In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to implement BS-VI fuel norms by 1st April, 2020, we explain what is BS-VI and how does it differ from the earlier emission norms?
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that no Bharat Stage IV vehicle shall be sold across the country with effect from April 1, 2020. Instead, the Bharat Stage VI (or BS-VI) emission norm would come into force from April 1, 2020 across the country. A three-judge bench ruled that the need of the hour was to move to a cleaner fuel. In 2016, the Centre announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.
But why is this decision so important and how does it make an impact in your life? And above all, what is BS VI and how does it differ from the earlier emission norm – BS IV – being followed by the Indian automakers till now?
Decoding the term ‘BS’
To start with, the ‘BS’ in BS VI stands for ‘Bharat Stage’ which signifies the emission regulation standards set by Indian regulatory bodies. The ‘VI’ is a roman numeric representation for six (6). The higher the number gets, the stricter the Bharat Stage emission norms get which eventually means it becomes trickier (and costlier) for automakers to meet them.
These emission standards were set by the central government to keep a check on the pollutant levels emitted by vehicles that use combustion engines. To bring them into force, the Central Pollution Control Board sets timelines and standards which have to be followed by automakers.
Also, the BS norms are based on European emission norms which, for example, are referred to in a similar manner like ‘Euro 4’ and ‘Euro 6’. These norms are followed largely by all automakers across the globe and act as a good reference point as to how much does a vehicle pollute. To wrap it up and put it simply, Bharat Stage emission norms are largely similar to the European emission norms followed globally.
How is BS-VI Different from BS-IV?
The major difference between the existing BS-IV and forthcoming BS-VI norms is the presence of sulphur in the fuel. While the BS-IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, the BS-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur content. Also, the harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars can be brought down by nearly 70%. In the petrol cars, they can be reduced by 25%. However, when we talk air pollution, particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the most harmful components and the BS VI will bring the cancer-causing particulate matter in diesel cars by a phenomenal 80%.
Why can’t we implement the BS-VI now?
While the application of a stricter emission norm may sound good, especially amidst the mounting concerns over the ever-rising pollution levels in the country, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Firstly, it takes years for automakers to develop a new kind of an engine or to tweak around with the current ones used in their vehicles.
Once the research and development is over, the task of setting up full scale production comes up. All of this comes at a cost which eventually makes the vehicle more expensive for the end customer of the product and that can be a cause of concern for automakers given how price sensitive the Indian market is.
Automakers were supposed to make their models BS IV compliant by April 1, 2017. While some automakers have met the targets and updated their products, there is a huge stock of vehicles left to be sold into the market that are BS-III compliant and as per the latest SC decision, they won’t be able to do so.
Recently, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had told the court that the companies were holding stock of around 8.24 lakh such vehicles. These included around 96,000 commercial vehicles, over 6 lakh two-wheelers and around 40,000 three-wheelers.
Then, there is also the requirement of cleaner fuel to run these vehicles that comply with a stricter emission regulation as it is not feasible to make internal combustion engines pollute less while using poor quality of fuel.
To wrap it up, automakers have a huge stock that does not comply with the soon-to-be-implemented BS VI emission norm and they risk facing huge losses. Whereas, as per the Centre, automakers have been given enough time for the transition and they have done their part to provide cleaner fuel, which cost a significant amount of money to do so.
Will the vehicles with BS-VI tech become expensive?
The everyday customer who is yet to buy themselves a vehicle or is planning to get one could soon have to shell out more for their purchase. On top of that, the fuel costs also need to be taken into account. But above all of this, there is a bigger target to be achieved. India has some of the most polluted cities in the world and automobiles are often considered as one of the biggest factors responsible for it.
The need of the hour is to control the pollution levels by all means possible and since globally, countries are implying Euro 6 levels of emission regulations, India needs to step up its game and hence the BS IV to BS VI emission norm implication.
What should be expected in the future?
As of now, BS VI will be implemented from April 1, 2020, 3 years after BS IV was implemented in 2017. Those looking to purchase a vehicle will have to spend a higher amount than before to own one. The larger aim for the automotive sector as a whole is to implement BS VI emission regulation by the year 2020 in India. Yes, BS VI and yes, BS V will be skipped.
This will require a huge amount of investments to make the oil refineries capable of producing a better quality of fuel and also investments in the infrastructure to make that fuel available across the country. Then, the automakers will have to make investments on their end too in order to speed up the research and development process and improve their own infrastructure – like the manufacturing plants – to make their offering BS VI compliant.
This, eventually, will make owning an internal combustion engine powered car more expensive to own, and maintain. To sum it up, India is making an effort to reach the global standards and hence, a lot of changes in the trends, sales and choices made by customers are expected in the coming years.
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