Indians are no strangers to the side effects of poor air quality. They contend with coughing and scratchy eyes from noxious fumes and poor visibility on a daily basis, but there are longer-term consequences as well. Toxic particulate matter, such as PM2.5, is a major contributor to air pollution and has also been linked to negative lung and heart health effects. At a fraction of the width of a human hair, PM2.5 can be absorbed deep into the body by the bloodstream. Generated primarily by petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, which emit trillions of these particles over a single kilometer, concentrations of PM2.5 in Indian cities are much higher than the recommended limit by the World Health Organization. To combat the potentially harmful effects of PM2.5 and other contributors to air pollution, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides (NOx), the Indian government is working in partnership with automotive and fuel industries to take a bold step in advancing its clean-air agenda and aligning India more closely to global environmental goals by implementing a new national emission standard, Bharat Stage (BS) VI.
With these regulations, set to go into effect in 2020, India will be better positioned to overcome its high PM2.5 levels. BS VI will consolidate every Indian city under a single, unified emissions standard for all major on-road vehicle groups on an accelerated timeline. Starting April 1, 2017 entire country is covered under BS IV standards BS VI is now set to take effect four years ahead of schedule in 2020, bypassing a national roll-out of BS V.
BS VI regulations are likely to reduce potentially dangerous NOx emissions by 25% in petrol-engine vehicles and by 68% in diesel-engine vehicles. Particulate matter emissions have been anticipated to decrease drastically – by over 80% – in diesel-engine vehicles. The regulations also include stipulations on fuel quality, which plays an important role in meeting emissions standards. While progressive, BS VI still trails other global standards, such as the United States’ light-duty regulations, which are currently 90% tighter than those stipulated by BS VI. India and China’s regulations will be roughly aligned by 2020, with China going one step further in 2023, bringing its regulations closer to US standards and tighter than European standards.
India’s decision to move to BS VI sets an ambitious precedent for developing nations to fast-track adoption of cleaner vehicle technologies and fuels. Automakers will need to leverage solutions already implemented around the world to meet India’s tough challenges. Under BS VI, vehicles will need to be upgraded to meet specific regulatory stipulations, requiring manufacturers to equip vehicles with emission control products, such as diesel particulate filters (DPF) and gasoline particulate filters (GPF) for particulate matter reduction, and catalytic converters to treat gaseous emissions, including the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to lower NOx levels in diesel applications. Adopting the latest advances in engine technologies, such as gasoline direct injection, and more precise calibration will also help automakers improve fuel economy.
Clean-air technology companies have been longstanding partners to the Indian automobile industry with their core research, development, and production capabilities that help manufacturers meet these tightening standards. As a leader in advanced emission control products with over 600 patents and a 43-year legacy in the industry, Corning, along with other supply-chain partners, pioneered the original catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter technology. Today, Corning offers proven solutions, already widely deployed in the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and China, and partners with manufacturers to design emissions control systems for gasoline and diesel systems across light-duty and heavy-duty applications with its ceramic-based substrates and particulate filters.
These critical components help lower emission levels from engine exhaust, including criteria pollutants (carbon monoxide, NOx, and hydrocarbons), greenhouse gases and particulate matter, treating the problem right at the source. Corning® DuraTrap® diesel particulate filters trap 99% of the smallest particulate emissions, often leaving tailpipe emissions with lower particulate concentrations than the ambient city air surrounding the vehicle. Contributing to 5% or less of the total vehicle cost, emissions control technology such as ceramic substrates and particulate filters are a cost-effective way for Indian automakers to meet the regulations.
Moving forward, efficient management of BS VI implementation and accountability will be critical to India’s success in improving its air quality. Until now, India’s road infrastructure and driving style, as well as nationwide availability of clean fuels, have limited its ability to deploy a large-scale advancement of emissions regulations. However, the technology ushered in by BS VI will bring a positive disruption, stimulating Indian auto manufacturers to incorporate highly effective advanced emission control technologies into their vehicle designs. The positive impact to air quality is notable as well.
According to the recently published State of Global Air, the US has experienced an almost 27% reduction in the average annual exposure to fine particulate matter since 1990. Europe has seen smaller declines in particulate matter exposure in that timeframe, but greenhouse gas emissions have gone down over 25%. As India quickly evolves into a globally competitive economy, milestones like BS VI regulations and the technology it ushers in will be critical players in improving India’s health and productivity for generations to come.
Author: Amit Bansal is the Managing Director of Corning India
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