The Centre recently announced that India will leapfrog from the Bharat Stage (BS) IV emission norms that are now in force, to the BS VI norms by 2020. While vehicle manufacturers have been asked to gear up to meet the new deadline, oil companies will also have to prepare to retail BS VI-compliant fuel.
What is it?
Introduced in the year 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards put in place by the government to keep a check on air pollution. Based on the European regulations (Euro norms), these standards set specifications/limits for the release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. Typically, the higher the stage, the more stringent the norms.
The BS IV norms were introduced in 13 cities apart from the National Capital Region from April 2010. Currently, BS IV fuel is being made available across the country in stages, with the entire nation expected to be covered by April1 2017.
Implementation of the BS V standard was earlier scheduled for 2019. This has now been skipped. BS VI, originally proposed to come in by 2024 has been now advanced to 2020, instead.
Why is it important?
Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. While BS IV-compliant fuel currently in use has 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, BS VI stipulates a low 10 ppm. Besides, under BS VI, particulate matter emission for diesel cars and nitrogen oxide levels are expected to be substantially lower than in BS IV.
The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia (which is currently grappling with haze) shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, leapfrogging to BS VI can put India ahead in the race for investments too.
Why should I care?
Health is wealth, goes the old adage. When BS VI norms are implemented, you can look forward to breathing in cleaner air in cities. New vehicles sold from 2020 will have to be equipped with engines compliant with the new standards. Besides, the government is also thinking about a ‘cash-for-clunkers’ scheme for scrapping old vehicles.
This will help owners of older and more polluting vehicles to upgrade to newer vehicles which use cleaner fuel, with a subsidy from the government. Upgraded emission norms could also mean less fuel-guzzling vehicles.
On the flip side, the use of new technology means higher costs for automobile manufacturers. And that, dear buyer, will be passed on to you when you look to upgrade to your next car.
Oil refiners too will need higher capital outlays to produce superior quality fuel and may look to pass on the bill to you. But remember it’s for a good cause.
If there’s smoke without fire, it’s time for new emission standards.