Press Note: Centre for Science and Environment International Workshop Series on Transport and Climate | Centre for Science and Environment


Press Note: Centre for Science and Environment International Workshop Series on Transport and Climate

India only major vehicle producing country in the world without fuel saving standards for cars

  • By 2030, India will be importing 94 per cent of its crude oil. But the country is making no serious efforts to prepare a fuel saving roadmap for all modes of transport, says CSE

  • Estimates show that by delaying enforcement of standards, country is losing enormous quantities of fuel

  • This impacts India’s efforts to curtail climate change risks – transport sector fourth largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in India

  • The flip-flop on car fuel conservation standards is delaying standards for other vehicle segments like buses. The bus sector is already facing enormous fuel cost burden because of worsening fuel efficiency of buses. While CNG bus fuel efficiency in Delhi is stagnating, diesel bus fuel efficiency in other cities like Bengaluru are worsening. Increased fuel prices are compounding their operational costs 

New Delhi July 24, 2013: While the Indian government is dreaming big on energy security, a nightmare scenario is unfolding which can shatter all its visions of energy independence – the country’s transport sector is merrily guzzling fuel away. More than 40 per cent of the oil and oil products in the country go into running vehicles. In fact, if this guzzling continues unabated, it can virtually wipe out the gains of fuel savings from all other steps, and undermine all efforts at reducing climate change risks as enshrined in the National Climate Change Plan. 

This emerged from the first day’s deliberations at an international workshop held here today on `Vehicles: Taming emissions, fuel guzzling and warming`. This workshop is part of a two-day workshop series on `Transport and Climate`, organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). 

Speaking at the workshop, Sunita Narain, director general, CSE said: “Even as the country faces the serious challenge of importing 94 per cent of its crude oil by 2030, there is no serious effort to prepare a fuel saving roadmap for all modes of transport. Our oil import bill is already close to 7 per cent of the GDP. Import dependence has made India vulnerable to oil price shocks. At the same time, the ministry of environment and forests inventory shows that the transportation sector is the 4th largest emitter of heat trapping greenhouse gases in India while it remains the key emitter of toxics. Cities are becoming energy guzzlers and heat trappers -- in Delhi, the transport sector is responsible for close to half of all CO2 emissions.”  

The CSE review of the current challenges and solutions has exposed the following. 

• Delayed and lax proposal for fuel saving standards for cars is leading to enormous fuel loss: Even after negotiating for over five years on fuel economy standards for cars, the standards have not been implemented. The approved Corporate Average Fuel Consumption Standards have laid down a target of 18.15 km/litre (or 129.8 gm of CO2/km) in 2015 and 20.79 km/litre (or 113 gm of CO2/km) in 2020, after adjusting for increase in the average weight of the car fleet. Even these weak standards are being delayed for implemented in 2022. India is the only vehicle producing region that has not set fuel economy targets. This has serious implications, given India’s dependence on imported crude oil and vulnerability of India’s economy to oil price vagaries. According to the International Energy Agency, future energy demand in India’s transport sector will be largely driven by cars, after the heavy duty segment. The total car fuel demand in 2030 will be more than the total road transport sector consumption in 2007. It is not fair to incur enormous energy costs and suffer climate risks because of the use of personal vehicles. 

• Any further delay will come at enormous energy cost: If a lax proposal of 113 CO2gm/km is implemented beyond 2020, then the country can get cumulative oil savings of only 95.9 metric tonnes of energy between 2010 and 2030. But if the government insists on protecting the 2.8 per cent annual natural improvement in fuel economy achieved by industry between 2006 and 2010 and set the target at 104 CO2gm/km by 2020, then cumulative oil savings can be 134 million metric tonnes of energy – 1.3 times more than 96 million metric tonnes from delayed standards implementation. Delay in implementation will keep compounding fuel losses and increase the difference in cumulative savings between 2010 and 2035. 

• India will lose its advantage in the global race: India is starting the race from one of the best baselines in 2010 — 141 gm of CO2/km. The European CO2 standard for cars for 2012 is 140 gm CO2/km. But Europe will leapfrog to 95 gm/km in 2020. In fact, Europe has gone ahead and specified a target range of 68-78 g/km for cars in 2025 – which is what the Indian two-wheelers meet today. It is ironical that both countries are starting from nearly the same level in 2010, but Europe will have nearly halved the emissions by 2025, while India would have cut it barely by 25 per cent.

• Bus -- poor fuel economy of buses adding to cost burden: Fuel economy standards for other vehicle segments are also getting delayed. Nearly all bus transport corporations are reporting either stagnation or decline in fuel economy of their fleets. In Delhi, the fuel economy of CNG buses is stagnating. Buses are bigger, more powerful with higher torque and there is no fuel economy standard for them. This costs huge money to the bus companies. There is also a need for improved bus operations to cut operational fuel losses. Idling, frequent acceleration and deceleration on congested roads can also affect fuel efficiency. A recent study by CAI Asia shows that by reducing idling by 10 minutes, the Bangalore transport corporation can save 100 litres per bus or Rs 3 crore annually. Also, with the help of improved drivers training and maintenance of the fleet, a saving of Rs 23 crore annually is possible. 

• New science implicating black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles for warming: The quality of diesel fuel and technology available in India is not a climate winner. So far known for toxic and cancerous particulate emissions, diesel vehicles are now being blamed for increasing global warming impacts -- studies show that diesel black carbon emissions are heat absorbing. Therefore, reducing black carbon from diesel vehicles gives both climate and public health benefits. 

• Diesel’s CO2 benefits are also negated: Comparatively lower CO2 emissions from diesel vehicles compared to petrol vehicles also gets negated. A litre of diesel fuel has more carbon content than a litre of petrol. If more diesel fuel is burnt, more CO2 will be emitted. India urgently needs near-zero sulphur diesel and particulate traps to eliminate toxic and heat-trapping black carbon. This co-benefit of clean diesel must be accounted for in the technology roadmap. 

• Dieselisation is increasing the weight of the car fleet and leading to more guzzling: With the explosive increase in car numbers and gradual increase in average weight of the new car fleet, the energy penalty will be enormous. As the weight of average car fleet is increasing, it is undoing fuel saving gains. Average weight and engine size during 2009-10 and 2012-13 has increased by 6 per cent. The weight and size of new vehicles is increasing at a rate of 2 per cent a year. Due to these trends, fuel economy (km/litre) has stagnated and even declined by 1 per cent during the same period. This is unacceptable when the country is rapidly motorizing and reeling under energy crisis. 

• Bigger engines guzzle more fuel. In 2009-10, diesel cars were 36 per cent of the new car sales. This has increased to more than 50 per cent of the new car sales in 2012-13. Diesel is pushing the market towards bigger cars and SUVs that guzzle more fuel, and undermines fuel efficiency advantages of small cars. High petrol prices have kept the bulk of the petrol car sales – as much as 87 per cent -- below the 1200 cc engine. But more than 40 per cent of diesel cars are above 1500 cc. In 2012, the SUV segment registered a 41 per cent growth rate. This trend will explode.  Estimates from other ongoing studies have shown that the current shifts towards bigger cars and SUVs and growing dieselization can lead to a cumulative loss of 6.5 mtoe of energy between 2010 and 2020. This equals the fuel use of all four-wheeled passenger vehicles in 2006 -- around 6.6 mtoe. Therefore, the new fuel economy standards should have built-in safeguards to attain effective fuel economy improvement by 2015 and 2020 that will offset the impact of increased weight of the fleet. 

• Railways to roadways – need a balance: Adding to this complex challenge is the continuous shift of freight traffic from railways to the roadways. Railways’ share in freight traffic in India is close to 30 per cent. In case of passenger transport, the share of rail is as low as 15 per cent. Estimates say that in India, the transportation energy demand could grow even faster than anticipated, if all of the new highway projects currently under consideration are completed. A diesel truck consumes more than three times energy compared to rail on diesel per net tonne kilometer. We need a balance to promote rail-based mobility for long-range travel as it is more efficient than road.

• Need roadmap for aviation too: The Indian civil aviation sector has witnessed a growth rate of about 40 per cent annually (2008-09 to 2009-10). Consumption of aviation turbine fuel has also increased by about 40 per cent. Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation have more than trebled since 1994. The IEA (2010) estimated an exceptional increase in emissions of 165.7 per cent between 1990 and 2008, compared to the world average of 76.1 per cent. High passenger occupancy and relatively younger fleets of the Indian private airlines assures more efficient operations. But India needs immediate steps for the Aviation Environmental Unit” Initiative of the Director General of Civil Aviation to come up with integrated approach that includes technology and operational practices; modification in Climb, cruise and descent cycle; additional aspects of business strategies and models; demand management; air transport management, airport management, “Route Dispersion Guidelines” to minimise planes operating on routes with a low load factor among others.

• Revive inland waterways for climate and pollution benefits: Inland waterways have significant advantages over all other transportation systems. It ensures more efficient carriage: A barge can carry cargo equivalent of 15 rail wagons or 60 truckloads worth of goods. Its cheaper -- the operating cost per tonne kilometre in waterways is Rs 0.53 as against Rs 1.32 in railways and Rs 2.75 in roadways. It is more  -- a litre of diesel would carry 105 tonnes over a kilometre through waterways, 85 tonnes through railways and 24 tonnes through roadways. It emits much less -- An IWT vessel emits less than 50% of carbon a lorry emits, The Indian Network on Climate Change Assessment estimates that inland navigation caused one per cent of total transport GHG emissions in 2007. 

But poor navigability of rivers -- fewer days of navigability, limits the transportation potential of the rivers. At Allahabad, navigability of the Ganga restricted to 140 days for large vessels with the least available depth of 1.5 metres. Most of the barges on national waterways have a capacity of 750 tonnes due to less navigable depth.  This needs urgent revival plan. The proposed plan includes Inland Vessel Building Subsidy Scheme for augmentation of vessel fleet, budget for technological upgradation. Central government is expected to facilitate inland water transport operators to obtain loans; river training and conservancy, including dredging; new irrigation-cum-navigation canals like Yamuna canal and delta canals of Mahanadi, Godavari and Krishna.

The way forward

India needs multi-pronged strategies to fulfill the vision of reducing oil imports, strengthening energy security and cutting down GHG emissions and protecting public health. Areas of specific focus could be:

  • Immediately implement fuel economy standards for cars

  • Prepare roadmap for fuel economy standards  for bus, trucks and two-wheelers

  • Create niche for advanced vehicle technologies: Government of India has already come up with a proposal to incentives hybrid and electric vehicles. But such measures must be placed within a larger framework of improving fuel efficiency in all vehicle segments. Only hybrids in isolation of all else will not delver real benefits. 

  • Ensure that both emissions and efficiency improve together: Auto fuel policy can ensure there is no trade-off between efficiency and emissions. For instance, if diesel vehicles are promoted because they are more fuel efficient, additional steps need to be taken to clean diesel emissions to address toxic concerns.  

  • Shift to more fuel efficient freight modes. Improve freight modal share of railways and waterways. This requires integrated inter-modal planning for freight and passenger movement in the country. The holistic plan must also set time table for better management of aviation sector for more effective fuel savings. 

For more on this or for interviews, please contact Sheeba Madan of the CSE Media Resource Centre at (sheeba@cseindia.org / 8860659190).

 

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