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AC truck cabins not seen as a necessity yet in India, says Tata Motors

20 March, 2017, Autocar Professional

Tata Motors, the largest commercial vehicle player in the country, is backing the argument that air-conditioning (AC) truck cabins should not be mandatory, given the reluctance of fleet operators to buy AC trucks and the impact on the fuel economy of trucks.

This follows the recent news that Daimler India Commercial Vehicles has been pushing for mandatory AC cabin for all the trucks in India.

Speaking at the Buddh International Circuit during the Tata T1 Truck Racing Championship which concluded yesterday, Ravi Pisharody, executive director, commercial vehicles division, Tata Motors, said: “Many of us at SIAM (apex industry body) are of the opinion that air-conditioning will push up the operating cost of a truck. AC impacts fuel economy and we believe most of the time the AC will be switched off and not be in use. The reason is that for truckers, fuel economy is the very heart of the commercial vehicle industry, with nearly 60% of the cost being fuel."

“Air-conditioning is about comfort and not about safety. Today, nowhere in the world is AC compulsory for trucks. In India, even passenger cars don’t have mandatory AC and non-AC cars are available in the market,” said Pisharody.

"Fleet operators’ costs are already going up considerably, given the implementation of BS IV emission norms by April 1, 2017, and BS VI norms in the next three years. The market is open for manufacturers to make only AC cabs as long as the minimum standard does not penalise the industry. Around seven years ago, when we started selling Prima trucks, our argument was that air-conditioning with excellent cabin would enhance driver efficiency and pave the way for trucks to be run for 20 hours a day. However, this is not the scenario and today 90 percent of trucks that are being sold in the country are non-AC,” he said.

Citing an example, he said, "Speed limiting devices are mandatory now and fitted in every truck in India but we often find that drivers switch them off from time to time to make the trip faster."

"Today while our tractor-trailers and tippers come with a cabin, many of our multi-axle trucks are without a cabin as well cowl as there is a huge truck body industry in the country. Who will give them the expertise to install an AC cabin? It can be done but our view is that it is not something the drivers or fleet owner will cherish given that the costs very high, added Pisharody.  

"An air-conditioner has a nearly 3-4 percent impact on the overall fuel economy of a truck, which is significant for a fleet operators. Today, just to improve 2 percent fuel economy we spend a huge amount in R&D,"said Dr Ajit Jindal, Head, Engineering, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors.

DICV’s point of view 

It may be recollected that last week, Erich Nesselhauf, managing director and CEO, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, in a statement said,  "Air-conditioning in trucks is not a comfort or luxury feature – it can help prevent serious accidents as it helps the drivers to stay fit and focused during long hours even in the most adverse environmental conditions."

"Blower-based replacement proposal is not an actual alternative as it does not give same level of benefits as an air-conditioning system’, he said.

With regard to the technical aspects of the proposed blower-based system, Nesselhauf said, "The only advantage of this blower system is that it is cheap – it ends right there. There is technically no way how it could bring the cabin temperature down below outside temperature, so it does not provide any meaningful benefits to keep the driver alert and fit. In fact, a blower unit will actually increase the temperature and dust level inside the cabin."

Bharat Benz has been selling AC trucks throughout its 9-49 tonne range from day one onwards. As Bharat Benz vehicles are sold only as fully built vehicles, customers get a perfectly integrated AC system ex-factory.  


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