Leapfrogging to More Stringent Emissions Norms in India: Realistic or Just a Pipe Dream?

By Sharada Prahladrao

Industry Trends

Pollution is a fallout of India’s rapid urbanization. With more than 10 million people migrating to cities and towns annually, the urban population is projected to reach 600 million by 2031. Statistics reveal that India has the most polluted cities in the world.  Thirty cities in India figure in the Top 100 Most Polluted Global Cities (in terms of particulate matter PM10) as per data published by the World Health Organization in May 2016.  

Recognizing the imminent need to improve air quality, the government of India made a bold move last year to leapfrog from BS-IV (Bharat Stage IV) emission norms to BS-VI norms by April 2020 – entirely skipping BS-V norms.  The BS norms are broadly based on the European regulations (Euro norms), setting specifications/limits for the release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change.

Transitioning to BS-VI norms requires adoption of new technologies, innovations in manufacturing, testing and validation – all of which are time-consuming. Further, in India one has to view this from multiple angles: road conditions, diverse climates, fuel, maintenance etc.

  The two major industries that must comply with BS-VI norms:

  • Oil refineries that will need a substantial investment to upgrade. These upgrades will allow the refineries to supply fuel types to match the BS-VI standards.
  • Automobile manufacturers also need to progress incrementally and skipping BS-V norms might put extra pressure on the manufacturers to produce compliant vehicles. 


    Fuel: The oil industry says that BS-VI quality diesel will be available from the year 2020; the total investment that oil companies will have to make will range from $7.5-12 billion.


    Automobiles: To reduce PM emissions, diesel passenger cars need to be fitted with a particulate filter (DPF) and a DeNOx catalytic converter to reduce NOx emissions.  Besides these, there are other related components and sensors that need to be fitted to ensure compliance.

Car manufacturers are voicing dissent because although they have access to the technologies, integrating these into the manufacturing processes will be complicated. BS-VI vehicles also have to be equipped with an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) module. Even after completing this, car manufacturers will have to do fleet testing with commercial grade fuel; and BS-VI grade fuel will be available only from 2020. India’s auto and auto components industry will have to invest over $10 billion over the next three years to be able to manufacture BS-VI-compliant cars. In an ideal situation, upgraded fuel would be ready and in the market before upgraded vehicles are on the road.

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