Chennai’s Humidity Challenges Safety Of Passenger Cars

IIT Bombay in partnership with International Zinc Association today unveiled a first-of-its-kind survey report – Safety First – Risk of Rust– to highlight the impact of weather conditions on the safety of passenger car vehicles.

Launched in Chennai, the metropolitan city in the southern India, the study provides insights about safety hazards like deteriorating structural stability and strength caused by faster rusting of car bodies in coastal regions, due to unpredictable and humid weather conditions. It also further emphasised the need for increased adoption of galvanised steel in the automotive industry, especially in coastal areas, to increase the durability of cars.

While safety standards for the automotive industry in India is defined by Airbags, seatbelts, and ABS, the study further states the importance of protecting steel against corrosion as the fourth safety pillar. With nearly 50 percent of the vehicle structure made of steel, the study emphasised the need for supplying only galvanised steel to the automobile industry for the safety of people against rust and corrosion.

Spearheaded by Prof Anand Khanna, Former Professor, Department of Metallurgy Engineering, IIT – Bombay with a team of two PhD students, the study was conducted in the month of March 2018. Based on a series of parameters, this closed car survey studied nearly 500 cars across brands to understand the extent of corrosion imperfection categories like blisters, surface rust, and perforation on the external panels/body parts. A key highlight of the study is that the surveyed cars were chosen based on the average Indian family usage (typically below Rs. 10 Lakhs) across hatchback and sedan segments.

Currently, there is almost zero awareness about how impact of corrosion increase over the years into life-threatening hazards for car owners. The study, Khanna said, will create an impact by creating the desired awareness among the public. “Chennai being an auto manufacturing hub we are confident that the companies will consider the insights from the study and align their processes in order to increase safety aspect for a consumer,” he added.

Dr Dough Rourke, Consultant – International Zinc Association, Canada, said increased galvanisation of automotive parts will drastically help improve the safety standards in India. The galvanisation of body parts in cars manufactured for Indian consumers stands at mere 15 to 30 percent while the same for the cars shipped out of India stands at 70 percent. He said, the study will urge policymakers to relook at the need for country’s own Corrosion Prevention Act.

Duplex coating such as paint plus zinc, he said, will prevent corrosion and also provide synergistic benefits – lasting longer and prevent undercutting of steel. Using galvanised steel may add Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 in the overall cost of the vehicle but can prevent loss to the exchequer and also improve safety for the end consumer.

One of the key findings of the study is that the number of vehicles exhibiting certain imperfection increased with the age of the vehicle. This was more for vehicles that were five to ten years old.  It is also quite evident that the number of blisters and surface rust were more predominant than perforation.

The survey also states that out of the four major parts inspected, rocker panel exhibited the highest damage in terms of the number of imperfections, blistering and surface rust.  This can be attributed to its closeness to the ground and henceforth effects of road debris, stagnant water and such.

The Way Forward:

Khanna and Rourke said that corrosion eats about about five percent of the GDP of India as a whole. While the threatening aftereffects of rust are not reaching the end consumers of passenger cars due to lack of awareness, it can make the vehicles vulnerable for accidents. They felt that the OEMs in India should favour using galvanised steel for making the cars that costs even below Rs 10 lakh, as the premium cars already have these material. This is because customers of these kinds of cars tend to retain their vehicle for longer duration, unlike the owners of premium cars who change in less than five years. They opined that like the governments in developed economies, the Indian government should also look at options to enforce the vehicle manufacturers to deploy rust-proof materials while making vehicles. Already, ICAT and ARAI have recommended for certain measures to be taken to test the cars relating to corrosion as well, they added.


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