Union Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari’s tweet on leapfrogging to BS6 emission standards sparked a heated debate on the topic previously. However, Oil Companies and Auto Manufacturers have shared their concerns in terms of the short deadline and are worried in terms of the investment required to adhere to the norm. While still the BS4 norms is not implemented across the country, the nationwide deadline of BS6 implementation (by 2020) has shocked the automakers.
First let’s understand the emission norms in India. It is primarily instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. It was first introduced nationwide in the year 2000, based on European regulations. Emission Standards timeline for 4-wheelers is as shown:
The changes done for adhering to the norms is not only in the vehicle (like usage of catalytic converters), but also in the fuel. The fuel specifications of gasoline and diesel have to been closely aligned with the Corresponding European Fuel Specifications for meeting the Euro II, Euro III and Euro IV emission norms.
So why is it that the government thought of directly skipping to BS6 from BS4 (and this is why we support the decision) –
- Exposure to air pollution is leading to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which is estimated to be the cause for 6,20,000 early deaths in 2010! With this statistics, outdoor air pollution is the fifth-largest killer in India.
- Savings in health costs for the public – Health cost of air pollution in India has been assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP!
- Double standard of Indian OEMs – India-specific car emits 4 and a half times more cancer causing particulate matter and over double the amount of the poisonous nitrogen oxide than the same model made for Europe. So if you own a i20 in India, it is indeed much polluting than its European counterpart (irony is both are made at the same plant!).
- Lag in Standards – While we are third largest emitter of CO2 gases in the world, we are generations behind in the terms of regulating the releases of these dangerous gases. As of 2014, only a few cities meet Euro IV or Bharat Stage IV standards that are nine years behind Europe. The rest of India gets Bharat Stage III standard fuel and vehicles, which are 14 years behind Europe.
- Cities are affected the worst – According to a WHO study, 13 of the 20 most-polluted cities in the world are in India! The rapid growth of metropolitan cities is actually making them un-livable!
But, what are the challenges to achieve the deadline:
- Oil refineries will need a substantial investment to upgrade – The shift of technology from BS4 to BS6 is likely to cost anything between Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 80,000 crore to petroleum companies! Considering the past implementation, the issues are genuine — the penetration of BS4 compliant petrol in the domestic market a full four years after its introduction in the metros, was just about 24 per cent, and that of BS4 high speed diesel only 16 per cent, according to government data up to August 2014.
- OEMs have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US. The estimates of required investment to upgrade from BS-IV to BS-V are to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore.
- Increased Size of the cars – Vehicles must be fitted with DPF (diesel particulate filter), a cylindrical object mounted vertically inside the engine compartment. In India, where small cars are preferred, fitting DPF in the limited bonnet space would involve major design and re-engineering work. Bonnet length may have to be increased, which would make vehicles longer than 4 metres, and attract more excise duty under existing norms.
- Vehicle Safety – If the technology is inadequately validated, safety issues like un-intended acceleration or fires which may arise due to improper regeneration of the particulate trap. To achieve temperatures of 600 degrees Celsius required to burn the soot in DPF, and equipment manufacturers would have to work with temperatures of 400 degrees in sight. Usually, diesel is injected to increase temperatures, but the accumulation of excess fuel in the compartment can cause a fire. The injection rate has to be optimised and vehicles re-engineered for safety. The integrity of the vehicle too has to be considered. This would require validation tests over 600,000-700,000 km — a process that may take up to four years.
Technology requirements for upgrading to BS6 –
We support the government’s side of the debate and feel that it is high time we have a strict regulatory framework to reduce the pollution levels and implementation of BS6 standards will be a welcome step towards the endeavor.