In a move to curb vehicular pollution, the government on Wednesday announced it would prepone implementation of Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission standards by a year, to April 2020. In the process, it decided to skip the BS-V emission standard.
This is the second time the BS-VI implementation has been advanced. An earlier draft had advanced its date of adoption to 2021, from 2024. No other country has skipped a standard and leapfrogged to a new standard directly. The government had earlier planned to implement BS-V from 2019 and BS-VI from 2021 for four-wheelers.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari and attended by the ministers of environment, petroleum and heavy industries. During the meet, the petroleum and natural gas ministry assured supply of BS-VI fuel across the country by April 1, 2020.
In the new emission standard, particulate matter (PM) emission for diesel cars would be 80 per cent less than BS-IV and the nitrogen oxide (NOx) level would be 83 per cent lower. The sulphur content in fuel norms for diesel and petrol under both V and VI standards would not change at 10 parts per million, though it is substantially less than the 50 mandated for both fuels under BS-IV.
Automobile companies voiced apprehension and said it would 'neither be technically possible nor advisable' to skip BS-V or advance the onset of BS-VI, before the earlier scheduled 2023. The industry would face other issues while complying with the new standards ahead of schedule.
Vinod Dasari, president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said, "Technology providers have expressed their inability to provide fully-validated BS-VI solutions for all types and models of four-wheelers before 2023."
"Introducing technologies without proper validation and testing on the Indian roads will raise questions over several safety issues, such as car fires," Dasari added.
Automakers also raised apprehensions over availability of the requisite fuel. However, state-owned oil marketing companies have pushed for direct migration to BS-VI norms as their refineries are ready to produce the upgraded fuel. According to Dharmendra Pradhan, minister of state, petroleum and natural gas, state-owned oil marketers would invest Rs 28,750 crore for switching over to BS-VI auto fuels.
"For the country, in order to switch over to BS-V norms, the requisite 10 parts per million sulphur BS-V fuel will have to be introduced by 2019 across India, before the new technology vehicles are introduced. In case of unavailability of the requisite fuel, use of BS-IV fuel might damage the engine as well as the after-treatment devices fitted," said Dasari.
Automakers are not in favour of skipping BS-V standard altogether, especially for diesel vehicles. Explains Bhargava of Maruti: "BS-V and BS-VI are totally different, especially for diesel vehicles. We can go to BS-VI in petrol cars as early as 2019. But for diesel vehicles, we need to start using particulate filter. In case of BS-V, that will help reduce particulate matter or PM2.5 emission. When you move to BS-VI you reduce NOx. You can't really bypass BS-V and go to BS-VI and achieve the end result. You need to bring down both PM2.5 and NOx. For companies who need to develop components and test them adequately for use, time is a constraint. Moreover, you cannot just replicate Euro-VI from Europe and follow it here. There has to be customisation for each vehicle."
Some manufacturers, however, are building engines keeping in mind the emission requirements of the future. For instance, Tata Motors' yet-to-be-launched hatchback Zica will be powered by engines that can be tuned to meet BS-VI emission standards.
The government believes that the automobile industry "...with its technical competence and commitment to environment will rise to the occasion and support the decision".
The decision to skip to BS-VI comes a day after the Supreme Court refused to dilute its December order banning registration of diesel vehicles with an engine capacity of 2,000cc and above in the national capital region.
At present, a little over 50 cities in India comply with BS-IV standards, while the rest are BS-III compliant. While more cities are set to join BS-IV from April 1, the deadline for the entire country to adopt BS-IV is April 1, 2017.