Continental is a known name in India and internationally when it comes to components suppliers to OEMs and while the global automotive industry embraces mobility technologies beyond the ICE (internal combustion engine), the German components manufacturer is also gearing up to match the requirements. Continental recently held its Technology Day in India where it showcased its lineup of components and technologies, a lot of which renders it ready for the future of mobility – electric and autonomous.
Express Drives got in a conversation with Prashanth Doreswamy, Managing Director, Continental Automotive Components India Private Ltd. to learn about the manufacturer’s technologies and business in India.
Continental has five divisions active in India out of which three operate in the automotive components sector – chassis & safety, interior (in-cabin tech), and powertrain products and two in rubber and rubber products.
Pointing out to Continental’s readiness to embrace and promote newer technologies for modern vehicles, Prashanth Doreswamy went on to tell us that their interior division is set to be renamed to Vehicle, Networking, and Infrastructure owing to the technological shift ongoing in the global automobile industry.
He explained that today’s cars have become more than just transport from point A to B and that they now have an array of convenience and entertainment features, something that is only on the rise. A car’s in-cabin tech must be able to interact with other cars and the infrastructure. This is V2V (vehicle to vehicle), V2I (vehicle to infrastructure), V2X (vehicle to everything) tech comes in and Continental has technological components to back it up.
Speaking about how ready is the Indian market for EVs (electric vehicle), Doreswamy opined that more than readiness, it about EV adaptability in India as to how welcome will EVs be to the Indian buyer. He explained that of the 4 million cars in the country, 50-60% are small cars that fall in the price range of Rs 5-7 lakh.
If we are to electrify cars in this segment with the current technologies, it will drastically increase prices. Unless a new tech comes along that can disrupt the electric market for the better, electrifying passenger vehicles will remain comparatively a tall order. Adoption of electric powertrains in public transport is more of a feasible approach, from where the industry can eventually move on to passenger vehicles.
Continental currently has technological components to support OEMs looking to develop EVs. Under its powertrain division, it has a range of components for electrification of cars and two-wheelers, starting from dc motors, dc converters, battery starters to charging tech.
To demonstrate Continental components for electrifying two-wheelers, the manufacturer let us have a go on an electric prototype with a 48v battery. To say the least, the electric scooter felt appropriate for an everyday commuter with performance similar to a 125cc scooter. This just shows that Continental has the tech if an OEM were to switch to an electric powertrain of one of its two-wheelers, to begin with.
Explaining about component localisation, Prashanth Doreswamy told us that Continental began manufacturing of ECUs in India last year to increase localisation to help keep prices low for the end products that are sold by the OEMs. Conti also manufacturers ABS and other components at its plant in Gurugram.
“This is how we are preparing ourselves as the country migrates (to future mobility options). We have the technologies well in advance and we’re also focussing on localisation so that it becomes more affordable,” Doreswamy said.
During Continental Technology Day, the manufacturer also showcased its readiness for acceptance and adoption of semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles. Continental today has tech that can assist and support a self-driving system by feeding it vital information about the vehicle and its surroundings. The system also assists the occupants of the car through a voice assistant.
Besides this, Continental gave us a demonstration of its autonomous emergency braking. The system fitted to a Maruti Suzuki Ertiga as a test vehicle braked on its own upon detecting an obstruction ahead. The system is currently in its testing stage but looks promising considering Continental already has a car braking on its own.
The government has now made it mandatory for two-wheelers above 125cc to be equipped with ABS (anti-lock braking system). To elaborate on the subject, we spoke with Krishan Kohli, Business Head – Vehicle Dynamics who told us that Continental is already supplying ABS components to almost all of the key players in the two-wheeler industry in India.
He went on to say that Continental has the smallest and the lightest (about 420 gm) single-channel ABS that is locally manufactured. India happens to be the largest two-wheeler market in the world with 24 million+ units in the country, and so the new government mandate has opened a huge market opportunity.
Kohli says that for two-wheelers up to 200cc, a single-channel ABS mostly addresses the needs and about 4-5 million of the two-wheelers in India fall in this category. “We have been doing market studies and a bigger part of the market will need a single-channel ABS.”