Coming under massive public pressure over alarming air pollution in Delhi, the government on Wednesday advanced the roll out of BS-VI fuel in the national capital by two years to April 2018. Bharat stage emission standards -known as Bharat Stage (BS)- are emission standards to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in a press statement said that the government in consultation with stakeholders has decided to meet international best practices by leapfrogging directly from BS-IV to BS-VI grade by April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V altogether.
The Ministry had introduced the BS-IV grade transportation fuels across the country from April this year. "With the launch of BS-IV grade fuel, a new era of clean transportation fuels has begun which will benefit all citizens of our country by substantially reducing pollution levels," the press statement said. The decision has come in the backdrop of serious pollution levels in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The Petroleum Ministry consulted with the Public Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) and decided to advance the roll out date for BS-VI grade auto fuels in NCT of Delhi. The government has also asked the OMCs to examine the possibility of introduction of BS-VI auto fuels in the whole of NCR area April 1, 2019.
The Ministry's decision might help in reducing pollution in Delhi and NCR but it would certainly add to the woes of auto companies to be fully compliant in over the next four months. The auto makers have been told to be ready with BS-VI compliant vehicles. Oil refineries have invested around Rs 30,000 crore so far to introduce BS-VI compliant fuel by April 2018, two years ahead of the initial target date. While the government is committed to go ahead with the decision, Industry finds it little difficult to be ready for the demand in such short period.
Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Director General Vishnu Mathur said: "We have been given a roadmap by the ministry of road transport for implementation of BS-VI norms by April 2020 and we are working on the basis of that timeline. It is not possible for the industry to advance that date at this stage." Highlighting a potential problem with the launching of BS-VI vehicles only for Delhi, Mahindra & Mahindra Managing Director Pawan Goekna said: "It is also not feasible as the fuel will not be available outside the Capital and BS-VI vehicles cannot run on BS-IV fuel."
Once the BS-VI decision is effective, the prices of small cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), trucks, and buses are expected to rise sharply. It would pose a major challenge for auto manufacturers and parts makers to be ready in time. The companies would need to upgrade their engine technology, which would require huge investments.
Auto industry feels that the government's move is in the right direction to fight pollution but they are not in a position to launch vehicles complying with the strict emission norm ahead of April 2020. "Directionally, we feel it is a step in the right direction to fight pollution in Delhi. However, as far as the automobile industry is concerned we are already working on a stretched deadline to launch BS VI vehicles by April 2020," Mahindra & Mahindra Managing Director Pawan Goenka told PTI.
The government had provided five barrels of BS-VI compliant diesel to auto majors Honda Cars India and Mahindra & Mahindra in November 2016 for its test for BS-VI emission norms compliance. When asked if companies could launch BS VI vehicles by 2018, Goenka said that it was unlikely that automobile manufacturers would be able to do it so soon. "I don't foresee any mainline player with multiple models being able to launch complete portfolio of BS VI compliant vehicles by April 2018. We at Mahindra are working on all our ongoing projects with the April 2020 deadline in mind," Goenka said.