European emission norms have been a blueprint for emission regulation in India since 2000
Clean and low-carbon transportation strategies need to take shape against the backdrop of rapid and explosive motorisation.
The number of motor vehicles registered in India doubled in the past decade, to 1.4 million in 2011 from 2.8 billion in 2021. Nearly a quarter of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, predominantly from the combustion of fossil fuels.
As road transport is the dominant mode of transport and mobility, its share in energy consumption is also higher than other modes.
Also read: Most Indians want government to ramp up climate action, reduce emissions urgently: Survey
Diesel and petrol continue to be the primary fuel for vehicles and are also a consistent source of pollution in urban and regional areas. India has adopted significant transport policies to control emissions from vehicles. These policies target combatting air pollution along with controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
Recently, during a closed-door meeting of the technical committee on vehicle standards, Nitin Gadkari, the minister of Road Transport and Highways, asked the Indian manufacturers to start researching the manufacturing of the advanced Bharat Stage (BS)-VII vehicles.
He urged the industry to be proactive and not wait for the government to push to make a mandate to roll out advanced standards. The industry should be at par with its European counterparts.
In April 2020, India, in a bold move, adopted nationwide BS-VI vehicle standards in a direct leapfrog from BS-IV. A combined introduction of BS-VI vehicles with low-sulphur BS-VI fuels led to a reduction in particulates and sulphur dioxide emissions, which form toxic smog.
Emission standards & pollution
Compared to BS-IV, BS-VI standards have more stringent parameters limiting vehicular emissions across categories. With its massive cuts in vehicle emissions, the BS-VI standards are significantly cleaner than BS-IV.
Comparing the two standards, BS-VI exhibits 82-93 per cent lower particulate matter and 68 per cent lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission for different segments of diesel cars. Similarly, 50-67 per cent lower particulate emissions for trucks and buses than the BS-IV counterparts.
Moreover, the BS-VI standards have proven effective in combating high-emitting vehicles such as heavy-duty diesel vehicles. For instance, around 50 per cent of the total particulate matter (PM) emissions from vehicles come from heavy-duty vehicles in Delhi.
Also read: How close is Delhi to its electric vehicle adoption target
Even though the inherent gap between petrol and diesel fuel emission limits will remain, the gap has narrowed substantially through a deep reduction in their PM and NOx levels. It is also important to note that other countries are now fully equalising the diesel and petrol standards to be fuel neutral.
The transport minister’s comment comes in light of a major development, the European Union tabling its Euro 7 emission norms.
In November 2022, European Commission presented a proposal to the European Parliament on Euro 7 emission norms. The European emission norms have been a blueprint for emission regulation in India since 2000. India has followed the European schedule of implementation and adapted it to suit Indian conditions.
They announced that Euro 7 pollution standards for new cars and vans will be applicable from July 2025 and for buses and lorries from 2027.
The new Euro 7 norms monitor fine particulates, NOx, CO, hydrocarbons, methane and ammonia for lorries and buses. The proposal has added ammonia limits which help in the formation of urban smog.
What does Euro 7 offer?
On the technology front, the Euro 7 suggests further minimising NOx and PM emissions. Under Euro 6, technologies such as selective catalytic reduction systems and diesel particulate filters were used.
To attain an even lower value of these emissions, the development of more efficient combustion processes, advanced filters and further advancements in exhaust after-treatment systems will be required.
The new standards will be fuel neutral as the lowest existing limits will be applied to cars and vans regardless of the fuel. The Euro 7 norms will focus on on-road emissions. It has proposed separate norms for cars, vans, buses and lorries.
These standards, which apply to all types of vehicles, including zero-emission technologies, will go beyond the exhaust pipe emissions and impose additional limits for particulate emissions from brakes and microplastic emissions from tyres.
Emission limits have also been proposed for the vapour emissions of petrol that occur during refuelling — this is important because hydrocarbons such as benzene, known to be carcinogenic and also a direct contributor to the formation of ozone particles, are released.
On electric vehicles, the proposal also includes regulations governing the durability of batteries. This will reduce the need to replace batteries frequently, reducing the demand for critical raw materials used in battery production.
Having said this, the International Council on Clean Transportation, in its recent report of 2022, pointed out that while the Euro 7 emission limits for cars and vans are not significantly different from the Euro 6 regulations — especially in terms of NOx emissions — the true impact lies in the substantial improvement of reduction from trucks and buses of particulates and NOx emissions.
Is the industry ready for this jump?
The implementation of Euro 7 norms is expected to pose challenges for automakers, as the technological advancement envisaged by the norms would require significant investment in research and development. This is when the industry is already busy grappling with a burgeoning demand for manufacturing EV vehicles across categories.
The future of the automobile industry is anticipated to witness a combination of technologies varying from electric vehicles to other cleaner fuels such as CNG and advanced emission technology. Interestingly, sources from automobile manufacturers state that the market share of diesel vehicles will gradually decrease as other technologies like EVs gain popularity.
Gadkari cited the transition from the current BS-VI to BS-VII is necessary for domestic vehicle manufacturers as they will have an opportunity to sell their components locally as well (if they are producing them to export for Euro 7 vehicles). This will contribute to the growth of the domestic industry and foster local production capabilities.
Industry experts pointed out that it will be important to note that the transition from BS-IV to BS-VI has witnessed substantial improvements in emissions. Still, the shift from BS-VI to BS-VII may not bring about as significant a change. The current industry sentiments seem to be for a smooth transition; the government’s push will be necessary to drive the adoption of clean technologies.
These regulations are vital in advancing sustainable transportation and improving air quality. India is on its way to implementing real-world emissions regulations from 2023 onwards and framing BS-VII emissions standards for implementation in 2027. This requires equally strident steps to significantly improve fuel economy regulations for fuel savings.
The European Policy announcement offers a pathway to future climate strategies. Ministerial intentions voiced in India have begun to add to the chorus that could begin a dialogue towards the movement of advanced technology for vehicles.
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