In car fuel economy, India might catch up with Europe


New Delhi: In a move designed to contribute to India’s ambitious climate targets and lower carbon emissions, the central government is planning to introduce the next stage of norms for fuel economy or efficiency of automobiles.

The third phase of corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE-III norms, is being prepared by the road transport and highways ministry and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), two people aware of the matter said, adding that the new norms may come into effect from 2027.

“Work is underway in terms of specifications and technicalities, and giving the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) a roadmap in terms of adapting to the updated norms,” one of the two people cited above, an official with the ministry of road transport and highways, said on condition of anonymity. “It would take two-three years for the new norms to become applicable.”

Queries sent to the ministry of road transport and highways and BEE remained unanswered till press time.

The current, operational CAFE-II norms came into effect in 2022. These norms are relevant for petrol, diesel, CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), hybrid and electric passenger vehicles. Vehicles covered under these norms include those having up to nine seats including the driver’s seat and a gross vehicle weight not exceeding 3,500 kg.

Commercial vehicles with gross weight of 12 tonne or more are covered under separate fuel efficiency norms that were finalized in August 2017. Further, for vehicles with weight of 3.5 to 12 tonne, norms are still in the making, according to the BEE website.

Under the current CAFE-II norms, the cap on emission by passenger vehicles was pegged at 113 gm CO2 per km. It was brought down from 130 gm CO2 per km under CAFE-I norms, which had come into effect in 2017.

The permitted emission levels in Europe are 95 gm CO2 per km, which India will try and match with the CAFE-III norms, and talks are underway with OEMs, said another person aware of the matter.

“The current FE (fuel economy) standards are so lenient that these cannot push technological innovations to maximize fuel and carbon savings from ICE vehicles, nor can they require large-scale electrification of car fleet to meet fleet-wide fuel efficiency targets,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, Centre For Science and Environment.

“We are losing out on the opportunity to leverage these norms to accelerate electrification of car fleet. As noted in Europe, much more stringent fuel economy or carbon dioxide reduction targets have speeded up electrification. India needs to quickly tighten the norms, especially now when our market is shifting steadily towards heavier cars and SUVs, with a fuel economy penalty,” Roychowdhury added.

CAFE norms also allow manufacturers of passenger cars to earn extra credits, known as super credits, based on specific model performance for fuel efficiency and specific features that would help get better fuel efficiency.

“Newer and cleaner technologies help car makers accrue super credits, which help them meet the limits set under CAFE norms for passenger cars,” said Sharif Qamar, associate director, transport & urban governance, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). “EVs and hybrids are currently part of the super credit mechanism. The norms also allow super credits for technological features, like tyre pressure indicator, six speed transmission, start stop system, regenerative braking, etc.”

As per existing regulations, non-compliance with CAFE norms attracts penalties for automakers. The proposed new CAFE-III norms, once implemented, will also be mandatory for all passenger vehicles, and auto companies would need to tweak their vehicle composition to adhere to emission and efficiency parameters.

Apart from CAFE norms, there’s also the Bharat State Emission Regulations (BSER) regulations, including BS-VI, which aim at lower the emissions of several toxic biproducts including sulphur, nitrogen oxide, among others, while the CAFE norms aim at improving the fuel economy and lowering the emissions of carbon dioxide.

According to a report by TERI, the Indian automobile industry had introduced new technologies to reduce fuel consumption for passenger vehicles to achieve CAFE-II targets. For example, in addition to making the powertrain more efficient, manufacturers also introduced technologies like start-stop device, regenerative braking, tyre pressure monitoring system and six-speed transmissions, according to TERI.

Further, different manufacturers have embraced different strategies for introducing electric or hybrid vehicles for compliance with these norms.

Noting that overall greenhouse gas emissions of the vehicle depend on the way the fuel was produced, the 2022 report of TERI said: “It is important to evaluate the real GHG emissions of various fuel options. Considering India’s specific situation and availability of vast biological resources, there is a need to integrate carbon neutral ethanol and carbon negative (Bio-CNG) biofuels in upcoming CAFE considerations.”

The proposed CAFE-III norms are in line with India’s target to reduce carbon emission by about 45% till 2030 from the 2005 levels.

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Read More: In car fuel economy, India might catch up with Europe

2024-04-16 01:00:01

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