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As the intense debate regarding the way forward for vehicle tailpipe emissions limits in India reaches its conclusion in the coming weeks, it is already clear that the government of India wishes to pull forward the introduction of Bharat Stage-VI norms by four years to April 2020. In response, the automotive industry is already preparing its plans to support this proposed acceleration of the previously declared timing for BS-VI and the skipping of the BS-V stage completely.

The BS-IV stage itself is yet to be implemented for all India and this will happen only in April 2017. Thus, India intends to move from BS IV to BS VI in three years—a step which took about nine years in Europe.

The need to continually improve vehicle emissions and city air quality is not in question and in this there is no conflict in the aims of industry and government. In fact, tailpipe emissions have already been reduced by over 90% for BS-IV vehicles since the introduction of emission norms in the early 1990s. This is a record to be proud of and has been possible because of the collaborative approach taken to mapping out the practical changes required in technology and infrastructure as part of a long-term planning. This strategic outlook and cooperation needs to continue in order to establish a sustainable pace of emissions improvement.

Simply put, the automotive industry needs a stable and practical road map for future emissions, if it is to meet the highly stringent norms of BS-VI and beyond with safe and reliable products and continue the pace of improvement desired. Toxic emissions are also not the only challenge to be met—greenhouse gas emissions also have to be reduced in the same time frames. The recent COP21 Paris agreement demands significant actions to reduce fleet emissions of carbon dioxide over the next 15 years. In India the already defined CO2 targets for 2021 demand a greater than 20% improvement from today’s levels.

The suite of solutions to deliver combined improvements in toxic and greenhouse gas emissions will include a number of technologies to suit specific applications and environments. Alternative fuels, from bio-fuels to compressed or liquid natural gas, figure and, in the longer term, hydrogen for fuel cells or blended with other fuels. Hybridization of vehicle power trains—combining conventional internal combustion engines with electric drive—will also emerge as an increasingly cost-effective measure. However, conventional gasoline and diesel will continue to be the dominant fuels.

Diesel, in particular, has come under scrutiny recently, but at BS-VI emission levels, and beyond, diesel will continue to be an important part of the response to improving the environment. This is because diesel is so efficient compared to all other forms of internal combustion engine. Moreover, it offers the only solution to heavy-duty applications and the best greenhouse gas emissions for larger passenger vehicles. In India, where fuel prices vs disposable incomes are amongst the highest in the world, cost of ownership, and therefore fuel economy, continues to be one of the highest priorities in vehicle purchase decisions. Diesel offers typically 15-20% better fuel economy than gasoline and up to 25% better carbon dioxide emissions.

Because of the wide range of vehicle applications in India (many of them completely unique to this country), it’s essential that legislators focus on air quality and emission limits rather prescribing specific technology solutions. All of the available engine and fuel technologies have their own emissions profiles, and advantages and disadvantages when compared at the same regulation level. Therefore, it would be wrong to emphasize only on one technology—a balanced strategy will be the most effective.

In any case, the automotive industry has a long history of innovation and will step up to meet more and more stringent standards in the future with the optimum emission performance and cost.

It’s equally important to examine the topic of emissions holistically, if measures are to be identified that give genuine real-world improvements. All sources of emissions should be considered, not only those from one sector. This will require precise modelling to ensure tighter norms really do result in improved air quality conditions in our cities.

The achievement of BS-VI norms doesn’t only depend on the automotive industry delivering the technology.

The availability of sulphur 50 ppm fuel in 2017 and low-sulphur 10 ppm fuel in 2019 is an essential enabler for BS-IV and BS-VI, respectively. Indeed, BS-VI level fuel will be needed for product validation testing from 2018 onwards. In addition, infrastructure is needed to cover the entire country for Adblue/Urea provision at fuel stations to prime the emission systems of the BS-VI vehicles. Without these pre-requisites, the lower-emission systems simply won’t work or could be damaged at significant cost to the owners.

At Tata Motors, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our products and we support the need to act positively to meet this goal. We have invested strongly in the research and development for future emission reduction across the entire range of technology options. Like any technology development organization, we ideally need a clear and practical road map for the future to focus our efforts and ensure these ambitious targets are secured.

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