NBC develops low-noise bearings, begins supplies to EV OEMs in India
NBC Bearings has developed specialised low-noise bearings to facilitate reduced NVH levels for EV applications, including motor and wheel hubs, in electric two- and three-wheelers. Clientele includes Mahindra Last Mile Mobility, Altigreen, and Ather Energy among others.
Jaipur-headquartered NBC Bearings, which is part of the CK Birla Group, is yet another Indian automotive component supplier which has diversified into making electric vehicle-specific products. The company has developed a range of low-noise bearings that cater to the special requirements of the EV industry. It is currently supplying them to leading Indian EV OEMs including the likes of Mahindra Last Mile Mobility (Mahindra LMM), Altigreen, and Ather Energy among others in the electric two- and three-wheeler OEM categories.
According to NBC Bearings, these advanced bearings offer durable performance at higher revolutions, which are typical characteristics of an EV drivetrain, and are suitable for applications in the wheel hub, steering, and motor of an electric vehicle. The company says it has been able to successfully come up with low-noise solutions by concurrently working with its customers.
"We started working almost 4-5 years ago to cater to the industry's unique requirements of low NVH and high durability for EV applications. We partnered with our customers such as Mahindra LMM, Altigreen, and Ather Energy to develop such solutions," Dr Lokesh Agrawal, CTO, NBC Bearings, told Autocar Professional in an exclusive interaction.
"Our EV-specific products offer higher durability, as well as up to 30 percent lower noise compared to traditional ICE bearings," he added. NBC Bearings supplies e-motor bearings to Ather Energy and Altigreen. The company manufactures these bearings at its Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Baroda (Gujarat) plants.
According to Dr Agrawal, to achieve the low noise characteristic, the bearing accuracies in EVs need to be much higher, and therefore, bearing profiles must be precise too. “This demands for different grinding technologies in the manufacturing process, as well as the use of grease, which, while must be conductive, must also absorb noise,” Dr Agrawal explained.
NBC Bearings states that it has received Rs 1.5 crore in funding from the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI), and it tied up with IIT Hyderabad, to conduct fundamental research on noise reduction to develop such bearings, specifically designed for EV applications.
The company is now ready to supply its electric motor sensor bearings which can offer precise, real-time motor position information to the battery management system (BMS) of an EV. “We can tap as many as 72 data points in every revolution of the motor spindle with our sensor bearings,” said Dr Agrawal.
NBC's sensor bearing for electric vehicles. Sensorised bearings are designed for high rpm and low noise requirements, which are critical in EV engineering. They are beneficial for connected vehicles too as they continuously share data about speed, revolution and vibration.
The company is presently engaged with a number of EV startups to whom it has supplied its low-noise, as well as sensor bearings for their advanced e-motors. “These vehicles that are presently under development are slated to be introduced in the future,” he added.
Intensifying its product onslaught for the EV category, NBC bearings has also developed bearings for e-axles for commercial vehicles, and is supplying these products to Tier-1 e-transmission suppliers. It is also readying e-transmission bearings for passenger vehicle applications for international markets. These components are currently undergoing validation, and NBC Bearings is likely to commission supplies of these bearings to overseas customers by 2024-25.
With growing demand for readymade modules, NBC Bearings is also foraying into integrated products such as unified tip-roller bearings, which is a plug-and-play solution, and not only makes the vehicle assembly process easier, but ensures longer serviceable life on the field, as per the company. “We have also started looking at the hydrogen powertrain, which would demand the bearings to be significantly modified,” Dr Agrawal said.
Despite tremendous progress on its EV product portfolio, the company is also undertaking extensive research on its conventional ICE bearings, which are demanding innovations, especially on the material front. “With increasing demand for lightweighting, several alternative materials as well as heat-treatment processes are enabling us to offer better performance in our products,” explained Dr Agrawal.
This is where the partnerships with our existing customers are getting stronger as we undertake concurrent engineering challenges and solve them together,” he added. The company is making extensive use of virtual design, validation, and simulation tools, which enable it to select the right materials, as well as undertake performance evaluations.
NBC Bearings, which clocked Rs 2,950 crore in revenue in FY23, is the market leader in the commercial vehicle, tractor, and two-wheeler segments, in terms of direct-OEM supplies in India. While it acknowledges a scope of improvement in its passenger vehicle market share, the company believes its ongoing lightweighting initiatives will help it solve customer requirements in this category.
While 75 percent of NBC's business comes from the domestic market, exports contribute to a fourth of its turnover. The company is confident of registering a 20 percent year-on-year growth in its business in FY2024. “With such growth targets, we must also invest into capacity expansion. While we have four plants – two in Jaipur, one each in Baroda and Manesar – we have recently commissioned a new plant in Bagru, near Jaipur. Our combined annual capacity presently stands at 200 million bearings, and we are slowly ramping up production in our latest facility. We have one of the largest manufacturing setups, and are ready to cater to the growing demand from the domestic and overseas markets,” concluded Sanjeev Taparia, Senior Vice President, Marketing, NBC Bearings.
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