In car fuel economy, India may catch up with Europe

NEW DELHI: In a move designed to contribute to India's ambitious climate goals and low carbon emissions, the Center plans to introduce the next set of regulations on fuel economy or efficiency of automobiles.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy Phase III, or CAFE-III norms, are being prepared by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), two people familiar with the matter said, adding that new norms are likely. Effective from 2027.

„Work is underway on the specifications and technologies and provide a road map to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to comply with the updated regulations,” said one of the two, an official from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways quoted above. , on condition of anonymity, said, „It will take two-three years for the new regulations to apply.”

Queries sent to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and BEE remained unanswered till press time.

The current, operational CAFE-II regulations went 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 by these regulations have nine seats including the driver's seat and have a gross vehicle weight not exceeding 3,500 kg.

Commercial vehicles with GVW of 12 tonnes or more are covered under separate fuel efficiency norms finalized in August 2017. Also, for vehicles weighing 3.5 to 12 tonnes, regulations are still being prepared, according to the BEE website.

Under the current CAFE-II norms, passenger vehicle emissions are set at 113 grams of CO2 per km. This has been reduced from 130 gm CO2 per km under the CAFE-I norms that came into effect in 2017.

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

„The current FE (fuel economy) standards are so lenient that they cannot stimulate technological innovation to increase fuel and carbon savings from ICE vehicles, and do not require large-scale electrification of the car fleet to meet fleet-wide fuel efficiency targets,” he said. Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Center for Science and Environment.

„We are missing an opportunity to use these regulations to accelerate the electrification of the car fleet. As noted in Europe, more stringent fuel economy or carbon dioxide reduction targets have accelerated electrification. India needs to tighten regulations quickly, especially now that our market is steadily shifting towards fuel-efficient heavier cars and SUVs.” Raichowdhury added.

CAFE regulations allow manufacturers of passenger cars to receive additional credits, called super credits, based on fuel efficiency and specific features that help achieve better fuel efficiency.

„New and cleaner technologies are helping carmakers get super credits to meet the limits set under CAFE norms for passenger cars,” said Sharif Qamar, Associate Director of Transport and Urban Management, Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). And hybrids are currently part of the super credit mechanism. Regulations also allow super credits for technical features like tire pressure indicator, six-speed transmission, start-stop system, regenerative braking.”

Under existing regulations, non-compliance with CAFE regulations imposes fines on automakers. The proposed new CAFE-III norms, once implemented, will be mandatory for all passenger vehicles and will require vehicle manufacturers to adapt their vehicle systems to adhere to emission and performance parameters.

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Apart from CAFE norms, there are also Bharat State Emission Regulations (BSER) norms including BS-VI, which aims to reduce emissions of several toxic substances including sulfur, nitrogen oxides, while CAFE norms aim to improve fuel economy. Economy and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

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

Also, various manufacturers have adopted different strategies to introduce electric or hybrid vehicles to comply with these regulations.

Noting that a vehicle's overall greenhouse gas emissions depend on the way the fuel is produced, TERI's 2022 report said: “It is important to evaluate the actual GHG emissions of different 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 of reducing carbon emissions by around 45% from 2005 to 2030.

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