Image courtesy of ETS-Lindgren
Beginning 2011 new automobile models to hit the roads across the country will have to comply with the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) norms. This follows the proposals made by the Automotive Industry Standards Committee (AISC), published in July 2009.
“All electrical and magnetic devices emit electromagnetic (EM) waves,” says GRM Rao, Joint Director and Head of Works, EMC Tech Centre, Ahmednagar, adding, “modern automobiles have a large number of such systems.” The EMC test consists of two parts, - EM Interference and EM Simulation. “It basically ensures that the vehicle as a whole and its individual parts neither emit EM waves beyond an admissible limit nor be subject to interference by external EM waves,” said Rao.
“From the mobile phone to the laptop, or the radio or even the switching devices and the motors, every electric and electronic device generates some or the other amount of EM waves,” explains Rao. “For example, cars use several microchip controlled systems such as the airbags, anti-braking system and even the fuel injection system. Let’s say such a car or truck is passing below a high tension wire or close to a mobile phone tower, its systems should not get actuated or malfunction under EM influence, something like a radio, TV or computer screen would behave, creating jarring sound or image, when a cell phone kept close to it starts ringing,” he added.
The automotive EMC Tech Centre, part of the Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE), a DRDO laboratory at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, is the only facility in the country at present to undertake the whole vehicle EMC test. Set up by the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP), the hi-tech centre was inaugurated on August 13, 2009. The centre, housed in an isolation chamber the size of a huge auditorium, has walls and ceiling lined with radio frequency absorbers made of a combination of ferrite tiles and carbon-impregnated foam absorbers. The floor is covered with a 12 mm thick steel reflective ground surface. The test vehicle rests on a rotating base that can turn it to any direction while a dynamometer can simulate driving conditions for vehicles of up to 10 tons weight. Also there is a separate 2-metre long turntable that can hold components of up to two tons. The state-of-the-art EMC test facility, one of the biggest in the world, caters to the needs of the Defence Industry and a growing number of private vehicle makers. “The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Pune has a similar facility, but much smaller in scale, it can only check components,” said Mr. Rao.
The EMC test facility, made and installed by the US firm ETS Lindgren, cost Rs 42 crore, with a major chunk of the funding coming from the Ministry of Heavy Industries which provided Rs.32 crores, the Ministry of Defence chipped in with the remainder. “Money is not the factor,” said Rao, adding, “We will recover it in three-four years.” Already the centre has generated revenue more than Rs.2 crores in just over a year since it came up. As the Indian automobile companies launch new models and are very much keen on a slice of the export markets to the West, they now have an option. “Earlier car/truck makers used to go to the Bosch facility in Germany, Utac in France, Mira in the UK or IDIDA in Spain, where it cost around Rs.50 lakhs including the transportation,” said Rao, “But now here in India it costs just a fraction, Rs.3 lakhs for a four wheeler.” “The aim is to facilitate the Indian automobile industry to come up to the global standards and give them access to world class facilities right here in India,” he added.
The centre primarily caters to the needs of the armed forces, ensuring vehicles conform to the military standard MIL STD 461E/F for radiated and conducted emissions and susceptibility. “A large number of army’s specialised vehicles, both wheeled and tracked, including generators, use a large variety of EM devices that need to be compliant with EMC standards,” said Rao.
The new EMC regulations, that will come into force beginning January 2011, will initially be applicable to all new models of two and three wheelers to be launched on Indian roads while the four wheelers will be brought under its ambit from 2013. The norms were made by the AISC, which was constituted by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Pune and the erstwhile Ministry of Surface Transport, Department of Road Transport and Highways, now the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in September 1997. The proposals, which derive greatly from the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) regulations, were later approved by the permanent Central Motor Vehicles Rules - Technical Standing Committee.
“The EMC standards in the country were formulated around the time the EMC Tech Centre was set up,” said Rao. “Europe has had EMC standards for over two decades, but here in India the idea is fairly new,” he added.
The World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicles Regulations is a working party of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), tasked with creating a uniform set of regulations for vehicle design to facilitate international trade. The 1958 agreement, revised in 1995, forms the basis of a legal framework for uniform technical prescriptions for wheeled vehicles, equipments and parts. The US and Canada are two big automobile markets that have their own standards, and India being a notable exception to the ECE from the list of 58 countries.
Another similar EMC test facility, also being undertaken by the NATRiP, is due to come up in Chennai by the middle of next year that should meet the growing demands of the Indian automobile industry.