What is driving demand in the infra construction industry and how is LiuGong India meeting it?
Population proliferation, rapid urbanisation, and increasing government spending on infrastructure projects have increased the impetus for various infrastructure developments. Demand for construction equipment is being led by the growing real estate sector, accelerated public-private partnership projects in India, increase in mining activities, relaxed FDI norms to boost construction deals; and the Government’s initiatives to fast track infrastructure development.
LiuGong makes continuous improvisations in its existing products while also developing new range for the construction and infrastructure equipment market. It has recently introduced large tonnage excavators, mini excavators, dozers, electric wheel loaders of 5 tons, trucks, etc. So, the company is geared up to meet the anticipated growth in demand in FY 2023-24 and beyond.
What growth in equipment sales do you anticipate in FY 2023-24 considering the ongoing and upcoming big-ticket infra projects?
We are well versed with the fact that sales of construction equipment (a barometer of economic activity) are expected to reach a healthy double-digit growth during the ongoing financial year on the back of increased government spending on infrastructure projects, especially in rural areas. The CE industry estimates sales of construction equipment (domestic sales and exports) to grow 15-20% in FY23, compared with an 8% fall in the last fiscal year. Even though exports grew 60.5% to 7,802 units in FY22, local sales fell by 11.4% to 77,583 units.
Geographically, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) is leading in the market for heavy construction equipment and is earning the highest revenue, as a result of the region’s growing population, and consequent requirement for significant infra construction. Heavy construction equipment is in high demand also due to regional industrialization which is accelerating the interest of large construction firms and CE manufacturers in expanding into APAC nations like China and India. Heavy construction equipment will continue to be required as work increases.
What efforts is the CE industry across the world making to achieve zero emission with fuels like hydrogen and developing autonomous machines with electrification and digitalization?
When diesel engines are uncoupled from the mechanical drive and work movements of a machine, engines speeds, loads, and fuel consumption can be optimized for a sweet spot of steady state operation that delivers maximum fuel efficiency and optimum productivity. Instead of driving variable mechanical linkages, the engine acts as an electrical generator that drives more efficient electric motors to power the machine and its tools (for example LiuGong 5-ton electric wheel loader). In these instances, fuel savings can be substantial (up to 30%) compared to conventional systems.
A variation on electric drive being explored replaces all the traditional hydraulic drive components with direct drive electric motors, thereby eliminating the weight, maintenance, and componentry of hydraulic fluid power systems, and instead operating by wire.
Hydrogen is a potential paradigm shifter that can play a major role alongside battery electrification and renewable fuels in creating carbon-neutral societies of tomorrow. Hydrogen is an energy carrier with qualities that can help reduce the net sum of greenhouse gas emissions. However, while battery-electric vehicles and machines and biofuels can decarbonize transport, today, large-scale hydrogen-powered transport and infrastructure still belong to the future.
Please elaborate on the CE Industry’s three-pronged approach to enable decarbonisation viz. battery, hydrogen fuel, and combustion.
Batteries are an ideal solution for shorter/medium-range applications, such as use within the city for buses, reuse collection, local distribution, and regional haulage, with regular returns to a fixed depot, thereby allowing for easy recharging. As battery technology and charging infrastructure develops, it will be used also for longer and heavier road transports.
As a complement to battery electric solutions, hydrogen fuel cells will offer a solution for heavy-duty and long-haul truck transport, where good electrical charging infrastructure is hard to come by, or the size of the battery required to power the machine is too unwieldy. Unlike batteries, which store the electricity used, fuel cells make their own electricity on board from stored hydrogen in an electrochemical process.
Combustion engines which run on fossil free fuels, such as biogas, renewable hydrogen and other options, are the third key to decarbonizing our industry. While we believe that the majority of commercial vehicles will be electric going forward – a mix between hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric – there will still be applications where we will need combustion engines for a long time.
What are the technologies being developed by the CE industry to reduce wastage and to recycle usable materials to minimize carbon emissions?
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place! Making a new product emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and requires a lot of materials and energy, since raw materials have to be extracted from the earth, and the product fabricated and then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways to save natural resources, protect the environment, and save money.
Implementing additive manufacturing (AM) in the manufacturing unit creates opportunities for improving sustainability. In fact, opportunities are being realized across the product and material lifecycles. AM can improve resource efficiency and enable closed-loop material flows. Today, many established organizations are focusing on product and process redesign, and are exploring niches and growing the AM ecosystem.
How effective are trade events like bauma Conexpo in modernizing India’s CE Industry and bringing it at par with global standards?
The Government of India’s ambitious Rs 111 lakh crore National Infrastructure Pipeline would augur well for the Indian construction equipment industry to become the 2nd largest CE market in the world, with a size of USD 25 billion by 2030. The Government is also facilitating development of Smart Cities, supporting Swachh Bharat programs, promoting skill development and positioning ‘Make in India’ as the National Agenda for achieving holistic growth in the infrastructure and related sectors.
International trade events like bauma Conexpo and Excon endeavour to build India’s infrastructure in an ecologically sustainable manner. They bring focus on Alternate Fuels, Digital Transformation with AI, IoT, Machine Learning, Skill Development, Easy Finance Options, Equal Opportunities for Women, MSMEs, besides Sustainability, Carbon-Free Environment, Reducing Construction Wastage, Safety, and other important issues.
These trade shows are a knowledge platform for various departments like PWDs and civil engineering, private contractors, builders, road and infrastructure developers, smart city/urban planners, and the Army Border Roads Organisation, among others. Stakeholders get a platform to witness the latest technology, equipment, and machinery designed to accelerate infrastructure development in the country.