New mileage norms may hit SUVs

Gaz guzzling SUVs giving 5 km to the litre may soon become a thing of the past in India, as the government prepares to notify India’s first fuel-efficiency norms in a few days.

Even before the notification, however, the norms are under fire from environmentalists. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has termed the proposed norms inadequate and unacceptable.

The CSE on Tuesday also called alleged attempts by car companies to dilute the norms as “disturbing” and called for more transparency from the government.

“Only the government and the industry are talking with each other to come up with the standards.. And what we get to know is that they have agreed on a very easy targets which will require only 1% improvement in fuel-efficiency in a year,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy and head of its air pollution control team.

Setting of fuel-efficiency norms — which will make life difficult for those who make 5 km per litre cars — has been the subject of much controversy and lobbying for the last four years.

While environmentalists have always been kept out of the negotiations, even the two ministries — those of power and transportation — have not been seeing eye to eye over their respective ‘powers.’

The talks, which resumed after an intervention by the Prime Minister, have finally reached their final stage, with reports that the two sides have agreed to a target for Carbon Dioxide released per km traveled by the car.

Since the amount of Carbon Dioxide released per litre of fuel burnt remains the same, car companies will have to increase the distance traveled with each litre, to bring down the emission per km.

However, the standard is closer to the car industry’s suggestion of a minimum of 135 CO2 gm/km in 2015. In comparison, the current fuel-efficiency, measured in Carbon Dioxide emitted per KM of travel, is 141 gm/km.

“This means minimal action,” Roychowdhury pointed out. “This will then further water down the targets for 2020 which is unacceptable. India has already agreed to reduce its energy intensity of GDP by at least 20-25 per cent by 2020, the fuel economy targets should at least align with this,” she said.

“If Europe, with its heavier cars, can propose a target of 95 gm/km in 2020, India should at least be below 105 gm/km in 2020. This can be easily achieved with 2.5% to 3% improvement a year,” she added.

Under the new scheme, companies will have to make sure that they produce enough number of high-mileage models or increase the mileage of their existing models to escape punitive action.

The norms are unlikely to affect companies like Maruti Suzuki or Hyundai Motors which mostly produce low weight, high mileage cars; but are likely to create discomfort for car brands that focus on utility vehicles.