Supparoek Sawangwong - AP Powertrain Analyst

28 August 2019


India says goodbye to BS-IV and hello to BS-VI

The regulations governing polluting vehicle emissions in India effectively mirror those currently in place in Europe, at least in terms of their theoretical framework. Known as Bharat Stage (BS), the Indian regulations have been in force since the year 2000 and the current BS-IV norms have been in place since 2017. However, with recent data showing that India is home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world for particulate matter concentration, the government has set its sights on the automotive industry in a bid to reduce these alarmingly high levels of hazardous air pollutants.

The decision was made to jump from the current BS-IV norms straight to BS-VI, effectively leapfrogging BS-V. BS-VI limits hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur and carbon monoxide (CO) pollutants, but the main difference between the outgoing BS-IV and the incoming BS-VI is in the level of sulphur emissions. When it comes to diesel engines, for example, BS-IV grade fuels contain 50 mg/km of sulphur, compared to 80% less for BS-VI grade fuels, at 10 mg/km. BS-VI will also lead to a 70% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions for diesel engines and 25% for gasoline engines.

Implementation of the new BS-VI norms in India will begin on 1 April 2020, meaning that the cut-off date for sales of BS-IV vehicles will be 31 March 2020. Beyond this deadline, any automakers found to be selling BS-IV models will be fined. Not only that, but the stricter new standards will require far more rigorous emissions testing protocols. Given the complex nature of implementing the new regulations, we believe that BS-VI norms will be applied in two stages. The basic standards will come into force from April 2020, followed by the harsher Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests – equivalent to Euro-VId – from 2023 onwards.

“We believe that BS-VI norms will be applied two stages”

While the jump from BS-IV to BS-VI stunned most industry players, several OEMs in India are already ahead of the game in their powertrain preparations, much of which will be focused on diesel engines. Automakers such as Mahindra Group and Tata Motors, for instance, have already developed BS-VI diesel engines. Maruti-Suzuki and Renault, on the other hand, were caught by surprise when the leapfrog to the BS-VI norms was announced, but both will now cease offering diesel-powered vehicles from 1 April 2020.

Interestingly, Maruti-Suzuki was already well advanced in the development of its first compact diesel engine. The DDiS 225 1.5L was destined to replace FCA’s proprietary Fiat Multijet 1.3L diesel unit, which services most of the group’s diesel models in India, but only complies with BS-IV standards. Following the bombshell announcement on future emissions norms, any further investment to upgrade the 1.5L direct injection system to the stricter BS-VI standards would not make sound business sense, particularly as diesel demand will continue to contract in India, while a similar trend in Europe will limit any export potential, hence the project being shelved.