With almost a year and half to go before Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) emission norms kick in, auto makers are struggling to test, validate new systems across product lines, but components firms see a chance to move up the value chain.
It’s akin to expecting someone to climb Mount Everest in a month, Rajan Wadhera says of having to leapfrog to the much stricter Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) emission norms from BS IV in less than three years. The task at hand for Wadhera, president, automotive sector at Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, involves upgrading and overhauling the entire manufacturing ecosystem to ensure it can handle several thousand tests, calibration and validation and also fits in well with the technology choices, while keeping a tight leash on costs.
That will make it one of the most mammoth research and development projects undertaken by the automotive industry in India, says Timothy Leverton, chief technology officer at Tata Motors Ltd. The transition will involve overhauling the working dynamics of the automakers and will alter the cost structure forever, Leverton says.
So what differentiates the BS VI standard from BS IV? It’s the introduction of advanced technologies to ensure pollutants emitted by the vehicles are reduced and comply with the specified limits. It will also mean a number of changes to be made in the engine systems.
The implementation of the advanced emission norms might still be yearaway, but Wadhera and Leverton are already racing against time to execute the most complex project of their careers. The task is more onerous for companies that have products spanning several categories, ranging from cars and SUVs to two-wheelers and trucks. Such a portfolio means that the companies would have to invest more resources and time to build the requisite capabilities for successfully executing the programme.
Tata Motors, for instance, uses 34 different engines and has 150 vehicle programmes that will be fitted with those engines. “We have such a huge range to work on—from Magic Iris to 49-tonne trucks,” says Leverton. “Europe took nine years to go to the effective equivalent of BS VI, we have to do it in three. It’s a huge programme.”
Mahindra’s Wadhera echoes similar sentiments. “In my last 50 years, I have not seen this kind of challenge. It’s far more difficult than most of the technical transformations that I have seen so far.”
To understand the challenges Wadhera and Leverton face, it is worth diving into the underlying emission technologies. To achieve a reduction in particulate matter by 82% and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 68%, auto makers need a combination of technologies—one is the diesel particulate filter (DPF), a device designed to remove diesel particulate matter, or soot, from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. Then there’s selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas re-circulation (EGR), which is for NOx reduction. SCR is a process that uses a catalyst to convert NOx in exhaust gases to nitrogen and water, which are then released into the air. In EGR, the engine re-circulates a portion of the exhaust gas back to the engine cylinders depriving it of certain amount of oxygen thereby leading to lower temperature burn. This reduces NOx emissions, but produces more PM, which is reduced using diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and particulate filter.
Driving cycle refers to the speed of a vehicle versus time.
It’s the challenge of executing the project of such a huge scale which is giving sleepless nights to companies. As the intermediary BS V stage has been skipped, there’s a time crunch and firms would have to develop and optimize the DPF and SCR systems in parallel, instead of doing it sequentially. “I know how to do it. But I need to know how to do it better than others,” says Dasari.
The second technology is SCR, which too has a development cycle of three years. It will take close to 4,000 hours of test-bed running. It will need chassis dynamometer and will necessitate development of several new parts and around 20 to 25 new vehicle systems.
There is also the challenge of packaging them all efficiently in the limited space without compromising on fuel efficiency. The addition of parts and aggregates such as the DPF , a urea tank, dozing unit for NOx (required in SCR) will increase the weight of the vehicle by at least 40-50kg. The additional weight can impact the fuel efficiency.
Economies of scale
To be able to develop both DPF and SCR technology simultaneously, across 10 vehicle platforms, Mahindra will need 400 skilled people—20 people per platform. “Manpower needs to be skilled, who will teach them? It’s a new technology. We are struggling, it’s a mammoth challenge,” says Wadhera. Unlike BS IV and BS V where one can manage with either one of the technologies—EGR or SCR, BS VI needs both. Therefore, the complexity increases manifold, says Leverton. The sheer content means that the number of engineers and test facilities one needs, will have to be accelerated. One of the biggest areas of engineering activity for example, is in the areas of electronic control calibration—“you make the basic system and you have to adapt it to an application of a vehicle”, he says, pointing out that Tata Motors needs three times the number of calibration engineers it currently has. In the run-up to the BS VI implementation in April 2020, Ashok Leyland is likely to spend anywhere between Rs200 crore to Rs400 crore– Vinod Dasari, managing director of Ashok Leyland
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