BS6- The 'saviour' or not?

Wondering why India needs saving? Don't know much about the other things, but let's talk about the pollution in our country.

Air-pollution.jpg

Nothing new, one might think. But have you any idea that, amongst the top 25 most polluted cities (2021) globally, a whopping number of 12 are in India? I am no environmentalist, but this got me worried and worried to a point where I thought, why am I not one? Keeping my feelings aside, let's dive into understanding India's condition and what BS6 can do to better the situation.

Being here at Influx made me look at many aspects that involve the automobile industry and those that the automobile industry involves. May it be EVs, hydrogen fuel, ICEs, CNG, there is so much to know and process, and that is how I came across BS6. So, I started digging up a bit, and the rest is history. Let's not be blind to this. Or if this thought crosses your mind, "that it's not me, but others", Let me break the ice for you; it's all of us. Sadly, not just us or our vehicles but industries, climate, soil, geographical factors and even cattle have become potential contributors to ruining the planet. Confused? Anyways we will come back to this.

Focusing on BS6 and the automobile industry:

You all might be well aware that India has implemented BSES6, i.e., the 6th norm of Bharat Stage Emission Standard, from 1st April 2020—focusing extensively on reducing the pollution in the country. These norms are similar to the European Emission Standards (EURO Norms) implemented across Europe.  Before this, BS4 (similar to EURO 4) was being followed, but as the pollution raced at God speed in India in the last few years, the Government decided to skip BS5 (EURO 5) and directly hopped onto the stricter standard BS6 (EURO 6).

 

In India, these standards are formulated by the Central Pollution Control Board, under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. BS6 is very strict compared to any other standard previously implemented.

 

Knowing all will not be possible, but yes, I can walk you through some questions and answers related to it.

What has changed in BS6?

The norms that were previously followed have been upgraded. Any automobile manufacturer who sells their product in India has to follow BS6 standards; even the BS6 compliant vehicles' fuel has been modified to suit the requirements. If you may ask, changes were rolled out for the regulations on tailpipe emissions, ignition control, electronic control units, etc., for cars, two-wheelers and three-wheelers. One significant safety regulation for two-wheelers came in the form of AHO, i.e., Automatic Headlamp On. The headlamps for all the two-wheelers are mandatory 'ON' all the time to make their presence on the road more visible and safer.

 

Overall, the BS6 norms focus on reducing the concentration/output of pollutants from vehicles. Stringent cutoffs have been implemented in the permissible levels for maximum pollution from the motor vehicle's exhaust, such as Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Oxides (NO2/NOx), CO, HC & CO2, etc. for diesel/petrol-fueled vehicles.

BS4 & BS6 Limits.PNG

But this is not where the list ends; as stated earlier, these BS6 standards define regulations for the vehicles and the fuel they use. Sulphur and Nitrogen Oxide both play a vital role in petrol and diesel and add to pollution. BS6 fuel has less Sulphur and NOx as compared to BS4.

BS4 & BS6 Comparison Table.PNG

BS6 has also introduced some norms that were not present in BS4

  • Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) were included to assess the emission levels of the BS6 motor vehicle. For a diesel-fueled engine, the SCR unit converts nitrogen oxide (NOx) into diatomic nitrogen and water with the help of a catalyst. The SCR unit uses AdBlue or diesel exhaust fluid to reduce NOx emissions. This fluid is made up of two parts – urea and deionized water. When exhaust gases contact the AdBlue fluid, urea is converted to ammonia and carbon dioxide. In turn, the ammonia converts NOx into nitrogen and water vapour, thereby reducing pollutants.

  • Mandatory 'Onboard Diagnostic (OBD-2 systems)' for all vehicles post 1st April 2020.

  • 'Real Driving Emission (RDE)' to make sure the emission from the motor vehicle is measured on a real-time basis. (To be implemented with the next upgrade of BS6). Currently, these conditions are measured in a controlled and contained environment. But, with this upgrade, the manufacturers will have to test their vehicles in real-time conditions, resulting in more cost at the manufacturing end.

What changed for the automobile industry?

Technically everything. With BS6 being implemented, no manufacturer can sell any vehicles that do not adhere to its norms. All the previously manufactured vehicles became obsolete after 1st April 2020.  So, this directly meant numerous challenges for the manufactures and the Oil companies in India.

  • BS6 vehicles demand major technical migrations at engine and exhaust levels, which previously available models did not have and can't support.

  • Many of their parts have been upgraded to their expensive counterparts to match the norms and multiple added, thus, increasing the manufacturing cost.

  • Even the oil companies had to ensure fuel supply across the country; that is BS6 complaint. This involves FCC Naptha Hydrotreating for ULSG (Ultra Low Sulphur Gasoline) and Distillate Hydro-treating for UlSD (Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel). According to a report from livemint.com, refineries had spent more than ₹ 35,000 crores on improving their facilities to ensure that BS6 fuel was ready before the updated emission norms stepped foot in April 2020.

What changed for the automobile owners?

The sale of BS4 vehicles was banned after 1st April 2020. Though all pre-existing BS4 vehicles can operate on the Indian roads, their fuel is no longer available. One can use BS6 fuel for the same, but it has lower levels of Sulphur, which acts as a lubricant inside the engine (However, BS6 compatible fuel contains additives that take care of such issues). All this advancement has added to the cost of the vehicle and the fuel prices.

 

The prices of petrol vehicles have been said to increase from 20-40K per unit, and for diesel, it has gone up to 80K-1Lakh per unit. Manufacturing a BS6 diesel vehicle and fuel is an even expensive approach. Owning a diesel vehicle seems no longer affordable. Adding to this, Maruti Suzuki, which enjoys a market share of more than 50 per cent, has already announced that it will stop diesel car sales post the advent of the stricter emission regulations in April 2020. (cars24.com)

What changed in the Automotive sector?

With the BS6 setting foot in India and skyrocketing fuel prices, the Indian auto sector changed noticeably. Not only the manufacturers switched to electric vehicles, but the people also welcomed it with more enthusiasm. Both the production and sale of EVs is huge in numbers. Aided by the Government's aim to reduce pollution by 2030, the market of EVs have found a stronger foothold in the Indian mindset.

Despite a few challenges with EVs and their charging stations across the nation, people have accepted this technology much better than initially anticipated. And, factors like increased fuel prices and vehicle costs all seemed to have encouraged the common masses to switch to more affordable technology and fuel options.

BS6 for two and three-wheelers:

With the adoption of BS4 regulations, WMTC test cycles for type approval of two-wheelers became mandatory. For three-wheelers, the BS4 and BS6 regulations continue to use the India Drive Cycle (IDC). The table below shows the BS6 standards/limits applicable for two and three-wheeled vehicles as reported in an article by transportpolicy.

Pollutants limits in BS6.PNG

What changed for CNG vehicles?

According to a report from 'Times of India', retrofitting of CNG will not be allowed for BS6 compliant vehicles. So, the sales of company-fitted CNG vehicles has seen some surge in the past few months. But people will no longer be able to convert their pre-owned BS6 vehicles to CNG. Three-wheelers that run on CNG share a considerable percentage of the population in India with those that run on diesel and electric batteries. Companies like Piaggio Vehicles, Bajaj etc., have already rolled out their BS6 CNG three-wheelers in the Indian market. Also, automobile giants like Maruti, Hyundai, and many more offer BS6 CNG cars for Indian customers.

Are other factors responsible?

Undoubtedly. The automobile sector is a significant contributor to all the pollution problems around the Globe, but they are not the only ones to be blamed. There are many other that are to be blamed:

Industrial waste: may it be the waste from industries, burning furnaces, mining, exploration, burning of fossil fuels, petroleum coke, every section is adding to it, and most importantly it's not only about the waste that they produce but also about the poor waste management, and as a result, the environment is suffering a great deal.  

 

Human/agricultural activities: it will not be false to say that the core reason remains the needs and wants of humans. May it be owning a vehicle for comfort, using plastic for convenience, setting up industries for development or burning crackers for fun, it all comes down to us humans. We are not ready to change our habits or switch to alternatives that benefit us and the environment.

Air pollution (1).png

About agriculture, not much, but yes, the agricultural activities such as crop residue burning, forest fires, biomass burning add to an already worse situation. Undoubtedly, these things have been there for ages, but the air quality we breathe in today is in no condition to accommodate more of it. In the end, it is again about waste management and personal choices and habits.

Geographical factors: Are you thinking about how geographical factors and weather conditions negatively influence pollution conditions?  Maybe not for other countries but India, sure. The population of vehicles is almost equal in all the big cities in India. Still, interestingly enough, most cities that rank higher on the poor air quality index scale lie in the lower Himalayan belt.

Geographical factors in Pollution.png

The presence of the Himalayas or the Indo-Gangetic plains happens to create the valley effect in these regions. The pollution is equally harmful in Coastal regions like Mumbai, Chennai, but the sea breeze and moisture help disperse it.

However, it is not the same for these areas; due to this valley effect, polluted air settles in this land-locked valley and cannot escape due to low wind speeds. Also, the alluvial soil in this area plays a significant role in adding up to the situation. The soil here is so loose that it easily allows the polluting particles to mix with it, and in dry/windy temperatures, it results in dusty conditions. And to talk about what effects can weather have on the air quality, we all know what winter does to Delhi and NCR regions. In winters, these regions have even worse air quality as the cool air stagnates close to the ground and results in highly elevated levels of PM2.5,  making it fatal for everyone/anyone who breathes it.

Now let's talk about what have the cattle of the World done to pollute the planet. According to Frank Mitloehner's (University of California) research and many other reliable sources, cattle are the No. 1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide. Each year, a single cow emits about 99 to 120 Kgs of Methane. Imagine all that Methane from all the cattle around the Globe? Not to mention that India has the largest cattle population in the World. However, Methane from cattle is shorter-lived than carbon dioxide, but it is 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere, hence a significant contributor to the Greenhouse effect.

Side-effects: we may close our eyes towards the pollution we are causing, but it is impossible to turn blind eyes towards the problems and sideeffects it has caused us. Not only our planet is dying, but every single living organism is dealing with a life-threatening situation.

 

  • Global warming, rise in water level, changing climates.

  • Polluted air, smog, respiratory issues, acid rains.

  • Contaminated soil, polluted water, multiple health issues.

  • Extinction of fossil fuels, disappearing natural habitats and living organism species.

With the implementation of BS6, India does aim for a better, less polluted India. It will also result in the growth of petrol and electrically operated vehicles and also mild hybrids. But, being dependent on just that won't serve the purpose. BS6 by 2030 might lower the pollution from the vehicles, but other factors will still keep adding to it. One can do nothing about the natural causes, but effective solutions can regulate human-created issues.

 

Indian Government needs to implement more norms like BS6 in other sectors, take practical steps towards waste management and make sure BS6 is implemented quickly. Because what if the implementation of BS6 across the country itself takes decades? Then it will not yield expected results.  

 

BS6 is a reliable soldier and a potential saviour in this battle against pollution, but just one such soldier does not win wars. It takes armies of such soldiers to take down such life-threatening beast of pollution, which grows stronger every second.

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Misha Thakur
Lead Content Writer