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"We involved children in the conceptual design of the Sunshine school bus and took their feedback to ensure they are happy when they travel in it": Anuj Kathuria, President (Operations and Project Planning), Ashok Leyland

In the truck portfolio which, in your opinion, are the areas you need to further strengthen?

We have a weak link in the 4x2 tractor area. The 49T segment has always had good products. Now for the 40 tonner segment, wherein we recently launched the Captain iT tractor in the Captain series, we have come up with a unique proposition to take care of customer requirements. Most of them take one- side load and return empty; with this truck, when returning empty the driver switches to economy mode, which ensures fuel consumption is less. It is like having two engines in the same vehicle, one which works in load conditions and the other when empty.

Which are the new products that Ashok Leyland is working on?

Some aspects have to be considered - how the vehicles are being operated in the field and how fleet owners can keep a watch over what’s happening. We are now working on integrating the vehicles to let the fleet owner watch over the vehicle. GPS also gives alerts on vitals - iAlerts - related to fuel consumption; for instance is an oil change coming up, is the vehicle behaving abnormally?

Another platform where vehicles are being monitored for vitals in truckers language is called ‘Tel’ or oil and ‘hawa paani’. The initial pilot is underway with fleet operators and it will be launched this year in the truck segment.

Which are the new technologies that we could see in the future?

Technologies will be more safety related and in the area of driver comfort. For instance, a tractor-trailer coming with features like electronic braking system ahead of ABS. Airbags can be provided but this tractor trailer segment does not need them. We meet all the frontal crash safety regulations - at a 90kph collision, the driver will not get injured.

Can you detail the company’s plans in the electric and hybrid bus segment?

We have a hybrid bus called Hybus which is the first non-plug-in variety - you don’t have to plug in to charge its battery. It has a diesel engine and can also be equipped with a CNG option. A unique aspect is that it is a conventional hybrid with ultra-capacitors that can take in energy that is decapitated during braking. We have a couple of partners for sourcing ultra-capacitors. The technology is available at our bus manufacturing plant of Optare in UK and will be a relatively new technology for India, far ahead of lithium ion. Its advantage is that it can withstand frequent discharge and charge and will ensure in cost economies in case of scale output.

Courtesy: Autocarprofessional.in, March 2016

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