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Sustainability in the CV industry was attended to at the Frost & Sullivan India Sustainability summit.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

The need to reduce the carbon footprint in the CV industry as it progresses towards the manufacture of modern and less emitting vehicles found a mention at the recent Frost & Sullivan India Sustainibility summit held at Mumbai. The discussion on sustainability and CV industry delved upon sustainability practices implemented. It also delved upon practices that were being implemented, or needed to be implemented. Arvind Bodhankar, Global Head – Health, Safety, Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer, Tata Motors, in his keynote address cautioned the industry about the rise in operational costs as sustainability took the front seat. He mentioned that to manufacture a low carbon emitting vehicle technology would effectively mean re-looking at the engine and associated technologies, weight reduction practices, aerodynamics and drag, hybrid technology, tyre technology, HVAC systems and alternative energy vehicles. All these would lead to a hike in the production cost even as they bring about more sustainability. Apart from life cycle assessment, a sustainable supply chain will have to be attained, added Bodhankar. He also spoke about connected vehicles as an important category to propel sustainability. Stating that a fully connected transportation system will be made possible by the upcoming transport regulations, Bodhankar said that it would compel manufacturers to produce them on a larger scale.

Present at the summit were corporates cutting rank across diverse industry sectors. A common thread that seem to bring them together was the need to collaborate and adopt sustainable business practices. In the course of the event, it became apparent that the auto industry and the transportation sector is lagging in the adoption of sustainable business practices. Nitin Kalothia, Director, Manufacturing & Process Consulting Practice, Frost & Sullivan on the sidelines of the summit expressed that there is a need for the stakeholders of the commercial vehicle industry to incorporate a 360-degree change in their ideologies and business methodologies. He pointed at the transport industry contributing 14 per cent directly to global Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) emissions and 0.3 per cent indirectly. The transport industry is placed second, and after electricity and heat production, which contribute 25 per cent of carbon emissions as per data sourced from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report. Also stated in the report is that the transport sector accounts for more than half of India’s petroleum consumption, and a quarter of the overall energy needs.

Referring to a statistics report that indicated how in a typical CO2 emissions life cycle in an automobile 72 per cent of the total emission is generated at the stage of manufacture, a delegate claimed that the remaining was contributed by materials, fuel production and other processes. He opined that the onus is on the government as much as it is on the automobile industry to work closely to iron out the creases in a set time-frame. The current scenario looks quite interesting, quipped another delegate while pointing at diesel vehicles. Said Kalothia, that technology is of importance when it comes to curbing climate change. This, he said, apart from the need to manage brand image, creates a competitive advantage and reduces cost as the main drivers for adoption of sustainable development practices. Kalothia further expressed that the good part is, technological advancements and lowering operational costs are being supported by the government and stakeholders of the auto vehicle industry alike. “Upgrading emission standards to Euro-six is one such concrete move,” he mentioned. Informed Bodhankar, that they are employing certain mechanisms to mitigate climate change at Tata Motors. “The mechanisms deployed include energy efficiency and focus on renewables; attaining fleet fuel efficiency, use of hybrids, alternate fuels and electric vehicles, and supply chain engagement,” he added. Towards attaining fuel efficiency, Bodhankar claimed that his company was amongst the first to conduct a fuel life cycle analysis in the Indian context. This included wheel-to-wheel Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and energy efficiency evaluation of various fuels. Drawing attention to Tata Motors electric commercial vehicle portfolio that includes a mix of hybrids and electric vehicles, Bodhankar averred that hybrids are far from being popular in India, and that the company expects them to gain acceptance over the medium to long-term. Making hybrids and electrics commercially available would depend on how soon the market attains maturity. This in-turn is driven by numerous factors, including the ability of the industry and government to work closely as mentioned earlier by a delegate.

Defined as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, to be sustainable is not an option. It is the convergence between the three pillars of economic development, social equity and environmental protection.

Sustainable business practices are becoming the order of the day across industries. A certain difference of opinion about assessing the life cycle did reflect at the Frost & Sullivan summit, and whether to adopt a cradle-to-cradle (where the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process) or a gate-to-gate (partial LCA looking at only one value-added process in the entire production chain) approach. It was indicative of the fact that sustainability is finding a place of importance in the day-to-day functioning of companies. A video played at the summit on Bhutan reflected upon how the small hilly country is investing in sustainability. The Bhutan prime minsiter Tshering Tobgay spoke of investing in sustainable transport and subsidising electric vehicles in a bid to make Bhutan carbon neutral.

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