NATRAX: Perfect infra support for vehicle, tyre testing
By TA News Bureau:
The National Automotive Test Tracks (NATRAX), which was opened in January 2018, is being utilised by OEM’s and tyre manufacturers for commercial use since then, Dr N Karuppaiah, Additional Director and Site Head of NATRAX, said. Over 13 small and medium testing tracks and two labs – vehicle dynamic lab and powertrain labs have been commissioned and operational. NATRAX, the Centre set up under National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP), a joint initiative by the government and the automotive industry. NATRiP is the largest initiative in automotive sector to create state-of-the-art testing centre, validation and R&D infrastructure in the country. The 12-track NATRAX project was launched at Pithampur, near Indore in Madhya Pradesh, in 2010 on 2,960 acres of land offered by Govt of Madhya Pradesh. It will be a world-class automotive proving ground setup on 2,960 acres land for comprehensive testing and evaluation of all types of vehicles. The site is located between NH-3 and N-59 and well connected with road.
The facility will have all types of surface type to test vehicles against varying terrains and stringency. The mandate of NATRAX proving ground is to offer world-class testing and evaluation services catering for all categories of vehicles from 2/3 wheelers to heavy commercial vehicles. NATRAX will also emerge as a Centre of Excellence for Vehicle Dynamics catering to the design and development activities of OEM’s and Tyre manufacturers in the country and abroad with the capability to undertake testing and R&D projects in the area for optimization of Ride and Handling, Chassis and Suspension tuning, full vehicle characterization, modelling and simulation etc. The test tracks at NATRAX, while are meant primarily for R&D tests for Automotive and Auto component sector can also be used for homologation tests. These test tracks are open air laboratories with stringent specifications and quality control to meet International standards.
NATRiP has planned an expenditure of about Rs.1,300 Crores to create this world class facility, said Karuppaiah. Facilities at the center include R&D Tracks (Proving Ground) for NVH, Fatigue and other performance testing, Vehicle Dynamics Lab (Center of Excellence) and PowerTrain Lab for development tests. NATRAX will be the largest automotive proving ground in Asia and one of the largest in the world.
The facility is a boon to the tyre industry for benchmarking of performance of their tyres. It has also come in the right time when the concept of ‘Tyre Labeling’ has come into force with introduction of new standards for tyres viz., Rolling resistance, Wet grip and Rolling Noise Emission parameters.
NATRAX proving ground consists of 14 different types of test tracks viz., High speed Track, Dynamic Platform, Multi friction Braking Track, Fatigue Track, Gradient Track, Gravel and off road track, Handling Track, Comfort Track, Handling Track for 2&3 wheelers, Sustainability Track, Wet skid pad, Noise track, General road alongwith Dust Tunnel, Water wading trough, Salted Water wading trough, Shower test rig etc. for comprehensive testing and evaluation, Research & Development and certification of vehicles.
NATRAX also contains state-of-the-art Vehicle Dynamics Lab and Power Train Lab complimented by CAE Lab, Instrumentation Lab, Client Workshops and General Storage building as support facilities. The Vehicle Dynamics Lab houses one of its kind facility in the country i.e. Kinematics and Compliance (K&C) Test rig for measurement of suspension parameters and Damper Test rig, Elastomer Test rig & Steering Test rig for measurement of performance of components, which can be used for mathematical modelling and prediction of performance using CAE tools and improve ride and handling characteristics in automobiles. The Power Train Lab contains a Chassis Dynamometer coupled with Emission measurement system capable of benchmarking and testing compliance to emission norms of India, US, CARB, EPA, EURO and Japanese regulations.
Details and Test capabilities :
Dynamic Platform: This is of 300 m diameter platform connected by 1.5 km long track of width varying from 20 m to 100 m with zero percent longitudinal slope designed with stringent evenness specifications. This is the unique facility where High speed manoeuvrability and roll over stability of vehicles can be tested to the limits on this track.
Multi Friction Braking Track: This track has four different test surfaces like basalt tiles, ceramic tiles, polished concrete and high friction asphalt to offer varying friction values from low to high values. Braking tests at 160 kmph, ABS tests with one side wheels on low friction and other side wheels on high friction surface, tyre development tests are undertaken on this track. The track has facility to wet the surfaces uniformly through water sprinklers to undertake wet braking tests. The track has also a special track on the side to test aqua planning.
Fatigue Track: This track has various torture track surfaces like pave track, pot holes, ditches, wash boards, herringbones, cobblestones, rough roads, splash road, twist road etc for accelerated endurance testing of vehicles. The track has two circuits one of low severity for testing upto cars and LCV’s and the other of high severity for testing buses and trucks.
Handling Track: This track is of 3.6 km length and 8 m width and has got serpentine curves of different radius varying from 20 m to 300 m and also with up and down gradients, reverse camber etc for testing high speed manoeverability / stability and road grip of vehicles on curves.
Handling Track for 2 and 3 Wheelers: There is a dedicated handling track for 2 and 3 wheelers of 1.5 km length and 5 m width with radii varying from 8 m to 20 m.
Gradient Track: The track has seven different gradients with percentage varying from 6 % to 30 % (6,8,12,18,20,24 & 30) for testing gradeability and parking brake capability of different vehicles. All the tracks except 24 and 30 % have have low friction surfaces also on the sides of gradients for testing vehicles with traction control systems.
Gravel and Off-Road Track: The track is of two loops of 3.5 km length and 5 m width each, the first loop with various gravels and the other with different forest / off – road patches like cross country, village roads, mud bowls, sand patches, mounds, steps, cants, twist ditches etc to assess the mobility and durability of off-road vehicles.
Comfort Track : The comfort track contains different surfaces like smooth/rough asphalt, smooth/rough concrete, smooth/rough pave, wash boards, steps, cleats, bridge joints, village roads etc to assess the ride comfort in different road surfaces on different loads and speeds.
Sustainability Track : The sustainability track is built over a hill with uniform slope of 8 % over a length of 800 m and of 7 m width to assess the cooling performance of vehicles and also to test the effectiveness of retarders, transmission etc.
Wet Skid Pad : This track has been specially designed with combination of low and high friction surfaces of basalt tiles / asphalt combination on the circular pads with radius varying from 20 to 35 m to test wet cornering capabilities of tyres and vehicles.
Noise Track :
The noise track has a unique feature with two different test patches complying with ISO 1994 and 2014 standards with acceleration and deceleration length of 350 m on both sides to be able to test the pass by noise levels of vehicles as per National/Inter-national standards.
High Speed Track : This is of oval shape and will be one of the largest in the world with total circuit length of 11.3 km and 16 m width. The straight portion of the track is of 2.1 km length and the curved section of the track is of parabolic shape designed for testing at 250 kmph on curves as though travelling on straight roads. A wide range of tests viz., high speed endurance tests, fuel consumption tests, coast down tests, noise & vibration measurements etc are undertaken on this track. The construction of this track is under progress.
Vehicle Dynamics Lab: There is a modern Test rig named Kinematics & Compliance (K&C) Test Rig in the Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory for testing suspension parameters of Cars and LCV’s which can be used for mathematical modelling and prediction of performance using CAE tools and improve ride and handling characteristics in automobiles. This is a unique facility in the country which the Indian automobile manufacturers have started using now before which these measurements were done abroad on their vehicles. The lab also contains component test facilities such as damper test rig, elastomer test rig and steering test rigs for performance characterization and durability assessment.
Emission Test Lab: The Power Train Lab contains a Chassis Dynamometer to simulate road loads coupled with Emission measurement system capable of benchmarking and testing of cars and LCV ‘s for compliance to emission norms of India, US, CARB, EPA, EURO and Japanese regulations.
The Vehicle Dynamics Lab and Power Train Lab along with Client Workshops for support have already been commissioned and are being used by the Industry. All 13 test tracks except the High speed track have been completed and are in use by the Industry. As regards the high speed track, the works are in full swing and have been scheduled to be completed in October 2019.