As per an international study, testing on-road emissions of passenger cars in India, a diesel-run SUV may be emitting between 25 to 65 times more NOx, a harmful gaseous pollutant, than a small petrol car, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
On-road emissions of diesel cars may be far higher than their emissions under lab certification conditions. The study found that real-world NOx emissions from diesel SUVs are 4-6 times higher than its already weak NOx standard, which in turn is five times higher than the petrol NOx standard. Further, it has also been found that BS-IV diesel cars emit at least 1,000 times more ultrafine particles than a BS-VI vehicle.
“This study has confirmed what we already know from ‘Dieselgate’ in Europe. Diesel cars, particularly large diesel SUVs, are much more polluting on road than petrol cars. The main point is that investments are made to improve new emission standards, but if this technology cannot be made to work on roads, it negates the purpose from a public health point of view,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment’s Right to Clean Air Campaign
Delhi was ranked the world’s most polluted city in 2014 by the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2016, WHO ranked the quality of Delhi’s air the 11th most foul. Concerned over rising vehicular pollution primarily due to diesel vehicles, the Supreme Court had on Dec 16, 2015, made it mandatory for all private cabs in NCR to convert to CNG to reduce pollution, and also banned the registration of new diesel-guzzling luxury cars and SUVs with engine capacity over 2000 cc in the National Capital Region.
The trigger for the SC decision was the IIT-Kanpur report on air pollution in Delhi which was extensively quoted by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) in the case. The report revealed that diesel vehicles are a major source of particulate matter (PM) emissions in the transport sector. The report showed how barring Rohini, diesel vehicles contributed to 60-90 per cent of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) emissions in Delhi. At Vasant Kunj for instance, they contributed to about 90 per cent of vehicular emissions while in Okhla, the emission was about 80 per cent.
In Aug 2016, the Supreme Court lifted the 8-month old ban on registration of large diesel vehicles in NCR after imposing a levy of 1% of the ex-showroom price of the vehicle as green cess to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The SC will also examine the issue of levying this green cess on smaller diesel vehicles. However, it is doubtful that this extra green cess will have any impact on the sales of luxury diesel cars and SUVs, given the negligible increase in price. For instance, 1% green cess on a Rs. 25 lakh diesel car/SUV translates to just an extra Rs. 25,000/-, which is really not a dis-incentive for prospective rich buyers. Also, the question arises whether this levying of green cess on luxury diesel vehicles can really compensate for the serious medical ailments caused to the general public and the common man on the road.
“It is not a deterrent. This is very cosmetic. Fuel tax charged on diesel should be on par with that of petrol. Considering that petrol car owners pay more than Rs. 10/- per litre over the diesel car owners, additional tax has to be recovered from the diesel car user. If you want to recover the extra tax, you will have to increase the price (of diesel) by 20% to 30%. This is in the court and a decision on this will be taken on a later date,” said Anumita Roychowdhury of CSE.
The one per cent cess is in fact a big climb down as going by the tone of the bench earlier, it was set to impose up to 30 per cent of car cost as environment cess as per a suggestion by the court appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA). The change of mind apparently came after the government and Attorney General threw its weight behind the car manufacturers.
“There is no rationale to show that 2000cc plus cars are bigger polluters. We are proceeding on the premise that they are meeting emission norms. Big diesel cars have better emission norms than smaller ones. The ban has its difficulties too. It sends a message that there are inconsistencies in our policy and it affects FDI and also millions of jobs. Huge investment has been made by foreign companies and they are saying we will go away if the ban continues. We are ready to conduct a multi-pronged study on the effect of diesel on the environment and possible green cess and that can even be under the auspices of the court,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had then told the bench. AG said a court cannot impose any stiff cess on vehicles and it was the duty of the executive.
On August 10, 2017, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions, including non-renewal of insurance policy of vehicles unless the owner provides pollution under control (PUC) certificate to the insurance firms. However, the current PUC system of vehicular certification – similar to laboratory testing – is ineffective in accurately checking and monitoring the on-road emission levels.
“With BS-VI, controlling on-road emissions from diesel vehicles will be more complex and expensive than petrol vehicles. As seen in Europe, it is vulnerable to poor performance on road and to emission cheating. India must adopt tighter test procedures for vehicle certification as well as implement direct monitoring of actual emissions while vehicles are driven on road. Europe has already implemented this system,” said Centre for Science and Environment’s executive director Anumita Roy Chowdhury.
- Diesel cars already cost higher than their petrol versions, which negates the advantage in fuel price and efficiency
- Diesel cars require much more maintenance, and have significantly higher servicing costs on an annual basis
- Diesel cars fetch significantly lesser resale value in the secondary market, as they are prone to breakdown issues after few years
- The government has already reduced the subsidy on diesel considerably, and any remaining subsidy is to be removed soon, bringing the cost of diesel almost on par with petrol prices
- Buying a diesel car/SUV may still save you a few bucks in the short run, but is this saving really worth the lives of you and your children, who will be exposed to the high level of poisonous NOx fumes, which causes cancer and other serious ailments, not to forget the increased cost of medical treatment and healthcare.
Do think about the long-term adverse impact before opting for the short term gain. The future health of your children is in your own hands!