these will positively impact the road fatalities scenario in India. You only have to look at the statistics in the various countries, where these have been mandated and where these have been introduced so far. The numbers speak for themselves. Going forward, I wish these technologies are going to be mandated on a worldwide basis, because they simply make all of our lives a lot safer.
What’s your assessment of the different alternate fuel options, both from an Indian and global market perspective?
From a company perspective, we believe there will be a multitude of options simply because we need it; driven from the ambition of getting CO2 neutral. Options will range from battery electric vehicles to fuel cell vehicles to more synthetic fuels being used. CNG is certainly one of those options as CO2-wise, it has its advantages over petrol. Depending on specific situations, each country, I believe will move forward in terms of CO2 reduction.
To put it simply, we are preparing to put a broad band of options. And since we are working on all of them, we will be part of all these solutions because we don’t believe that there will be just a single solution.
Is that what will eventually lead to carbon neutrality by 2050?
I believe we will need fuel cells, but that will only be one part of it. There will be many other parts to the solution.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay