Even as Minister for Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) Nitin Gadkari has urged automobile manufacturers to leapfrog from Bharat Stage-IV emissions norms to BS-VI standards directly to address the issue of vehicular pollution, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) and the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) have reached a consensus to notify implementation of BS-V and VI standards by 2019 and 2023, respectively.
In separate internal reports, the two ministries have agreed to not skip BS-V and instead adopt a phased approach to upgrade to BS-VI after a round of consultations with leading global engine manufacturers including Bosch and Cummins. The reports have to be cleared by Gadkari.
A senior official in MoRTH said, “The timelines recommended for adoption of higher emission standards by both the ministries are same. We have consulted with leading global engine manufacturers, it is not possible to skip BS V. We have recommended that BS-IV, BS-V and BS-VI be rolled out by 2017, 2019 and 2023, respectively.”
Bharat stage emission standard regulates the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following European emission norms, though with a time lag of five years, with BS-IV norms currently applicable in 33 cities where the required grade of fuel is available while the rest of the country follows BS-III standards.
The government has in recent months reiterated its plan to advance the timelines for rolling out BS-VI fuel norms across the country by skipping a stage (BS-V) entirely. As per the original timeline in the Auto Fuel Policy, BS-IV is to be adopted across the country by 2017, BS V by 2020 and BS-VI by 2024. Many Western countries have already graduated to Euro VI. BS-VI is its equivalent. Earlier in June this year, the government consulted a team of international experts on automobile engine development to discuss whether India can skip BS-V. However, auto firms had flagged their concerns as jumping directly to BS-VI would not offer enough time for the design changes to be instituted.
Directly aping the Euro norms might be a problem considering that driving conditions peculiar to India might require the adaptation of two critical components -a diesel particulate filter and a selective catalytic reduction module – to work in these conditions, which restrict running speeds to much lower than in Europe.
Government sources told The Indian Express that the decision to consult representatives from leading European and Japanese engine development firms was taken after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) weighed in. Environment Secretary Ashok Lavasa had written to the PMO to decide on skipping BS-V altogether, as the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas had said oil companies would be able to make BS-VI fuel available by 2020.
However, engine development firms have said available technology would not enable skipping a stage and upgrading to BS-VI norms directly. “International firms including Bosch and Cummins were called in to examine possibilities of compressing the timelines for design, development and rollout of engines compliant with BS-V and BS-VI emission standards. They made some presentations after which both ministries agreed that BS-V & VI have to be introduced in a phased manner,” the official added.
KK Gandhi, executive director (tech), Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), said, “Though the fuel quality is not much different in BS-V and BS-VI, the engines have to be compliant to use the fuel. In BS-V, vehicles have to be fitted with a diesel particulate filter, which needs to be optimised for Indian road conditions. In stage-VI, selective catalytic reduction technology has to be optimised. At each stage, the technology would have to be validated over 6 lakh to 7 lakh km. Given the complexity of the process, these technologies can only be optimised in series and not simultaneously. It is not possible to skip BS-V.”
BS-IV petrol and diesel contain far less sulphur than BS-III fuel. Sulphur in fuel makes it dirtier and lowers the efficiency of catalytic converters, which control emissions. The sulphur content in BS-V and BS-VI fuel is similar, which makes it possible for oil companies to graduate from BS-V to VI directly. However, automobile manufacturers would have to pump in close to Rs 50,000 crore for fitting DPF and SCR in a phased manner to upgrade from BS IV to BS VI.
The diesel particulate filter (DPF) for removing particulate matter is a cylindrical object that has to be mounted inside the engine compartment. In India, where small cars are preferred, fitting DPF into the limited bonnet space would involve major redesign. The bonnet length may have to be increased, which would make vehicles breach the prevalent excise bracket for sub-4 metre cars. The DPF would further have to be optimised for Indian operating conditions. In Indian conditions, low driving speed means it is difficult to achieve temperatures of 600°C required to burn the soot in DPF. Usually diesel is injected to increase temperatures but excess fuel can cause a fire. The injection rate has to be optimised, vehicles re-engineered keeping in mind safety
The selective catalytic reduction (SCR) module is used to reduce oxides of nitrogen. When the exhaust is moving, an aqueous urea solution (AUS 32) is injected into the system.
AUS 32 contains ammonia, which reacts with and reduces the nitrogen. This means a container needs to be put on board the car for deploying the AUS 32. Separately, infrastructure also needs to be set up across the country for supply of AUS 32. The optimisation and fitment of this technology would again take three to four years.
If both DPF and SCR are fitted together for testing, experts say, it will be extremely difficult to detect which of the technologies is at fault in case of any errors.
The nationwide availability of BS-V and BS-VI fuel is also an issue, say experts. For instance at present, while passenger vehicle manufacturers have been selling BS-IV variants even beyond the 33 cities where that fuel is available, all commercial vehicles (heavy trucks and buses) comply with BS-III norms. These vehicles travel inter-state and therefore have to refuel at BS-III stations. Using BS-III fuel in BS-IV vehicles lowers efficacy of the engine. Its performance too is affected. The objective of addressing pollution issue by upgrading to higher emissions norms too remain defeated without uniform fuel availability across the country.