Cummins, a powertrain company that provides power solutions to on- and off-highway commercial and industrial companies, is looking at growing its portfolio of offerings that include solutions across energy domains. The future, believes the global power leader, is in energy diversity, connectivity and automation. And it is putting the right pieces together to ensure the future challenges are addressed with ‘fit to market’ solutions.
The regulatory scenario in markets around the world continues to get stringent, even as customers demand improved performance and efficiency in vehicles and their powertrains. Cummins, the Columbus, Indiana-based $ 17.5 bn (2016 revenues) powertrain behemoth, is aware of such challenges and believes that future trends, which will drive continued technology advancement and growth for the company, are starting to shift.
It believes emission regulations are still going to be “very” important in the foreseeable future, with further cuts demanded in CO2, NOx and PM emissions, but at the same time, it is important for companies such as Cummins to focus on new products to continue deliver customer value. Company executives, in a recent visit to the Indian headquarters in Pune, spoke about how serving its customers well today in its core business has earned Cummins the right to provide them with new technology solutions in the future.
At the core of this thought is the question about the future of the powertrain, especially when every developed and developing market in the world seems to be convinced that electrification is the way forward. For a power solutions company, Cummins is looking at the entire range of opportunities, going up to fuel cells in the future. For now though, it is still very confident that internal combustion engines are here for a long time to come. Not just from an emissions perspective, but also from an efficiency perspective, IC engines would continue to see huge improvements.
We asked Srikanth Padmanabhan, Vice President – Cummins Inc. and President of the Engine Business on what he thought would drive the future of the powertrain. We’ll continue to see more connectivity with electronic engines with the ability to diagnose and hopefully improve uptime significantly versus where the past was, he said. In addition, some developing markets would see power shift upward, depending quite a bit upon how infrastructure develops.
It is in this regard that he spoke of energy diversity – the company is capable and is ready to provide a range of power technologies to its customers, ranging from diesel and natural gas-run IC engines to fully electric and hybrid powertrains. It also aims to become the leading provider of electrified power-systems in the future. Padmanabhan talked about a roadmap that would see Cummins develop and introduce to the market IC engines with mild hybrid, IC engine range extender electric powertrain, battery electric powertrain and a fuel cell range extender electric powertrain.
“Electrification is coming to urban transportation. Anything that can go electric will go electric. The future would depend on how either business models will change or product features will change because of the developments in the areas of energy diversity, connectivity and automation,” he said.
These disruptive trends – together with digitalisation – are going to transform the products and services that Cummins offers, and also define what the organisation would look like in the years ahead. To ensure Cummins has the right products and solutions to address these trends is a “key part” of her role as the CTO, said Jennifer Rumsey, VP and CTO, Cummins Inc.
“If you look across markets for commercial vehicles, on- and off-highway, stationary power, there is a large presence of diesel as the energy solution. And the investment in technology and infrastructure to be able to migrate all of that away from diesel is significant. For us, energy diversity is about recognising that there are other energy sources that are starting to be attractive in some of the markets, and we have to respond. We have done some of that with natural gas, but now with electrification, and potentially with some other energy sources such as solar and wind energy, we are looking at a diverse range of solutions that will cater to the next few decades,” said Rumsey.
The executives committed that Cummins will have a full production unit – a Cummins electrified powertrain system in a customer vehicle and on the road by 2019, and a range extended electric vehicle in 2020.
With regards to the next-generation of engines, Cummins is focussing on innovations that can make the engine more efficient, more powerful, smaller, lighter, and reduce maintenance. Rumsey explained that Cummins is also working to ensure that the next-generation engine will interface with future technologies very effectively.
THE INDIAN PERSPECTIVE
There has been a dramatic shift in the regulatory landscape of India in recent times, and Cummins believe the rapid reduction of NOx in particular, will have a huge positive impact on the environment in India. To make changes at a rapid pace is certainly a challenge, Rumsey admitted, but assured that Cummins is not looking at taking solutions out of the European and North American markets and introducing them here. “We will leverage that experience base to find solutions for this market, and ensure we contribute to the most rapid, positive environmental impact in India,” she said.
The role of the Cummins Technical Centre in India (CTCI), based in Kothrud, Pune, thus becomes very important. The team at tech centre is already engaged in some of the company’s global work on advanced emission technologies, and that provides a good foundation for the work that now needs to be done for the local market. The company, in fact, is now building its biggest technology centre in Pune at a cost of ` 1,500 cr for developing state-of-the-art electric and hybrid vehicle solutions, in addition to working on emission reduction technologies. Once completed, the tech centre will employ 2,500 engineers. Cummins currently employs 1,500 engineers in in tech centre in India.
Padmanabhan envisions the CTCI being able to do certain platforms independently. For example, if the largest production of the B series engines comes from India, there is no reason why Pune can’t be the centre of excellence. “We’re doing that for aftertreatment solutions, for example. We’re starting to think whether the SCR system for a medium duty application – one that Cummins is working on – can be designed all in India. We’re also starting to do some off-highway applications here in India. I clearly see this place long-term not just doing developments for India, but also for the world,” he said. Meanwhile, the Pune tech centre will continue the core controls work it does in Pune – in the software and electronics domains as well as engineering and manufacturing exports.
FOCUS ON COMPONENTS
Cummins Inc. is organised into four distinct, but complementary business segments, including engines, power systems, distribution and components. In the components segment, focus is on four key technologies – filtration, turbo technologies, emission solutions and electronics and fuel systems. Among these, aftertreatment is an area that Cummins is investing a lot of time on.
“We have gone from BS IV to BS VI, and in other parts of the world, I don’t know when Euro 7 is likely to come in, but that’d happen. The phase 1 GHG regulations came in in 2017and phase 2 is happening in 2021. The way that you think of emissions products was initially for compliance purposes, but now we are starting to think about for efficiency purposes,” said Padmanabhan. Further, the company is focussed deeply in development work on systems integration, turbochargers and waste heat recovery.
“The mastery of the four component systems, plus electronics, and the interaction of those really helped us meet Euro 6 and EPA 10 standards better than anyone else. After that, it’s the integration beyond the engine that’s allowing us to bring efficiencies that will meet GHG and fuel efficiency standards as we go on. As we come to BS VI for India, how do we integrate the things we’ve learnt in each of these five areas and beyond the engine, so that our BS VI solutions are much better than our Euro 6 solutions, and do so at a cost that is commensurate with the expectations of the Indian industry. That’s what we are working on,” concluded Padmanabhan.
The CV market globally hasn’t been too positive overall in the last few years. Despite challenges, Cummins has had a decent year this year, considering the North American market picked up a little bit, and the China market has done well. It has also done good business in the construction and on-highway markets. The Indian market in general has been good, despite the blip we’ve seen because of the market moving from BS III to BS IV. In terms of overall revenues, the company publicly stated that from last year to this year, it would grow between 10-12 %.
Overall, business prospects in India look good for Cummins, and the need for innovative technology solutions in the market gives the company a playfield of opportunities in the coming years.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah