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By Sharad P Matade| Jun 22, 2021

India Needs To Invest In Tyre Testing And Labelling Infra: Apollo Tyres CTO

The Gurgaon-based tyre major has received accreditation for the wet grip and coast by noise tyre tests on the track. It has already been aggressive in the European market with two manufacturing plants and one R&D centre. With investments, Apollo Tyres is ramping up its testing capabilities to develop tyres for across the segments, including premium passenger, commercial vehicles, high-end motorcycles and off-highway tyres. “The tyre manufacturers are depending on the international labs for advanced characterisation and labelling tests specific to tyres. Thus, investment in both advanced tyre testing as well as labelling infrastructure is needed in this country for quick product development, not only for compliance to latest Indian regulations but also to meet the stringent regulations in other countries and thereby promoting tyre export,” says Daniele Lorenzetti, Chief Technology Officer, Apollo Tyres Ltd in an interview with Motoring Trends.

Last month, Apollo Tyres became the first Indian tyre manufacturer to get the coveted accreditation from NABL for outdoor labelling tests in India. The company has now been accredited with ISO/IEC 17025 for the wet grip and coast by noise tyre tests on the track. This accreditation is extended for testing different tyre categories for vehicles such as passenger, light truck, commercial (C1, C2 & C3) classes, farm and motorcycle. This testing capability is linked to the Indian government’s plan to implement the ‘Star Rating’ of tyres, in line with the tyre labelling regulation in Europe.

According to Daniele Lorenzetti, Chief Technology Officer, Apollo Tyres Ltd, the growing focus of the automobile manufacturers on fuel efficiency, higher performance on ride and comfort, and safety is fuelling demand for more tyre component level testing. “Light-weighting in automobiles can alter transfer path for noise and vibration into the cabin, calling for corresponding modification in tyre design. Along with the introduction of AIS 142 standard, similar to EU R117 for labelling of the tyre, huge outdoor testing infrastructure is required, especially in proving grounds,” said Lorenzetti.

Electric Vehicle (EV) related challenges of higher weight, NVH concern, higher torque requirement and subsequent wear rate and battery life would be substantial concerns to tackle during the development process, stated the Apollo Tyres executive. “Similarly, for reducing the number of physical tests, simulation and modal development need to be evolved. Adequate testing infrastructure for validation of simulation and advanced characterisation is also simultaneously required. Hence, more indoor advanced testing infrastructure is required for NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness), F&M (Force and Moment) and traction performance validation,” added Lorenzetti.

Today, safety and convenience features are not limited to premium vehicles but are also provided in mid-level and entry-level vehicles, and the same trend is evident in India. Hence, while increasing capability, testing capacity also needs to be enhanced, thinks Lorenzetti.

Indian tyre manufacturers and testing services have basic levels of testing capacity such as safety requirements, durability, braking strength and dimensions. With the Indian government’s NATRIP (National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project), vehicle and component level testing facilities have improved. “The tyre manufacturers are depending on the international labs for advanced characterisation and labelling tests specific to tyres. Thus, investment in both advanced tyre testing and labelling infrastructure is needed in this country for quick product development, not only for compliance to latest Indian regulations but also to meet the stringent regulations in other countries and thereby promote tyre export,” explained Lorenzetti.

Like the automobile industry, the tyre industry’s evolution at a broader level depends on economic, social, cultural, technological and climatic changes. The Indian tyre Industry is also evolving with the Indian macro-economic growth, advancements in technology, increasing emphasis on sustainable environmental practices and policy, and institutional and regulatory requirements.

Currently, the tyre industry is going through a highly challenging period, with lockdowns across Indian states owing to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. While this impacts the demand side, pressure on the margin front is also felt due to the rising raw material prices.

However, with the Indian government’s reinvigorated policies and programmes such as “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, localisation push, EV subsidy, economic stimulus package to thwart pandemic crisis and vehicle scrappage policy, the automotive industry in India is poised to grow at a higher trajectory. “Shift in customer preference to private vehicles from public transport and shared mobility owing to Covid might also generate an uptick. We are optimistic with the and its positive effect on the tyre industry,” said Lorenzetti.

Tyre technology is also evolving in tandem with the automobile industry to pursue higher fuel efficiency, higher performance, driver safety, vehicle stability, light-weighting and heavy load carrying capacity. Additional advanced features such as vehicle connectivity and electrification of functions are also taking place at OEMs, which calls for intelligent talking tyres.

“Unlike in the past, the Indian vehicle market is now fast evolving. Earlier, customers had very few variants/choices available. Now, many models are introduced that call for higher bandwidth of resources. The premium segment is also poised for faster growth, and so comfort, without compromise on traction and durability, is added into the performance requirement list for tyres,” said Lorenzetti.

Indian government’s policies and regulations for sustainable growth are now major drivers for evolution in India. It has already issued a draft notification proposing new tyre norms as a part of the Automotive Indian Standards (AIS) 142:2019. The proposal states that tyres of all cars, buses and trucks shall meet the requirements of rolling resistance, wet grip and rolling sound emissions, in line with the limits of the European regulations.

Virtual testing is also gaining traction in the auto industry as it saves development time and money and gives flexibility to engineers. Global launches, stiff competition, legal compliance to emissions, demand for more electrification and self-driven vehicles push the development process shorter than ever. The time available for development is becoming shorter and shorter. At the same time, the demands set for the characteristics of a car are becoming increasingly stringent, as is the bandwidth required for various models and variants of vehicles. So, virtual proving is the key to faster product development while tackling tyre testing capacity constraints.

“However, simulation is as good as its verification and validation. Verification is the process of determining that a model implementation and its associated data accurately represent the developer’s conceptual description and specifications. Validation is the process of determining the degree to which a simulation model and its associated data are an accurate representation of the real world from the perspective of the intended uses of the model. Hence, adequate characterisation testing capability is also simultaneously required for wide-spread application of simulation,” said the CTO of Apollo Tyres.

Apollo Tyres is an Indian company that has been expanding aggressively in the European market. Today, the company has seven manufacturing plants – five in India and two in Europe (Hungary and the Netherlands).

Being a preferred partner for global OEMs, Apollo Tyres is continuously enhancing testing capabilities at its state-of-the-art R&D centres. With the two global R&D centres at Chennai, India and Enschede, Netherlands, the company aims to meet discerning OEM needs. “With the synergies between the two R&D centres, and its advanced testing capabilities, we continuously develop winning products and new technologies while also being at the forefront of meeting new regulatory requirements,” said Lorenzetti.

The company’s extensive investments in tyre testing not only help it in developing tyres for premium luxury passenger and commercial vehicles but also high-end motorcycles and off-highway tyres (OHT). “At our R&D centre, characterisation capabilities are continuously developed for the determination of traction, NVH, F&M, ride and handling, comfort, tread wear, fuel efficiency, durability and footprint,” added Lorenzetti.

Automotive test centres with large proving grounds funded by the Indian government are already evolved in India. Its NATRIP project aims to create core global competencies in the automotive sector in India by facilitating seamless integration of the Indian automotive industry with the world through setting up of state-of-the-art automotive testing, homologation and R&D infrastructure facilities.

Collaborations at various levels are also taking place to further enhance the vehicle test centres to tyre-specific test facilities. Earlier, Apollo collaborated with one of the test centres of the Indian government to pioneer the indigenisation of tyre labelling and certification tests in India. Similar collaboration would be beneficial for the industry to evolve faster.

“While large vehicle OEMs have their own limited proving grounds, the massive investment and maintenance requirement for this kind of infrastructure may be challenging for tyre companies to set up. Though collaboration among leading tyre companies would be a welcome scenario, the scale and size of the industry need to be evolved for such a tie-up,” said Lorenzetti.

The EV segment brings its own challenges with the higher weight of vehicles, NVH concern due to fewer and lesser noisy components, higher torque requirement and subsequent wear rate, and battery life. Apollo Tyres is gearing up for the same with capital intensive testing facilities such as “flat track” for traction, F&M tests and hemi-anechoic chamber for NVH tests. Apollo Tyres’ test machines are specially designed with multiple features, such as the very high torque ramp-up rate to match the futuristic EV requirements.

“It is heartening to note that major premium OEMs wholeheartedly partner with Apollo Tyres for joint development of products, featuring advanced technologies and engineering. We are committed in our endeavour to be the trusted partner for our esteemed customers and society at large by enhancing value with best-in-class efficiency through sustainable models for environment conservation,” said Lorenzetti. (MT)

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