India is the largest two-wheeler market with approximately 18 mn vehicles sold in 2016, and that roughly constitutes about 80 % of the automotive market in India. This growth can be attributed to their multi-utility ability, women consumers, rising income, affordability, better fuel efficiency, penetration in rural segments, serviceability, and the need for reduced travel time in a complex traffic pattern. Data shows a 9 %-plus growth of this segment year-on-year. From the one two-wheeler manufacturer in the 1940s, India today has more than a dozen manufacturers. Besides the mass market models the premium segments, too, have grown steadily.
A recent development in the Indian ecosystem is the advent of electric two-wheelers. The constitution of the National Board of Electric Mobility by the Government to catapult the growth of e-mobility has expanded the electric two-wheeler footprint. The incentives, components’ availability, talent and other infrastructure aspects are being sorted out in conjunction with stakeholders.
In the last few years, the two-wheeler industry has seen several technological innovations in the global as well as Indian markets. Some of them are discussed herein.
Electronic throttle and adaptive headlights, albeit they are difficult to integrate subtly, they still help maintain the DNA and timeless identity as known to their loyal riders. Adaptive motorcycle headlights calculate the lean angle (the angle at which the rider enters the curve) and uses it to determine, real-time, where to direct the lighting array. The accident rate is much lesser using these lights compared to the conventional headlights.
Electronic throttle control, also known as ride-by-wire technology, is basically controlling the amount of fuel that enters the engine — through an electronic mechanism rather than a cable-driven one. Instead of the rider having direct one-to-one control over the engine, ride-by-wire communicates with the ECU. The ECU calculates the throttle, or engine power, required by the rider, compares it to the current engine speed, the bike speed, and the gear that is selected before evaluating the release of the throttle.
Ride-by-wire allows OEMs to implement riding modes commonly found in passenger vehicles, such as the “Eco” and “Sport,” which allow for better driving performance and fuel economy. In addition, liquid-cooled engines help with the performance and comfort. More and more of these engines are replacing traditional air-cooled engines.
Commonly deployed lately, engine start/stop systems are implemented to stop the engine automatically, and start the engine by only opening the throttle. The purpose is to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions by means of an automatic engine stop, while the vehicle is stopped in traffic. Again, this is a transverse technology deployment adapted for two-wheelers from other mobility platforms.
Some OEMs have developed electronically controlled steering dampers that spontaneously control damping force based on the vehicle speed and acceleration, ensuring vehicle stability by reducing road generated perturbations at high speeds. This feature enhances ride comfort and rider confidence.
Augmented Reality (AR), and voice recognition enables riders to dial others, use their GPS and listen to music, all without finger contact through their helmets. There are AR technology prototypes in the marketplace receiving positive customer feedback.
A very recent OEM development, Riding Assist System (RAS), helps balance a bike. The system uses small steering inputs besides adjusting the fork angle to keep the two-wheeler seamlessly balanced without using heavy gyroscopes or other devices. RAS empowers autonomous driving in two-wheelers.
The two-wheeler journey has transformed the foundation of mobility along with the socio-economics of the Indian ecosystem. This will continue to expand with the coalition of stakeholders with, of course, the riders being in the front seat.