Will BS VI norms curb pollution?

They will. But BS VI-compliant cars are not expected to be ready by April 2018, says Vikram Kirloskar

From the decision to directly jump to BS VI emission norms from BS IV to the plan to go all electric by 2030, the auto sector has been in the news for more reasons than one in the last two years. Vikram Kirloskar, Vice-Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, discusses the changing landscape in the Indian auto industry and the challenges and opportunities for the company. Excerpts from a chat with BusinessLine:

The government has announced that BS VI fuel will be available in Delhi from April 2018. How much will this help curb pollution?

It will bring down pollution from new cars. But BS VI compliant cars are not expected to be ready by April 2018. For older vehicles, if you feed BS VI fuel into, say, a BS II/III/IV vehicle, technically I am not too sure what will happen. BS VI has lower sulphur content so that will probably come down. Whether particulate matter or NOX emissions will come down, I don’t know. There are specific filters/gadgets to remove all that.

However, I am happy that the fuel is going to be available earlier. This means we can do more testing with our products. Euro VI technology is very temperature-sensitive. It is dust-sensitive. So the time period available for testing before the BS VI norms kick in, pan-India in 2020, will instil confidence.

Will a scrappage scheme for old vehicles help in fighting pollution further?

Who will pay for the scheme is the issue. The bulk of buyers of vehicles in India are not very rich people. They take loans to buy a car. A lot of vehicles go to fleet operations today. These guys are buying vehicles on a loan and they want a certain lifetime and a certain return on their investment. We have enough NPAs (non-performing assets) in the country; if a scrappage scheme is brought out, we may end up with another set.

My point is that we need not go so much by the age of the vehicle. We can first get rid of pre-BS vehicles, then BS I, BS II vehicles and so on; this way, the maximum polluting vehicle gets kicked out first. If a vehicle is well-maintained, there may not be a need to scrap it also. As a country we can’t afford more NPAs. Scrappage will be very good for the car industry but it won’t be good for the country.

The government has disincentivised hybrids through higher GST rates. It also has a plan for an all-electric fleet by 2030. Do you see a future for hybrids in this country?

There are three core technologies for vehicle electrification. These are the motor, the battery, and the inverter. With these core technologies, it is possible to make all types of electrified vehicles.

If combined with an internal combustion engine, a hybrid vehicle can be created. If an internal combustion engine is combined with recharging function, a plug-in hybrid can be created. If a fuel cell is combined with a hydrogen tank, a fuel cell vehicle can be created. Chargeable electric vehicles can be created by using this electrification technology as it is and combining it with recharging function.

The core technologies have been available with Toyota from 1996. We have more than 10 million electrified vehicles in the market. There is no one even close to it. We have the fourth generation electric vehicle going. Most of the other players are on the first generation.

It doesn’t matter which type of electrified vehicle you choose. You know about the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) regulations. To me, any vehicle that brings more fuel efficiency than the CAFE requirements, whatever be the technology it uses, is good.

If a vehicle goes 10 per cent below the CAFE line, a small incentive can be given; if a vehicle goes 30 per cent below the line, a bigger incentive can be given. I think that’s the way it should be looked at rather than incentivising one kind of vehicles and dis incentivising another.

Even for electric vehicles, the source of energy matters. For Norway, which uses 100 per cent hydro-electric power, electric vehicle is the best way to go. France is mostly nuclear; here too, electric vehicle is the way to go. Currently, India produces 90 per cent of its power through coal-fired power plants. So, we will likely be producing more carbon out of an electric vehicle than, say, a Maruti 800.

There is a study which the energy department in England did a few years ago. It showed that until 2030 or 2040 by which time the UK is expected to get more nuclear power as also renewable sources, a pure hybrid had lower emissions than electric vehicles.

Does electrification make sense across all categories of vehicles?

The biggest issue with electric vehicle is cruise range, charging time and cost. As of now, my gut feel is that for two- and three-wheelers, it makes a lot of sense. There is good scope because the size of the battery required will be smaller and replacing the battery may be easier. Also, you drive short routes in these vehicles. That way, it may be viable for public transport too as routes, distance and time are predictable. For people who use cars within a city, it will be very good.

That said, by 2030, I am sure battery technology will change to make it smaller, safer and easier to charge. It may also give higher range. Toyota is working on new battery technology. It is also looking at post-lithium, fast charging and longer range batteries.

Can you elaborate on the recent partnership of Toyota with Suzuki?

Suzuki has a lithium battery plant and a car plant in Gujarat. I think what they have announced is that the car plant will produce a new design electric vehicle. Toyota is supplying them technology. And they will supply the car.

In the case of India, the big market is small cars. We are not good at making small cars economically. We are good at making larger cars, at making something that is low on emissions. Even if you take the current Innova, compared to the BS IV standards, we are much lower. Camry hybrid emissions are lower than BS VI.

On the other hand, Maruti/Suzuki is among the best in the manufacture of small cars. I think the partnership will work as Toyota has the electrification technology.

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