Role of Glazing Systems in Shaping the Evolution of Automotive Glazing in India

By: Venu Shanbhag, Managing Director (Sekurit)

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Covid-19 and impact on the automotive glazing industry:

The Automotive industry, with its multi-layered global supply chain was significantly impacted due to the pandemic. In the year 2020, the one-month nationwide lockdown brought the industry to a standstill. However, due to the pent up demand and increased need for personal mobility the industry recorded strong volumes in the last quarter of 2020.

Indian automotive glazing industry was also affected due to fluctuation in demand. The other factor which had an impact is the depreciation of the Indian Rupee as many key input materials still needs to be imported. Logistics of getting components for various regions became a challenge due to restrictions in the country of origin, lack of regular connectivity and movement on various locations by road. The pandemic also forced the auto component industry to look for alternate sources and put import substitution on top priority.

Regional lockdowns impacted distribution and retailing of glass directly impacting the replacement glass business. However, this segment recorded a strong demand as soon as the restrictions were eased.

Improvement in the glazing processes over the last decade:

Automotive industry requires two types of glasses in an automobile, a laminated windshield for the front and a tempered glass for sides and rear to meet the safety regulations.

The laminated windshield provides protection against external impacts ranging from a small stone to even accidents. Technically laminated glass consists of two layers of strengthened glass sandwiched by a plastic interlayer, called PVB that acts as a safety layer which holds on to the glass even after shattering.

The tempered glasses for sides and the rear provides safety by its mere strength and the ability to shatter into small pieces without any sharp edges. The toughening process involves heating of annealed glass just above 600°C and the surfaces are rapidly cooled to create compression on the outer surface and tension on the inside. This causes residual stresses and makes the toughened glass stronger by 6 times the normal annealed glass and provides same visible light transmission.

Automotive glazing has become thinner to reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. This helps in improving mileage and thus contributes to the reduction in carbon footprint. A significant weight reduction of 25-30% can be achieved by using thinner glass without compromising the safety requirement.

Color of the glasses has changed from clear to green and solar control green. These glasses help in reducing the heat coming inside the car offering better comfort to the user. The reduction in heat coming inside the vehicle minimizes the load on air conditioning and further improves fuel efficiency. Some of the export models also have privacy glasses, which are legally permitted in many regions outside India.

The glazing normally cuts noise entering the vehicle cabin but in recent years the acoustic comfort is enhanced by special laminated glasses and encapsulated side glasses. These new technologies improve acoustic comfort inside the cabin for better conversation or noise-free listening of the audio system.

Next decade will be an inclination towards EV

India has recognized that EVs hold immense potential in reducing pollution and dependency on imported petroleum products. The policies, regulations and subsidies are progressing towards adoption of Electric Vehicles in the coming years. As EVs are different from a conventional IC engine vehicle at the fundamental level in terms of design, performance, durability and safety there is also a very different expectation on the automotive glazing side. The glazing of a typical electric vehicle is expected to add more features and improve driving comfort more than just a structural and a safety critical part.

Electric vehicles not only provide reduced energy dependence and less maintenance but also focusses on several driving comfort features. Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is one of the major emerging technology that addresses driving comfort and increases car and road safety. The ADAS use automated technology, such as sensors and cameras, to detect nearby obstacles or driver errors, and respond accordingly.

Thermal comfort is even more important in an EV and in order to achieve higher thermal efficiencies, coated glazing is being used. A special metallic coating reflects out the heat while allowing the visible part of the light to pass through, resulting in superior performance.

Most of the sensors like rain-light-sensor (RLS) are housed in the top of the windshield. Cameras and Lidar also can be integrated into the windshield, which would protect them from external environment and at the same time giving them a view very similar to that of the driver. Another important development is the HUD (Head-up Display) which allows the driver to get information and navigational support right in front without taking his eyes off the road. Higher costs have limited this technology to luxury segment, however with improvement in technology and scale HUD will start becoming popular in all segments. With the integration of electronics into glazing systems, several exciting applications can be expected in the coming years.