Cars and buses work their way through traffic in New Delhi. (Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Automakers To Stick To 2020 Deadline For Cleaner Vehicles

India’s automakers said they will stick to the 2020 deadline for cleaner vehicles even as the government decided to roll out Bharat Stage-VI fuel norms two years ahead of the plan in New Delhi to curb pollution.

“We are required to move to BS-VI by April 1, 2020, and we are sticking to that timeline,” said RC Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., India’s largest carmaker. “The rollout of Bharat Stage-VI fuel will have to be done in a phased manner across the country anyway.” And BS-IV compliant vehicles can run on BS-VI fuel if made available, according to Bhargava.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas today said the cleaner fuel will be sold in New Delhi from April next year instead of 2020 to curb pollution as the national capital remains engulfed in a toxic smog for more than a week. Crop stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana added to dust particles from construction and auto emissions, pushing up pollutants to a hazardous level in Delhi.

India’s emission standards have so far followed the Euro norms. Petrol and diesel complying with the stricter caps will have much lower emissions and suspended particles. The Oil Ministry is also exploring the option of mandating BS-VI fuel in the National Capital Region, which also includes Gurugram and Noida, by April 2019.

Vehicles plying at a road in smog, in New Delhi on Wednesday morning. (Image: PTI)
Vehicles plying at a road in smog, in New Delhi on Wednesday morning. (Image: PTI)

Automakers switched to BS-IV standards in April this year, while the fuel was available since 2010. Industry lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said the global practice is to make fuel available two to three years before rolling out stringent emission standards for automakers. It was always implemented in a staggered manner, SIAM said.

It’s not possible to start selling BS-VI-compliant vehicles in five months from now.
Jnaneswar Sen, Senior Vice-President, Honda Cars India

Abdul Majeed, partner-assurance who tracks the sector at consultancy firm PwC India, said the intent of the government clearly seems to be towards lower pollution levels, which are very high in Delhi. “The decision for cleaner fuel may possibly make some companies advance their BS-VI rollout. The BS-VI fuel would help reduce sulphur levels,” he said.

Over To Refiners

The Petroleum Ministry said it took the decision in consultation with oil refiners and marketers, which have to make the cleaner fuel available at pumps in five months. That would require emptying all reservoirs, cleaning them up and replenishing with BS-VI fuel.

"Some of the refineries like Bhatinda can produce BS VI fuel,” MK Surana, chairman and managing director at state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., told BloombergQuint. “We will be able to meet the requirement by April 1.”

He said the company is examining the requirement for the entire NCR by April 1, 2019.

An Indian Oil Corporation's spokesperson also said the company will be able to meet the demand. “Delhi and NCR have been the priority regions for BS-VI fuel. Switching to BSVI fuel will cost around Rs 30,000 crore for oil companies to upgrade the refineries,” he said.

Watch this conversation with RC Bhargava, chairman of Maruti and T Jayaraman, professor at School of Habitat Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences on how the transition to BS-VI norms will help tackle pollution levels in the national capital.