Air quality in many cities continues to deteriorate. Rolling out electric vehicles (EVs) will take several decades of work and infrastructural development. But, India’s choking cities do not have the luxury of time and require drastic measures to make air breathable for citizens. What we need are concrete and immediate policy interventions to phase out the most polluting vehicles while bringing about a rapid shift to cleaner gaseous fuels such as auto LPG and CNG, says Suyash Gupta.
With Delhi’s air quality again slipping to severe category, a series of desperate emergency measures such as ban on construction activities and restrictions on traffic have been imposed in the capital. The Supreme Court-appointed EPCA is even considering a drastic ban on the use of non-CNG vehicles if air quality continues to deteriorate. Delhi is just a case in point; as many as 14 Indian cities figure in the notorious list of the world’s 20 ‘most polluted’, putting an entire generation of Indians at serious health risks.
Unfortunately, the current policies seem to be working on two fronts – responding by immediate knee-jerk emergency measures (mostly coming from the Supreme Court directives) while focusing on long term plans to shift to electricity. Make no mistake; rolling out EVs will take several decades of work and infrastructural development. Indian cities do not have the luxury of waiting for 50 years to see electric vehicles become a reality. We need breathable air now. What we need are concrete and immediate policy interventions to phase out the most polluting vehicles while bringing about a rapid shift to cleaner gaseous fuels such as auto LPG and CNG.
The Supreme Court last month directed the government to ensure that only BS-VI vehicles are sold in the country from April 1, 2020. The government must set itself clear targets to achieve this goal, and look for ways for faster implementation by offering incentives and tax breaks to manufacturers to upgrade their technology. It is claimed that implementing these new norms will require investing nearly $ 0.013 trillion in new technology and up-gradation of vehicles in inventory. However, the cost of unhealthy citizens owing to loss of man-hours worked on the national economy, at 3 per cent of the $ 2.6 trillion GDP is still larger.
Again, focusing on only CNG will be another myopic act. Auto LPG is another very viable and quickly deployable option for private vehicles. In fact, auto LPG has several advantages over CNG including 5-6 times lesser installation cost for refueling stations and lesser engine performance loss.
Globally, auto LPG is the third most commonly used automotive fuel after petrol and diesel; and seven of the 10 largest car manufacturers produce LPG powered cars. Auto LPG occupies meager space in car boots and can be transported in cylinders via Lorries to reach distant outposts for quick accessibility. Rapidly shifting to a mix of these two gaseous fuels is a much easier task than shifting to EVs, and can bring about an immediate improvement in air quality.
The government needs to incentivise vehicle owners who convert to auto LPG and CNG. Incentives such as subsidising conversion costs and permit-free usage can prompt a number of users to shift to cleaner fuels. One important policy intervention urgently required is changing the existing system of type approval by agencies like ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India). The prohibitive approval cost of as high as Rs 4 crores every three years has been extremely detrimental to the CNG & LPG retro fitment industry. The Type Approval Validity must be made perpetual in line with European norms as there is absolutely no logic for the same vehicle to undergo the same cost prohibitive tests every 3 years.
Across the country, 2-wheelers account for more than 75 per cent of the vehicle population. Unfortunately, most policy interventions fail to address this significant cause of pollution. Pollution from two-wheelers will not be addressed by EVs even in the long run. Much like four wheelers, we need to start pushing two-wheelers towards cleaner fuels as well. Here again, auto LPG makes for the most viable alternative with 2 Wheeler Conversion Kit available at an affordable price of about Rs 5000-5500 along with a convenient side fitment of LPG Tank.
India can take a leaf or two out of these success stories and start by incentivising citizens who chose green transport options. Measures like interest-free loans for buying electric or hybrid cars and subsidies for converting to auto LPG and CNG are options that must be explored to bring about behavioral change in consumer behavior.