For the quintessential Delhi resident hoping to put miles over mortality, the dream of owning a diesel vehicle has gone up in smoke after the Supreme Court ban on registration of new diesel vehicles .
The apex court order on Wednesday has temporarily put the brakes on those hoping to buy an SUV with an engine over 2000 cc. The ban may not be entirely enough to turn the frowns upside down at the city’s air quality monitoring agency, but it is a good start nonetheless.
Delhi is, however, not alone in adopting stringent measures to curb air pollution and countries across the world have clamped down on harmful emissions from diesel vehicles.
The biggest diesel guzzlers in the world are spread across the European continent. European governments in the past, in an effort to bring down carbon dioxide emissions from petrol vehicles, had heavily subsidised diesel. This resulted in a surge in new diesel vehicle registrations. The European Automobiles Manufacturers’ Association reported that in the last 20 years, the number of new diesel vehicles on the European Union roads have doubled.
For example, 50 per cent of the new vehicles on the United Kingdom roads in 2014 run on diesel. This graph by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders illustrates the spike in demand.
The emissions from diesel vehicles have been put in check by constantly revising the Euro emission standards. The latest Euro VI standard is said to reduce nitrogen oxide — one of the main pollutant emitted by diesel vehicles along with sulfur oxide — by 55 per cent from the earlier Euro V standard. The adoption of Euro V standard had already reduced particulate matter by 80 per cent and NOx emission by 28 per cent, and forced the use of particulate filters in diesel vehicles.
Data collected by the European Environment Agency showed that there had been a decrease in emissions in the 33 member countries, including France, Germany, Italy and UK, between 1990 and 2013. Nitrogen oxide emissions decreased by 49 per cent and Sulphur oxide emissions decreased by 80 per cent in respect to the stringent Euro standards adopted across the continent.
However, after the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke this year, studies have shown that cars with Euro VI standard engines have failed in real traffic tests. Tests conducted by the Norwegian Centre for Transport Research in real traffic did not correspond with the ones done in labs. The diesel cars were found to be emitting NOx 4-20 times more than the permissible limit in city traffic. Emissions by the diesel car were found to be at least three times more than a bus running on the same engine.
Amid growing concerns over poor air quality, European countries have introduced low emission zones that restrict the movement of diesel vehicles. Cities have either introduced an entry fee like London or banned older diesel vehicles from entering the town center like in Berlin, Milan and Vienna. This has significantly improved the quality of air over the past years.
The Americans seem to have a better solution to decrease emissions and cut down consumption of oil at the same time. The United States of America has something called the CAFE standards. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) are standards that every vehicle manufacturer in the US must adhere to. A manufacturer is free to produce the most gas-guzzling machine in the country, but must balance it with a vehicle that consumes less fuel. And there is a CAFE threshold limit that every manufacturer’s fleet must meet or else risk penalty.
In President Barack Obama’s second term, the threshold limit has been tinkered with a lot. It was 27.5 miles per gallon in 2011, and is expected to rise every year till it hits 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025. The country estimates that this would cut oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025.
For a city that is in awe with luxury imported vehicles, Delhi can surely import one or two ideas from abroad. The Supreme Court has shown the way, now it is time for Delhi residents to act.