UPSC MAINS 2019 : Maruti to phase out all diesel cars from April next year

Maruti to phase out all diesel cars from April next year

Topic : Maruti to phase out all diesel cars from April next year

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Ecology & Environment

 

Context:

Maruti to phase out all diesel cars from April next year

Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest vehicle manufacturer, today announced that it will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles from April 1, 2020 when the new BS 6 emission norms will be introduced.

 

More about on news:

  • India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki will stop manufacturing vehicles with Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine from April 1, 2020. From this date, the BS-VI emission norms will come into effect.
  • The high cost of upgrading existing diesel engines to the BS 6 norms propelled the company to take such a decision.
  • The company will try to focus on compressed natural gas (CNG) and hybrid technology driven vehicles to compensate the vacuum created by the phasing-out of diesel vehicles.
  • Maruti Suzuki VitaraBrezza, which is the largest selling compact SUV in India, is only available with a diesel engine.
  • Maruti Suzuki S-Cross only comes with a DDiS 200 Smart Hybrid, 1.3-litre diesel engine that makes the same 90 hp and 200 Nm of torque. Both vehicles do not have a petrol option at the moment.
  • Tata Motors, another manufacturer hedged heavily in favour of diesel currently, is learnt to have decided against offering the diesel option in its flagship Tiago hatchback and Tigor sedan after April 2020.

 

What is prompting the move away from diesel?

  • The Indian car buyer’s romance with diesel powertrains lasted nearly a decade.
  • In 2012-13, diesel cars accounted for 48% of passenger vehicle sales in the country.
  • The main reason was the sharply lower price of diesel as compared to petrol a yawning Rs 25 per litre at its peak.
  • This changed when the decontrol of fuel prices started in late 2014. The price difference has since come down to under Rs 6.5 per litrethe closest the two fuels have been in price since 1991.
  • Consequently, diesel cars accounted for just about 22% of overall passenger vehicle sales in 2018-19, less than half the share they had five years ago.
  • The main reason behind Maruti Suzuki’s announcement, however, is not the fuel price differential, but the new emission norms that will come into effect on April 1, 2020 less than a year from now.
  • The prohibitively high cost of upgrading diesel engines to meet the new BS-VI emission norms is why leading carmakers have pulled the plug on their diesel options.
  • The economics of the conversion does not make it worthwhile to continue with the diesel option after the transition to BS-VI.
  • The difference in the price of a petrol and a diesel car, now around Rs 1 lakh on average, could go up to Rs 2.5 lakh. Also, the sentiment for diesel is not good in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, making it extra uncertain if customers would want to pay the big premium.

Losing Steam

 

Bharat stage emission standards {BSES}:

  • the ‘BS’ in BS VI stands for ‘Bharat Stage’ which signifies the emission regulation standards set by Indian regulatory bodies.
  • The ‘VI’ is a roman numeric representation for six (6). The higher the number gets, the stricter the Bharat Stage emission norms get which eventually means it becomes trickier (and costlier) for automakers to meet them.
  • These emission standards were set by the central government to keep a check on the pollutant levels emitted by vehicles that use combustion engines.
  • To bring them into force, the Central Pollution Control Board sets timelines and standards which have to be followed by automakers.
  • Also, the BS norms are based on European emission norms which, for example, are referred to in a similar manner like ‘Euro 4’ and ‘Euro 6’.
  • These norms are followed largely by all automakers across the globe and act as a good reference point as to how much does a vehicle pollute.
  • To wrap it up and put it simply, Bharat Stage emission norms are largely similar to the European emission norms followed globally.
  • With the BS-VI norms scheduled to be implemented from April 1, 2020, three years after BS-IV was implemented in 2017, a practical problem is that while it took as many as seven years for the entire country to shift from BS-III to BS-IV, the attempt this time is to entirely bypass one stage — BS-V — in less than half that time.

 

How is BS VI Different from BS IV?

  • The major difference between the existing BS-IV and forthcoming BS-VI norms is the presence of sulphur in the fuel.
  • While the BS-IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, the BS-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur content.
  • The harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars can be brought down by nearly 70%.
  • In the petrol cars, they can be reduced by 25%. However, when we talk air pollution, particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the most harmful components and the BS VI will bring the cancer causing particulate matter in diesel cars by a phenomenal 80%.

 

Why can’t we implement the BS VI now?

  • While the application of a stricter emission norm may sound good, especially amidst the mounting concerns over the ever-rising pollution levels in the country, there’s a lot more to it than just that.
  • It takes years for automakers to develop a new kind of an engine or to tweak around with the current ones used in their vehicles.
  • Once the research and development is over, the task of setting up full scale production comes up. All of this comes at a cost which eventually makes the vehicle more expensive for the end customer of the product and that can be a cause of concern for automakers given how price sensitive the Indian market is.
  • Automakers were supposed to make their models BS IV compliant by April 1, 2017. While some automakers have met the targets and updated their products, there is a huge stock of vehicles left to be sold into the market that are BS-III compliant and as per the latest SC decision, they won’t be able to do so.
  • Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had told the court that the companies were holding stock of around 8.24 lakh such vehicles. These included around 96,000 commercial vehicles, over 6 lakh two-wheelers and around 40,000 three-wheelers
  • there is also the requirement of cleaner fuel to run these vehicles that comply with a stricter emission regulation as it is not feasible to make internal combustion engines pollute less while using poor quality of fuel. As per a report, the Centre has spent around Rs 18,000 to 20,000 crore for producing cleaner fuel.
  • Automakers have a huge stock that does not comply with the soon-to-be-implemented BS VI emission norm and they risk facing huge losses. Whereas, as per the Centre, automakers have been given enough time for the transition and they have done their part to provide cleaner fuel, which cost a significant amount of money to do so.

 

Bharat stage emission standards roadmap:

  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.
  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • In November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.
  • The corresponding dates for BS-VI norms were brought forward to April 1, 2021, and April 1, 2022, respectively.
  • Road Transport Minister NitinGadkari announced that the government had decided to leapfrog to BS-VI from April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V all together.

 

What kind of complications can arise?

  • Carmakers say there are technical constraints in carrying out design changes that will include adapting the three critical components — DPF, SCR and LNT — to conditions specific to Indian driving, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the United States.
  • The auto industry argues that the huge improvements in vehicular technology since 2000 have had little impact in India due to driving, road and ambient conditions. The technology that will be used in future BS-VI vehicles, though, will have considerable impact, they claim. So, technically, if the BS-V and BS-VI stages were to be implemented one after the other, diesel cars would have to be fitted with a DPF in the BS-V stage, and with the SCR in the BS-VI state. Now both of these have to be incorporated simultaneously, alongside the LNT.
  • DPFs have specific problems in the Indian context, and would have to be optimised for these conditions.
  • Low driving speeds would make it difficult to achieve temperatures of 600 degrees Celsius required to burn the soot in DPF, but equipment manufacturers would have to work at temperatures of around 400 degrees C.
  • Usually, diesel is injected to increase temperatures, but excess fuel in the compartment can cause a fire.
  • The integrity of the vehicle too, has to be considered — this would require validation tests over 6-7 lakh km, which may take up to four years.
  • The optimization and fitment of the DPFs and the SCR module, carmakers say, could take an estimated three-four years.
  • At every stage, the technology is increasingly more complex. To attain the specified super low emissions, all reactions have to be precise, and controlled by microprocessors.
  • Since BS-V is to be skipped entirely, both DPF and SCR would need to be fitted together for testing, which, auto firms say, would make it extremely difficult to detect which of the technologies is at fault in case of errors in the system.
  • Even if these were to be managed, a heavy cost would be involved, which would push up the price of diesel vehicles, and widen the price gap with the petrols.
  • Alongside the constraints faced by carmakers, there are also question marks regarding the ability of the oil companies to manage the transition, given that the full transition to BS-IV took from 2010 to April 2017 because refiners were unable to produce the superior fuel in required quantities.

 

Way forward:

  • As of now, BS VI will be implemented from April 1, 2020, 3 years after BS IV was implemented in 2017. Those looking to purchase a vehicle will have to spend a higher amount than before to own one.
  • The larger aim for the automotive sector as a whole is to implement BS VI emission regulation by the year 2020 in India. Yes, BS VI and yes, BS V will be skipped.
  • This will require a huge amount of investments to make the oil refineries capable of producing a better quality of fuel and also investments in the infrastructure to make that fuel available across the country.
  • Then, the automakers will have to make investments on their end too in order to speed up the research and development process and improve their own infrastructure – like the manufacturing plants – to make their offering BS VI compliant.
  • This, eventually, will make owning an internal combustion engine powered car more expensive to own, and maintain.
  • To sum it up, India is making an effort to reach the global standards and hence, a lot of changes in the trends, sales and choices made by customers are expected in the coming years.

 

Sample Question:

Can India be diesel car free? Critically examine the statement

 


 

Maruti to phase out all diesel cars from April next year Mindmap