New Delhi: Delhi administration has announced that it will soon phase out cars and personal vehicles including motorcycles that are more than fifteen years old.
This is a welcome move as old vehicles are far more polluting and less fuel efficient than modern cars. The only proviso is the need to make exceptions for a very small number of vintage and classic vehicles.
Murad Ali Baig, auto expert & columnist
Mere orders though will not be enough. For, orders had been passed many months ago to phase out the old commercial vehicles but the traffic police, with so much on their hands, could not garner sufficient time or interest to enforce these rules.
It is only when a vehicle is stopped for some other offence like speeding or jumping traffic lights that the registration papers are sometimes examined. In such cases the traffic cops do not bother to check for kitchen LPG kits, illegal modifications, vehicular age or other irregularities.
More than 80% of the personal vehicles on Delhi roads are powered by petrol engines and the old cars have carburetors that need to be retuned every month or two. They also have distributors that need frequent adjustments for timing.
If the tuning and timing are perfect they are usually quite efficient but on the flip side they also end up spewing out nearly 20% higher pollution and wasted fuel as compared to modern cars. Multi Point Fuel Injection (MPFI) first appeared in Indian cars in 1995 and became common place about 10 years ago.
This technology, using a number of chips to sense oxygen, heat, load and other variables, continuously adjusts the fuel and air supply for optimum vehicular performance. In addition, they have alternators instead of distributors so as to ensure very high reliability.
In the case of diesel engines the improvements are even more significant and new diesel cars and utility vehicles are no longer the heavy, sluggish and noisy vehicles that we so vividly remember for their emitting choking clouds of black smoke to pollute the atmosphere.
In many foreign countries today, diesel engines, despite diesel costing as much as petrol, account for 49% of the engines in passenger cars sold in a highly pollution conscious Europe with 69% in France. Many buyers of prestige cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes are not bothered about the price of fuel and they want diesel engines so unarguably, there has to be something good about modern diesels.
The high torque and efficiencies of diesel engines had been good from the beginning. To top it many improvements were also made to improve combustion with better fuel pumps, injectors and nozzles that could ensure finer spray, etc. This was followed by turbo chargers that used exhaust gasses to push more fuel into the cylinders for better combustion while simultaneously capturing the waste energy. Resultantly, this has increased power and lowered emissions.
But the revolutionary common rail technology introduced in the late 90’s was the most important improvement generating 30% more power, nearly double the torque, much lower vibration, greatly lowered engine emissions and improved fuel consumption. Also as these generate strong torque at low engine speeds, even more fuel can be saved by getting good speeds at low engine speeds.
Emission levels are lowered both through better burning of the fuel inside the engines as well as from the post combustion exhaust treatment. Catalytic converters, better mufflers and particulate filters scrub the exhaust gasses to improve emission levels. However, as we have seen, better engines will also need better fuel.
Now that India has low sulphur diesel, the SOX levels have gone down dramatically even if some of the diesel continues to remain adulterated. With these improvements in engine technologies and fuels the impact has been huge and the Government has been able to move from Bharat Stage I to Bharat Stage IV where the carbon monoxide (CO) emission levels have declined 81%, the HC and NOX levels are down 69% and particulate matter, or soot, is 82% lower.
These improvements are due to increasing government pressure as well as suitable response by a highly competitive auto industry. Older vehicles happen to be less efficient than new ones because of normal wear and tear on their tyres, brakes, suspensions and other body parts. Motorcycles and scooters, that account for over 70% of Delhi’s motorized traffic, still mostly use carburetors but even here there have been significant improvements for fuel consumption and atmospheric pollution.
The auto industry has done its bit and the Government must now move to urgently phase out old vehicles which clutter the roads and adds to chaos and mayhem. This includes cars/ vehicles owned by numerous government departments. There is no use in having new rules if the traffic cops themselves remain unwilling or unable to enforce them.
A lot of them do not even know how to recognize the old car models that clog Delhi’s streets. Kitchen LPG cylinders in cars are illegal, apart from being dangerous, but traffic cops do precious little to remove them and not even when these kits are visible at the back of say an old omni van or Gypsy.
Delhi administration needs to give its traffic cops a short training course while beefing up its enforcement before passing new rules that serve just one purpose - helping them score brownie points in the face of the gullible public who are pacified with a ‘sop’ of this sort.
Since traffic cops have so much to do, even without the pressures of BRT and VIP security, Delhi administration should also seriously consider outsourcing the task of vehicle checking. As in the case of the tow away cranes, many entrepreneurs will readily come forward if they are offered say 25% of all the fines they can collect. It would be quick, efficient and cost nothing to the government. Well, suggestions can be plentiful, but if only they could be implemented for the larger common good.
Murad Ali Baig is one of India’s foremost auto experts. Feedback to his column can be sent at firstname.lastname@example.org