With cities in India reaching alarming levels of air pollution, there is a heightened demand from government authorities, environmentalists and the general public to enforce strict emission standards for automobiles. However, automakers say that they are not able to make vehicles that are compliant to higher environment standards in the next couple of years.
It will take a large investment to upgrade the technology and manufacturing facilities to make vehicles that abide by stricter environment standards like Bharat Stage (BS) V/VI.
“Currently, BS III and BS IV standards are in place across India. A switchover to BS-V was planned for 2020. BS VI was planned for 2024. The environment conditions are deteriorating in cities, but there are other factors that increase the toll of vehicles on the environment. The large cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata face problems of congestion, improper planning and encroachment. This invariably increases the emissions by each vehicle,” K.K. Gandhi, executive director (Tech), Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said.
“Vehicles need to be equipped with a diesel particulate filter in order to shift to BS V. The filter needs to be optimised for Indian road conditions. When yoau move to BS VI, selective catalytic reduction technology has to be optimised. At every stage, the technology will be required to be validated over six to seven lakh kilometre. It is a complex process. These technologies can only be optimised in series and not simultaneously. The government had proposed jumping from BS IV to BS VI directly. It is not possible to skip one stage,” Gandhi said.
The government implemented BS II standards across India in 2010 and BS IV norms in 13 cities across the country. Initially, it was planned to upgrade the norms from BS IV to BS-V by 1 April 2020, but a report of the Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas tabled in Parliament in May said that the Oil Ministry is considering a proposal to switch over directly from BS-IV to BS-VI auto fuels by 1 April 2020 instead of step-wise upgradation from BS-IV to BS-V and then BS-V to BS-VI. BS-VI was initially scheduled to be introduced in 2024.
“The car manufacturers will have to invest several thousands of crores of rupees to switch over to manufacturing BS V/VI compliant vehicles. As a direct result, car prices will shoot up and hit sales severely. This puts the industry at risk and makes it more difficult for the consumer to purchase automobiles,” Gandhi added. Also, Indian oil companies told the government that they would be ready to make BS VI fuel by 2020. Nonetheless, industry insiders believe that the same companies will not even be able to meet the requirements for BS IV fuel across India by 2017. “It takes an investment of over Rs 2,500 crore to upgrade a single oil refinery to produce superior fuel. Doing so will hit the profit margins of oil companies severely. There is no subsidy for that and it doesn’t seem likely. A sudden jump in standards is going to cripple the oil as well as automobile industry,” a senior official from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd said.
“Many nations have targeted vehicles and associated sectors and curbed air pollution in their cities. There would be consequences to our environment and public health if financial aspects are cited to let environmental abuse continue,” Kayitha Ravinder, Principal Scientist, Transport Planning Division, CSIR-Central Road Research Institute said.