VE Commercial Vehicles completed its ten years of existence in 2018 and over the years leveraged strengths of both Volvo and Eicher to roll out quality vehicles for the trucking industry. While Eicher got an access to global technological advancements through Volvo, the Swedish CV maker capitalised on Eicher's frugal engineering strengths and opted for India as a hub for outsourcing its medium duty engines for its international commitments. Taking its commitment to a new level, VECV joined hands with WABCO to introduce Automated Manual Transmission on its truck range and launched the technology on its 16 tonne GVW truck Pro 3016. Auto Tech Review got an opportunity to drive the new feature-loaded vehicle at VECV's Pithampur facility and understand what all combines to make it stand apart in the league.
VECV's signature Pro series design is carried forward with the Pro 3016 with the grille and huge clear lamps that appear in the body coloured bumpers and offer decent visibility during night operations. Built on a ladder type design with a modular frame, the Pro 3016 AMT gets domex chassis developed with high tensile strength. From the front, the Pro 3016 AMT looks sturdily built with aerodynamically designed cabin to perform well in varied applications. The 16 tonne GVW truck is available in varied specifications in wheelbase (4490/5490/6690 mm) and cargo body lengths (20/24/31.5 feet), but with standard cargo body width of 7.6 feet. The front axle on Pro 3016 AMT consists of forged reverse Elliot, while the rear axle is a 395DH heavy duty full floating. The truck is equipped with parabolic leaf spring with ARB & shock absorber in the front and semi elliptical leaf spring at the rear for a smoother ride on bumpy surfaces.
The Pro 3016 AMT carries forward the same interiors from its predecessor Pro 3016. The driver seat is six way adjustable and the power steering can be adjusted (tilt & telescopic) to ensure the driver fatigue is minimised and he is able to have a commanding position during the transit. The dashboard is neat and all the necessary operations are within a good reach of the driver to concentrate on the road. The instrument panel gets Intelligent Driver Information system for operational data, on board diagnostics and fuel consumption. The major change comes in with the transmission, where WABCO's Optidrive system has been introduced that aims at minimising any performance gap between highly skilled and less experienced drivers. The system transforms a manual transmission into a highly efficient, integrated solution for commercial vehicles, which automatically shifts gears and operates clutch actuation at optimal speed.
The AMT lever has two buttons on either side - for neutral and function operations. It also has three buttons clearly visible for the driver to choose the drive mode as per the application - C mode, E/P mode and M/A mode largely meant for Crawler, Eco & Power mode and Manual & Automatic modes respectively. With the introduction of AMT, the clutch pedal is removed from the cabin and also any possibility of constantly engaging with the pedal, the driver can relax its left foot on a dead pedal, a feature not frequently seen in Indian trucks. The large ORVMs allow a crisp view of everything happening in the vicinity of the truck and will boost safer manouverability in traffic conditions.
The new Pro 3016 AMT is powered by an E494 3.8 litre 4 valve 4 Cylinder CRS SCR Technology BSIV Engine that puts out 165 hp @ 2,600 rpm and 520 Nm of torque at 1400-1600 rpm. The engine is mated to a six speed ET40S6 AMT for a fatigue-free ride for the truck drivers. Eicher joined hands with WABCO’s for its OptiDrive modular automated manual transmission for trucks and buses that aims at increasing fuel economy while reducing emissions. The technology frees drivers from frequent gear-shifting and operates clutch actuation at optimal speed, which allows the drivers to focus further attention on road and traffic conditions, resulting in increased driver comfort while improving vehicle control and road safety. This minimises any possibility of unwanted wear and tear of the gear box and mated parts, while avoiding unwanted jerks, thereby leading to fuel economy optimisation for the fleet operator. The Pro 3016 AMT is also equipped with hill start assist to avoid any kind of roll back even with full loads.
Engage the AMT lever into function to put the vehicle in drive mode and press the accelerator, the Pro 3016 AMT moves ahead without a hiccup. The AMT manages all the gear selections well without any jerk being experienced during the drive, as per speed of the vehicle. The difference between the Eco and Power mode can be clearly experienced when the toggle between the drive mode is undertaken and leaves the option to choose between quick turnaround time or fuel economy with the operator itself. The drivers that prefer more fun to drive manual gearbox, there is still no clutch pedal for engaging or disengaging manually. The selector assembly is coupled to two pneumatic lines that manages the selector plates for required position and feeds in all necessary information for the drive. The Pro 3016 AMT is also equipped with full air brake with auto shock absorber at all wheels and with air processing distribution assembly for shedding speed well on full loads as well.
Designed to serve the growing aspirations and stringent timelines in both the inter and intra-city segment, with Pro 3016 AMT VECV is targeting to cater to applications such as ecommerce, consumer goods, parcel & courier, pharmaceuticals, industrial goods, agriculture produce, poultry and dairy products. The AMT technology will be available in the complete range of LMD and HD buses (from 9T to 16T) and medium duty haulage truck application in the first phase and the same will be subsequently extended to other applications, the company noted.
Introduction of technologies like AMT on trucks can surely bring in a breath of fresh air for the Indian market, which is fast becoming a more value-sensitive market than being the cost sensitive one as it can offer better total cost of ownership. Will the operator be willing to accept the advanced technologies for both skilled and unskilled drivers, will be something to watch out for. Only time will tell.