Established in 1966, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), the government-owned automotive R&D organisation of India, has been playing critical roles in the development of safer, less polluting, more efficient and reliable vehicles. Working in unison with the government, the industry members, and customers, the Association provides Engineering Services, Certification & Standardisation, and engages in Research & Development, Technology Development and Knowledge Initiatives. It offers technologies and specific data for the development of automotive products for the Indian market. The state-of-the-art laboratories of ARAI are equipped with advanced facilities for Emission Evaluation, Noise Vibration and Harshness, Structural Dynamics, Powertrain Engineering, Computer-aided engineering, Vehicle Evaluation, Active and Passive Safety, Material Evaluation, Automotive Electronics, Forging and Heat treatment, Research, and Calibration etc. ARAI has a renowned academy. E-Mobility Centre of Excellence, Environmental Research Laboratory, Virtual Calibration Centre, and Futuristic Adaptive Smart Techniques (FAST) Laboratory are some of the recent additions to ARAI’s comprehensive capabilities. With the recent changes and disruptions in the automotive industry, ARAI has braced up to support the requirements of the Indian OEMs and suppliers. Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director, ARAI, spoke to T Murrali of AutoParts Asia on the recent developments at the Association and discussed the future trends and ARAI’s preparedness to face the future. Edited excerpts:
Q: ARAI carries out several functions; can you update on your R & D?
Urdhwareshe: On the research side, electrification is the major focus now. In order to support this initiative our research lab has been working on the development of light-weight materials, ultimate battery chemistry, powertrain engineering that includes electric vehicles, hybrids, dual fuel and many other related technologies.
We are also working on charging station-related design and communication-related protocols. ARAI is working on alternative fuels such as methanol, higher-level ethanol blend and bio-fuels, in addition to a few other subjects like intelligence and connected vehicles, though not autonomous.
Q: How do you differentiate intelligent and connected vehicles from autonomous?
Urdhwareshe: It is basically on the level of intelligence that goes into the control systems and its relevance to the Indian road conditions. From that point of view we have to cross many hurdles before we can even think of passing on the control to electronics in totality; therefore, the development in terms of ‘driver alert’ etc.
Q: Can you throw a little more light on these developments including driver alert?
Urdhwareshe:Take for example the emergency braking, which is a step forward towards intelligent vehicles. However, it is far different from autonomous driving.
Along with it, we are concerned about the increasing pollution that affects cities and the urban areas. We also focus on some larger issues like carrying out ambient air measurement and mitigation strategy, whether to restrict certain things, would the introduction of ‘End of Life Vehicles’ help clean up air, etc. We are working on such interventions.
Q: Can you elaborate on ARAI’s initiative on the development of light-weight materials; what is the direction that you take?
Urdhwareshe: The powertrain development required for electrification is taking place with the existing platform; the migration is done only by replacing the powertrain. However, we lose out on the advantage because of carrying more weight (of the battery) on the same construction. The efforts should be to optimise the chassis without compromising on the safety and durability requirements. That is where the light-weight manufacturability comes in; that includes various joining techniques etc.
Q: What is happening on the testing and homologation front?
Urdhwareshe: On the homologation side, the update is the crash compatibility, which is round the corner and all the models have to comply. Coupled with this we should also be talking about the fuel efficiency norms now. Before moving forward to BS-VI, there is a step for the commercial vehicles that the Ministry wants to set up on fuel efficiency requirements.
There is also thinking on tyre-related regulations like introduction of labelling related to fuel efficiency. This means rolling resistance and wet-grip-related testing needs to be done for the regulation on this. There are standards but the test facilities are under preparation. Discussions are going on with various stakeholders. These tests are not at the component level but at the vehicle level.
Q: ARAI has been establishing test standards for the automotive industry in the country. Can you elaborate on the current works in these areas?
Urdhwareshe:One such subject is the control of noise from the replacement silencer. There is no regulation at the moment.
Q: Don’t you think, more than regulation, it is enforcement that is important for noise from the replacement silencer, since it is pertaining to aftermarket and openly available to the customers?
Urdhwareshe: That is why the Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Bureau of Indian Standards and such agencies have to be pulled in. This is because the regulations also demand that the silencer cannot be sold unless it is approved.
Q: What are the other standards that you are working on?
Urdhwareshe: Another sector that requires regulation is the Construction and Mining equipment, pertaining to emission, functional and safety requirements. The basic engines that go in the construction equipment are similar to those that go into motor vehicles. The technology needs to be upgraded so as to comply with the regulations. We are negotiating with the stakeholders of this sector.
Q: Consultancy service has been one of ARAI’s functions; can you take us through the recent initiatives?
Urdhwareshe: ARAI has been working on collaborating with testing agencies in several countries. There is nothing concrete as of now. We are looking at some positive steps in the near future.
Q: Tell us about the initiatives taken at ARAI to homologate BS-VI vehicles as there will be huge rush?
Urdhwareshe: ARAI is ready with homologation process of BS-VI vehicles. BS-VI is not only in the exhaust but also some changes are made on the engine side. We have increased our capacities foreseeing the demand. We have separate test labs for two-wheelers, three-wheelers and other vehicles and there is no delay from our end. Moreover, we began working with OEMs and system suppliers during the product development process and therefore, we knew the schedules of the testing. Accordingly we have ramped up our capacities. We are planning to add one more centre to enhance testing and homologation activities. As the data collection takes time we have commenced our work on Real Driving Emissions (RDE) cycle also.
Q: What’s the work undertaken for RDE cycle? Would ARAI develop PEMS – Portable Emission Measurement System?
Urdhwareshe: ARAI has PEMS systems for quite sometime as there are equipment available globally. Since it is real driving emission cycle, we are equipping ourselves with the required data so that when the regulation comes we are ready.
Q: Are standards required for PEMS also since the results may vary according to the time of testing during the day and location?
Urdhwareshe: There are standards for testing emission at the test labs with respect to temperature and ambient pressure. PEMS will also follow the same standards. You are right; the test results from the vehicles running in hilly terrain will vary from those vehicles tested on the plains, due to change in ambient temperature and pressure. However, the RDE tests will be different as the equipment will be fitted in the vehicle and the test will be carried out while the vehicles run on the road. However, it will follow the standards set for lab tests.
Q: Tell us about your immediate plans?
Urdhwareshe: We are looking at ‘fire safety’ as an option while testing vehicles. The research institute will be working on standards with respect to fire safety. Besides, we will look at options to support the requirements of pressure vehicles.