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Old 10th July 2024, 15:07   #1
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Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

I was reading about the new light combat tank here, and after a bit of digging, i noticed that the engine is a cummins. I noticed that we have a general trend that despite making giant strides in vehicle design, us indians are still stuck with foreign engines - this is everywhere

Two wheelers - Bajaj Leans heavily on its partners like KTM and Triump.
Hero works with AVL
TVS seems to be the exception

Four wheelers - Mahindra and Tata both use Licensed engines, or have own designs built with AVL/Bosch-Mahle or Honeywell

Locomotives - Diesel engines are Licensed

At least within the private sector, Why is it so hard to build a decent engine. The tech has been around for a while. The Japanese were able to figure it out decades ago, and nowadays with most global manufacturers chasing EV's, there should be surplus talent on ICE available, especially ripe for reverse brain drain.
While semiconductor manufacturing may be a very aggressive target, this is something that, superficially looks doable. I recognize I have very little expertise in this area, but I am curious to understand the facts that are holding us back.
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Old 10th July 2024, 19:42   #2
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

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Originally Posted by greenhorn View Post
Two wheelers - Bajaj Leans heavily on its partners like KTM and Triump.
Hero works with AVL
TVS seems to be the exception

Four wheelers - Mahindra and Tata both use Licensed engines, or have own designs built with AVL/Bosch-Mahle or Honeywell
I will differ here. Our Indian manufacturers have grown up and building their own engines. They do need to work with companies like AVL as they have a time tested advanced simulation environments. These software expertise is needed to bring down the testing time.

This does not meant they get credit for developing or patenting the designs.

Bosch builds electronics which are used by literally every manufacturer. These devices can be built by others, but Bosch has proven reliability over the years. It is best to use the product from their factory.

This is a global collaboration. Not that the technology is not known, it is just some companies are better at what they do and have evolved their manufacturing process to the point that they are most value for money. No one wants to reinvent the wheels here.

Now Tata power builds super fast chargers for MG motors and battery pack sourced from Tata for Commet EV. So it is collaboration.

Last edited by HillMan : 10th July 2024 at 19:57.
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Old 10th July 2024, 20:13   #3
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

I am no expert but building an engine is an extremely expensive proposition I believe. The precision and harmonics coupled with the tolerances, durability, and tweak-ability expected to meet performance and efficiency requirements makes it an expensive yet undervalued art form in my opinion. Getting suppliers to conform to your quality control expectations is another headache in our country.

Companies like TVS are only where they are through collaboration with big marquees from outside like Girling, Lucas and Suzuki.

Last edited by IshaanIan : 10th July 2024 at 20:14.
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Old 10th July 2024, 20:18   #4
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

I think you are equating the home country of the brand with the country where the tech is created. While I worked at Bosch in the 90s, we very much worked on key logical modules in the ECUs including Diesel injection. Lot of my colleagues from Bosch went to lead R&D units of other German companies in India. Manu Saale left Bosch and is now the CEO of Mercedes Benz Research and Development. Contributions of such people/teams and the overall R&D investment in India has been huge.

Now for an Indian brand to not license any working tech and invent everything from scratch by tapping away talent from employers like Mercedes R&D is going to be a huge investment. For Manu Saale to quit Mercedes and work for Mahindra, it would have to be a very sweet deal. He is not going to do it for misplaced/namesake patriotism.
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Old 11th July 2024, 00:06   #5
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

I was looking at it from the perspective of self sufficiency from a defence perspective. As a commercial auto manufacturer i can collaborate with all global firms and make world class engines. But the moment it comes to military applications things suddenly get complicated.

The zorawar was designed and ready to go with a German MTU engine when the German govt denied them approval. Thankfully the Americans let us use a Cummins engine, but ultimately we are still dependent on the goodwill of other nations to run our defence equipment.

I guess our current auto industry scale doesn't offer us the ability to compete with the Germans and the Americans to create and own the essential IP to design modern engines, and our defence sector is probably never going to pay as well.

Last edited by greenhorn : 11th July 2024 at 00:07.
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Old 11th July 2024, 00:43   #6
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Some specialist companies like MTU, Cummins etc have decades of experience in engine development for heavy or military vehicles. So their engines offer the best balance between cost, power & fuel economy.

An indigenous engine developed in India might lose out on one of these 3 parameters. But BEML is developing an indigenous 1500 HP engine for military vehicles though. It is unlikely to be the "best", but own engine is needed from self-sufficiency point of view. So some compromises will be made here.
https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indi...-arjun-5277794

Tata/Mahindra/Bajaj/Hero/Royal Enfield/TVS etc leaning on specialist firms is a no brainer, because such firms spend significant amount of R&D on engine development. After all, it is their only business. So for a relatively small fee, Indian companies will get access to best ICE technology. They can then focus on what really matters for Tata/Mahindra/Bajaj - which is overall product development.

By the way, we see this specialization phenomenon more prominently in aircraft engines. Whether it is Boeing or Airbus or Embraer or COMAC, all of them use engines from one of these companies:

- General Electric
- Rolls Royce
- Pratt & Whitney
- CFM

Russians use their own engines for their passenger aircraft, but their efficiency is poor. Now it is not that Boeing cannot build an aircraft engine on their own. But it will never match the balance between cost (R&D + manufacturing), performance, reliability & fuel economy of the latest engines from specialists. Boeing would rather focus on other important matters like cutting corners in the development of a new variant of an old aircraft.

Last edited by SmartCat : 11th July 2024 at 09:07.
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Old 11th July 2024, 01:36   #7
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Itís a good question!

Every year when I roam the various maritime exhibitions in the Netherlands and Germany I always see several, never heard of before, engine builders. They are typically building small diesels, say 50 - 450 HP.

If the maritime industry can have that many new engine builders, why canít the car industry have more? Much larger volume. Much more international market. Heavily standardised in terms of things like emissions standards and so on.

Yes, itís not easy. Tell me, I used to design diesels. But still it is a valid question why we donít see more engine builders in the car industry.

Jeroen
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Old 11th July 2024, 01:58   #8
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

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Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
... But still it is a valid question why we don’t see more engine builders in the car industry.

Jeroen
The answer is economics my friend. You see any engine is like a wheel metaphorically. You may indigenously design one, but at the end of the day it will be no different than the ones already in the market. So the time and money that you will be using to build the same will ultimately serve you no purpose, of course unless you are building an engine running on air/water. So it's always better to pick an existing engine, tweak it to your liking and fit it on your lineup. It always loooks good on the balance sheet.

Apart from this you also have to consider the fact that most companies in India are fairly new in comparison to the global players and thus never had the situation/need to be the pioneers of the industry. Eg: If Tata Motors were to come into existence long before FIAT then we might have had engines built by the former.

Last edited by suhaas307 : 11th July 2024 at 11:22. Reason: Editing and fixing typos
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Old 11th July 2024, 10:19   #9
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Building an indigenous engine will require time, experienced resources to design and build, a long testing routine and once successful, manufacturing and vendor setup. All this adds up to money.

For a local manufacturer which sells vehicles in one or a few countries, the annual sales volume might not be enough to justify investment in building an engine compared to getting one on license or atleast getting outside help to make the job easier. Meanwhile the Japanese or the global OEMs can reuse the same engine across multiple models across markets to recoup their initial investment.


Defence equipment would be no different. Instead of spending 'xxxx' crores to build an engine to power a machine which adds up to the machine project initial cost(and time), one chooses to license an engine for a small fraction cost per engine. While dependency is a risk, there's also the advantage of flexibility of moving to a different vendor if need be.

Last edited by ashis89 : 11th July 2024 at 10:21.
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Old 11th July 2024, 10:30   #10
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Simply two reasons.

1.Complexity & Reliability
Developing an engine from scratch requires years of design & development, but the important phase is its testing and endurance. Even with decades of experience, almost all the car/engine makers still has troubles and a minute change sometimes kills its reliability title. (Toyota turbo engines for ex in US)

2. Financial loss
Especially in India, the domestic automakers does not sell well outside market which means every penny spent on R&D has to come from the sole volume sales in India.
High Investment + Less volume = High parts cost / Huge loss in business.

So all the other main stream engine makers who could actually sell their engine/license can affordably provide the same to everyone as they could gain their investment/profit through large-scale.
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Old 11th July 2024, 10:35   #11
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

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The answer is economics my friend.)
See my earlier post. How come there are relatively small companies, not big international ones, that can design and produce small marine diesels. Whatís the difference in economics?

Jeroen
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Old 11th July 2024, 10:47   #12
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Apart from money and time, one needs passion and will of the team as well to do something outstanding for the organisation which brings profitability and reputation in business. The Indian manufacturers are plagued with comfort zoned executives where even to add CNG to existing ICE platform requires threatening from top management. ADAS equipment’s are not fully tested and are bureaucratically pushed within the organisation’s structure for approval. COO’s drivers are used to give verdict on flagship products which delay the launches by months.
Whether they will be able to build engine…Never!!!

Can’t take names but my city

Last edited by FiatDiesel : 11th July 2024 at 10:58.
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Old 11th July 2024, 11:52   #13
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Aren't Mahindra's mhawk series of diesel engines designed inhouse by them ? They seem to be doing really well.
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Old 11th July 2024, 12:24   #14
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by greenhorn View Post

Two wheelers - Bajaj Leans heavily on its partners like KTM and Triump.
Hero works with AVL
TVS seems to be the exception

Four wheelers - Mahindra and Tata both use Licensed engines, or have own designs built with AVL/Bosch-Mahle or Honeywell
Well actually, most of the manufacturers you mentioned are indeed making their own engines, you see it is not just about the money but time as well:-

1- Tata's passenger car division really took off with Indica which was around 2 decades ago which is not that long if you consider car design years - To put this into perspective Honda around 2003 launched the 2nd Gen Honda City with a variant of their L series engine, that exact same series of engine with some refinements is being used till date in the latest Honda City, so Tata around that time they used their own commercial Diesel engine and modified it for use in car, since that time, they have mostly been not that big a player in the car scene globally speaking and only recently got successful with their Nexon, so over the years they could not afford R&D for creating brand new state of the art engines so either they borrowed some engines from Fiat (1.3 MJD Diesel, 2.0 Diesel) or licensed and semi designed engine with companies like AVL (speculation at the time was Mahindra and Tata's 2.2 Diesel engines shared a lot of design), the only reason was they could not afford designing an all new engine.
I read somewhere that Maruti had to spend close to 1200 crore to develop the 2nd gen Baleno and basically it was a reworked previous gen car and not an all new one, I had also read somewhere that Hyundai's Kappa engine had costed close to 3000 crore to develop, so these are the kind of costs for R&D that manufactures are looking at to create new engines and keeping that in mind it starts making sense.
Now their only Petrol Engine - The 1.2 both in its turbo and NA versions is uncompetitive from engines 2 decades ago in NVH, power delivery, fuel efficiency and every parameter you can think of, unlike Mahindra it is not a world class engine but instead of spending on creating newer engines they seem to be investing heavily in Electrics, so I guess we will never see great engines being developed in India by them but then there is..

2- Mahindra - They on the other hand really got successful and into the modern era with the Scorpio, again only around 2 decades ago and they also used similar approach as Tata by either re purposing their old commercial engines or using partners like AVL, but from the last decade or so and especially with the latest generation of Mahindra engines, they have a radically different approach to Tata, for the modern Diesel and Direct Injection Petrol engines most of which are world class, there is no mention of any foreign partner and they seem to have started developing their own engines in house. No doubt they must be making use of services and facilities of engine houses from around the world but it must be just for using their facilities and not buying ready made engine designs from them. The success of XUV500 and their own philosophy (and in part buying Ssang Yong) seems to have driven them towards this but fact is Mahindra is the only Indian manufacturer with a fantastic range of world class engines both Petrol and Diesel being developed in house.

3- 2 Wheeler manufacturers-

a) Bajaj has used engines from the brands it bought over the years like KTM but it has always had and continues to have its own engines as well and uses a combination of in house expertise and economies of scale for lesser selling bikes by sharing the engines with KTM, it is a very valid approach and most of the engines are competitive with the market.

b) TVS like you mentioned has its own R&D and creates pretty good engines by itself, so much so that BMW has collaborated with it for its small 300cc petrol engine and they both share it for a huge range of models,

They and Bajaj are pretty much the Mahindra of 2 wheelers in the sense that there is a complete range of self developed engines which are competitive and competent as well, they have had technical collaborations and take overs in the past but that is a valid strategy to develop an engine in house and more power to them for that.

c) Royal Enfield has been the dark horse of the industry, they had been using the same 70-80 years old technology and were forced to somewhat make changes to it due to emissions and then they used external partners to modify the engines just enough to get away with many of the shortcomings but they were still highly uncompetitive engines, but the tremendous success that was blessed upon them was used extremely well by them and they have started creating decent in house engines by acquiring a few companies worldwide to assist them on this, they are creating brand new engines in all segments and replacing the older ones with good results, I will still not call them worldclass at all, because the kind of power they are developing from 350 and 650cc engines is something that Honda and the likes have bettered around 40-50 years ago, but the fact that they are on the path to improvement and are entering the modern era entirely on their own is commendable and they are in my books the Tata of 2 wheelers in that sense.

So you see, the picture is not as gloomy as you would have imagined and there are plenty of good engines being developed in India as well, also a bit of trivia that even Hyundai didn't develop their own engines in the first decade or so and used partners like Mitsubishi, it was later that they decided to enter themselves and you can see where they are today, so it requires time and money and that comes from success, so the more these companies make money, the more engines you will see from them.

Last edited by Rocketscience : 11th July 2024 at 12:28.
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Old 11th July 2024, 12:37   #15
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Re: Why is it so hard to design and build an indigenous engine?

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Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
See my earlier post. How come there are relatively small companies, not big international ones, that can design and produce small marine diesels. Whatís the difference in economics?

Jeroen
Market size? Regulatory requirements? How many boats are sold each year in the EU vs cars? What are the emission norms applicable to the engines on these boats? Any regulatory requirements for manufacturers that sell engines for retrofitmet on older boats?
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