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Article by: Anirudh Raheja

The focus on emission control technologies is growing, especially in the case of commercial vehicles.

A 54-year old truck operator, Satpal Singh is a worried man. Operating a 11-year old Tata 1618 truck to ferry goods from Delhi to Mumbai and back, Satpal Singh’s only source of livelihood looks like is in danger. The National Green Tribunal recently issued orders to ban diesel vehicles aged over 10 years from plying in Delhi citing their ability to pollute. Satpal Singh is one of the many truckers who are suddenly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their means of livelihood seems to be caught in the cross currents of the polluted air that is claimed to induce many ailments respiratory or otherwise in the Delhi population. In its report released last year, WHO named Delhi as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The advantage derived by the conversion of all public transport vehicles, an estimated 1,00,000, to CNG following an Apex court order in 1998 seems to have been lost. The suspended particulate matter in Delhi region is claimed to be nearing the 1995 levels, which led to the first generation emission reforms steered by the judiciary.

Judiciary driven reforms are welcome, as are also those enforced by the executive. The need to go green cannot be refuted. However, it needs to be backed by a long-term plan that is all inclusive and an outcome of a deep understanding of the technologies that are instrumental in helping to build sustainable, environment friendly automobiles. Speaking at an event in Mumbai in February 2015, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping said, “Pollution is a big problem for all Indian cities. Second, we are importing petroleum products, coal and gas, and are spending a lot in doing so. Our government is working closely on assessing the reach of biofuels and other sustainable fuels. The first bus using ethanol has been plying in Nagpur for the past three months, and it has been a success till now. We are also in the process of experimenting with biodiesel and bio-CNG. It is that time for the economy and country, when we should give the highest priority to alternative and sustainable fuels. In all this, we also want to promote our ‘Make in India’ campaign and utilise the home-grown technical know how to meet our demands.”

The ethanol powered bus from Scania has been plying in Gadkari’s constituency, Nagpur, since November 2014. Another 55 such buses are claimed to have been ordered by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. A modern, air-conditioned low-floor design, the ethanol bus is Euro-V emission regulations compliant. Bharat Stage (BS) emission standards are closely modelled on the European (Euro) emission standards, the difference limited to some test cycles. Until the implementation of BS III, Indian emission standards followed the Euro standards fairly closely. That was until April 2010. However, since then the gap has been widening. Euro-VI emission norms rolled out in Europe in September 2014. In India, BS IV emission standards were rolled out in 13 cities including the National Capital Region (NCR) at around the same time. The nationwide roll out of BS IV emission standards is yet to take place. This is claimed to have happened because the state owned refineries were finding it difficult to supply the required quality of fuel to regions other than the 13 cities. At an event organised by CV magazine in Mumbai in January 2015, Vinod K Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland Ltd, said, “It is not the (auto) industry that is lacking in terms of technology, the need is for quicker implementation from the government.” He added,“Nobody is saying no to change. In the next two-to-three years, the regulatory changes will start. We have been supplying BS-IV compliant vehicles in 13 cities, so it is more about the nationwide availability of BS-IV fuel. This will cost the government a capex of Rs.50,000 crores.” Explained a Society of India Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) official, that even though India is all set to witness nationwide BS-IV emission norms implementation, automakers have been asking for the roll out of BS V emission norms by 2019. The timeline slated for BS V roll-out was earlier 2020. 

Industry is keen

Ambuj Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is known to have said that the government is gearing up to hold discussions with all stakeholders to decide on BS-VI emission standards roll out. Industry leaders seem keen. The industry will however need to make the necessary investment, upgrade their facilities and reach out. Stated Friedrich Boecking, Regional President, Diesel Systems, Bosch, that enough time for development is required if the industry needs to move from BS-V to BS-VI norms. It will take some time for vehicle and engine manufacturers to develop technology specific to Indian roads and driving patterns. This concerns vehicles – commercial vehicles especially, that run on diesel fuel. The Euro V emission compliant Scania city bus in Nagpur runs on ED 95 grade of Ethanol. The BYD city bus at Bangalore runs on electricity; is a zero emissions vehicle. It was during the Commonwealth Games at Delhi in 2010, that Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland supplied six and two CNG hybrid buses respectively. Ashok Leyland is planning to launch the Versa electric bus in India as part of its Optare product portfolio.

The right time

Industry experts are of the opinion that now is the right time to move to a higher emission standards. Oil prices are at a lower level than they were last year. Crude oil prices are still hovering around the USD 60 per barrel mark. When the fuel prices bounce back, it will prove to be beneficial, they claim further. Despite the auto industry willing to roll out vehicles with appropriate technology quickly, the challenge is likely to be at the refinery stage, where large investments may be needed to turn out fuel with an even lower content of Sulphur. Sulphur content in BS V is 10 ppm. In BS IV fuel it is 50 ppm, and in BS IV+ fuel it is 40 ppm. To curb pollution there is a need to move up to BS V emission standard swiftly. Also, since India has been following the Euro emission standards with a time lag, adapting or application engineering products that are already available in the European markets may be useful, without investing heavily, and in a manner that is time consuming. In fact, OEMs and their suppliers are keeping a close eye on the possible developments. Expressed James Verrier, President and CEO, BorgWarner, “Technologies that have been successfully applied in Europe will find their way to India. In the next couple of years, BorgWarner will launch derivatives of such products, which will undergo application engineering, testing and validation at the local level.” Averred Oerlikon chief executive officer of drive systems, Dr. Bernd Matthes, “Frugal engineering will be a part of our approach for expansion in India. Moving forward we will also open our engineering centre in India to ensure that we tailor our products for specific requirements of the market and customise them.”

In pursuit of clean air

If the successful conversion of Delhi’s city buses to CNG, and also those that run in Mumbai is an indication, it is not the dearth of technology or its application that is stalling the move to more stringent emission standards in a pursuit for cleaner air. It is also not that the auto industry is not willing. In fact, the Indian auto industry is more than willing. It will however have to be taken into confidence before the decision to move up is taken. Remarked Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, CVBU, Tata Motors, “Our Jamshedpur plant is currently manufacturing vehicles complying to BS IV emission standards. It can be fully geared up to manufacture vehicles complying with BS V and BS VI emission standards when required in the future.” A big change to BS V and BS VI emission standards will mark a move to SCR systems, and bring into play additional componentry and associated costs. Not a deterrent for Indian OEMs in any way; many of them are exporting Euro V and Euro VI emission compliant commercial vehicles. At the 2014 Hannover show, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles displayed a Euro V FUSO FJ 2528 R truck that is made at its Chennai plant. Opined Erich Nesselhauf, CEO and MD, DICV, “We are capable of manufacturing Euro IV to Euro VI emission compliant vehicles in India. The question is, what do we want? Since India has more engineers, it is time that some innovative technologies come out of India rather than merely following the developed markets.” Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, expressed the need to replace old commercial vehicles with new, more cleaner and efficient vehicles to curb rising pollution levels.

Alternate technologies

Dr. Bernhard’s comment puts the spotlight on modern commercial vehicles. Diesel powered or those that are powered by other means. To turn the ethanol dream into practicality, Scania has been helping the local manufacture of ethanol from molasses as well as farm waste. Scania has been pushing for biogas powered commercial vehicles as a way to greener environment. While Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation sources claim that the BYD bus has come with a guarantee of 10-years of battery life, industry sources claimed that electric vehicles may not work out to be as effective as say the ethanol powered bus. Electric vehicles are also claimed to come with a baggage. The baggage of electricity they consume being produced by thermal plants that are considered to be one of the most polluting. But, then the availability of CNG is limited to a few cities. Ethanol is not commercially available yet. As part of its commitment towards ethanol and biogas commercial vehicles, Scania recently announced that in association with the development financier of the Swedish state, Swedfund, it is establishing a partnership to develop the production of biogas as an automotive fuel in the Indian city of Nagpur. The biogas will be produced from digested sludge from one of the city’s wastewater treatment plants in collaboration with local companies. Nagpur is participating in the Indian Government’s initiative to improve the environment and transport systems in the country’s 100 largest cities. According to Industry experts, India occupies third place in terms of global carbon dioxide emissions, and these emissions are expected to double in the next few decades. In line with the country’s continued urbanisation, the quantity of waste produced in the cities is also increasing.

The Indian Government is working actively to improve the environment and accessibility in 100 large cities in the country. The initiative is called Smart Cities, and for the same, the government has approached international companies that would invest in technologies and systems that can promote the development of sustainable cities. Sources close to Scania said that the production of biogas from waste in major cities and residual products from agriculture represents an important part of the solution to India’s problems with air pollution, waste management and the cost of imported energy. Outlining his company’s plan, Anders Grundstromer, MD, Scania India, on the sidelines of the bus plant inauguration at Bangalore said, “Once we are able to produce Ethanol ED 95 in India from agricultural waste, we will also be focusing on wet ethanol. With 95 per cent ethanol and 5 per cent ignition improver, we can reduce CO2 emission by 90 per cent when compared to a diesel bus”. 

Supporting infrastructure

Adoption of alternate propulsion technologies is made successful only by the supply of the required infrastructure. Simply OEMs cannot make it successful. Nor just the suppliers and other elements of the auto industry. For use in diesel commercial vehicles, Castrol recently responded with a Vecton RX fuel saver oil, developed especially for Tata Motors. The lube promises a long drain interval and a reduction in hydrocarbons. Shell also launched Rimula T5 E 10W-30 engine oil in association with Tata Motors. It is of the semi synthetic variety, and promises better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Nitin Prasad, Managing Director, Shell Lubricants India, said, “As we move through generations of emission standards from Euro II to VI, there has been a huge change in the level of collaboration required between engine makers, OEMs and lubricant manufacturers. We need to have end-to-end solutions and everything has to start at the initiation of the design stage rather than at the end of it.” Aware that the need for new technologies will emerge over time, suppliers are focusing on their ability to respond quickly. They are thus adopting lateral measures for expansion.

Dr. Wilfried Aulber, MD and CEO, Roland Berger, opined that it is important for them (suppliers) to stay focused as there is still scope of improvement at Tier 2 level of component manufacturers. “It is true that OEMs should demand products that make them stay ahead of the curve yet understand their needs when it comes to expanding horizons. Component manufacturers in India are not lagging behind in terms of technology, and are in fact fully geared up to serve demand for high end products,” he added. The valve train parts Ghaziabad Precision Products supplies to Volvo Eicher Powertrain find use in Euro V and Euro VI engines of 5-litre and 8-litre capacity. These engines are exported to various Volvo locations around the globe. Sourcing parts locally for Euro VI compliant engine made at the Pithampur plant has been helping the Volvo Group to cut down costs by 25 per cent as against the costs it would incur at Europe.

With a supporting infrastructure, which could be in the form of an ethanol production facility, a clean electricity source, appropriate technology providers, lubricant providers, etc., the need, claim industry experts, is to ensure a complete deployment of emission standards across the country rather than in a phased manner. Low sulphur fuel is expected to be available by 2017. Until then, the full potential of emission technologies as well as that of the regulations may not realise. Not to the fullest. It is actually the government that will have to drive the change. It has initiated measures like National Air Quality Index to create awareness in people against rising pollution. However that is not enough. The need is to uniformly roll out emission norms without losing site of the advantages alternate technologies offer. The need is also for the government to install the necessary infrastructure. Only then will the term ‘Going Green’ will have found the right mention. 

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