The Supreme Court’s ban on sale of BS-III vehicles from April 1, when BS IV emission norms will come into effect, is more a concern regarding availability of right quality fuel than compliance, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
Auto industry has had the capability of making BSIV-compliant vehicles since 2010, but lack of proper fuel prevented it from selling such vehicles. “Running a BS IV vehicle with BS III fuel can cause severe problems to some vehicles," according to Vinod Dasari, President, SIAM.
No one pushed for BS IV fuel availability over the last seven years. But this sudden decision is rather unfortunate as it will cause undue stress on the industry. He demanded a ban on older vehicles in order to achieve substantial impact on the air quality and reduce pollution.
However, as MD of Ashok Leyland Dasari is not worried over BS III inventory as he is confident of selling some portion before April 1, while the rest could be exported to nearby markets where emission norms have not progressed to BS IV. “ Vehicles still leftover, will be easily upgraded to BS IV at minimal cost," he added.
Stating that BS-IV standard will bring in much needed benefit to the people and the environment, Erich Nesselhauf, Managing Director and CEO, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), said the company had worked relentlessly for more than a year to gradually phase out BS III in its business system. Industry analysts feel that the Supreme Court ruling may not have a significant impact on vehicle manufacturers as they had already started producing BS IV compliant vehicles.
Let’s understand the issue
Firstly, vehicles contribute to the pollution that is making us ill. Secondly, improving the quality of fuel and vehicle technology is a critical way to clean up emissions. But thirdly, this improvement in fuel quality and technology has always been hard-fought. It has always come in spite of Indian automobile companies and not because of them.
It was in April 1999 that the Supreme Court had directed that all vehicles in India would have to meet Euro I (BS norms were not fashioned then) by the June of that year. It also directed that Euro II would be mandatory in the NCR by April 1, 2000. At that time, the court had set a precedent by directing that “no vehicle shall be registered unless it conforms to Euro II norms”. In May 1999, counsels for automobile companies argued for more time to implement the Euro norms. A 2008 government notification only said that Delhi, NCR and 12 other cities would get BS-IV by 2010. In 2015, the road map for the rest of the country was decided—fuel would be progressively made available and technology transition would happen.
The deadline was April 1, 2017, when the entire country (barring small remote pockets) would switch to 50-ppm-sulphur fuel as compared to the 350 ppm fuel available till then. The automobile companies, therefore, knew well in advance that the fuel would be available across India by April 1, 2017.
The transition to BS-IV is also not new as technologies have been available since 2010. The date of “manufacture” is, then, only a technical argument. The only constraint, that of clean fuel being available nationwide for long-distance carriers like taxis and trucks, has been removed.
The case of two-wheelers is slightly different. These are largely petrol vehicles, so fuel is not such a constraint—diesel has high particulate matter and emission control requires stringent quality control in fuel.
BS-IV vehicles, particularly diesel trucks, are much less polluting than BS-III. No doubt the country has a massive problem of older and more polluting vehicles.
But why should this be an argument for delaying the transition? After all, vehicles have a life of 10-15 years. The faster the new stock takes over the better it is.