Business India, May 31-June 13, 1999
Clearing up emissions
Thanks to the Supreme Court, Indian consumers will see a major leap in automotive technology and fuel quality
By the stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court pushed the Indian auto industry into a technological leap. Since then, the media has been filled with smog about Euro-I and Euro-II for almost two weeks. But what are these norms and more importantly what are the factors responsible for the high levels of auto emissions and what are the technologies available for mitigating them? Which of these technologies are likely to be brought into India to meet the new norms? These are some of the questions that Business India looked into.
Not that the technologies involved in abating auto-emissions are of the cutting edge variety, but Indian consumers have been denied them for two reasons. First of all, they need further investments in automotive engines, catalytic converters, and oil refineries and secondly they would push up the price of an automobile by about 10 per cent in a highly price sensitive market.
But the increasing awareness about the health hazards posed by constituents of auto exhaust like smoke (particulate matter), nitrogen oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene, unburnt fuel (HC), lead and so on, especially in highly congested Indian cities, has been steadily forcing the government and the auto industry to gear up to cut the emissions. Accordingly, the government brought in unleaded petrol in 1996 in the metro cities and brought in new emission norms into force the same year.
The ministry of surface transport moved to notify India 2000 norms in August 1997. These norms were derived from the Euro-I norms (see table). They required lower sulphur levels and the refineries were advised to invest in hydro-desulphurisation to reduce sulphur content in diesel to 0.25 per cent.
It is important to understand that the emissions from an engine depend on how the engine is driven. How frequently do you brake? How frequently do you shift gears? What are your cruising speeds? What is your top speed? Do you check the emissions after the engine is warmed up or from a cold start? What about emissions due to evaporation of fuel from the automobile? And so on and so forth. A detailed study of the actual driving conditions: road conditions, traffic conditions, rush hour, off rush hour etc. has to be made. Then one arrives at what auto engineers call, the driving cycle. Then there are two ways of testing the vehicles: the engine dynamometer test and the chassis dynamometer test.
Thus Euro norms are not just some figures for various constituents of exhaust but also they per force specify the European Driving Cycle. Thus our table is a highly simplified version of the norms and does not cover two-three wheelers. Developing the driving cycle is a long drawn out affair and the data needs to be continuously updated as traffic conditions and road conditions change. So, for pragmatic reasons, the European Driving Cycle has been adopted with some modifications, like the top speed of 120 kmph has been reduced to 90 kmph.
The industry was gearing up to meet the Euro-I norms by 1 April 2000 in terms of vendor development, engine improvement, etc, and so were the refiners gearing up to improve fuel quality. There was also discussion going on about further cutting down emissions by 2005, which would be more in consonance with the Euro-II norms. However the increasing pollution in Delhi, (though polluting vehicles are not the only culprits) led the Supreme Court to bring forward the deadline for India-2000 norms to 1 June 1999, instead of 1 April 2000, as far as Delhi is concerned. The government was also directed to notify the equivalent of Euro-II norms with utmost speed and bring them into effect from 1 April 2000 - a five-year leap. The move naturally sent the automobile manufacturers into a tizzy. Though the order pertains to the National Capital Region around Delhi - which has the dubious distinction of being the fourth most polluted city in the world - it is clear that this might soon be extended all over India.
Despite a battery of the best and brightest lawyers arguing for extension of the deadlines on behalf of the auto manufacturers the court stuck to its guns. Now, work has to be taken up on a war footing on several fronts to achieve
these laudable objectives. First of all, the government has to quickly notify the Euro-II norms (for want of a better term). The Automobile Research Association of India (ARAI), an industry funded organisation that is affiliated to the industry ministry, has to gear itself up for quick certification of various models that are going to pour into its labs. S.R. Puranik, director of the lab, says the institute has already certified nearly seven petrol driven models and 11 diesel driven models for India 2000. He pointed out that once the Euro-I1 norms are notified ARAI can do the emission tests in two-three days per model and the detailed certification under Central Motor Vehicle Regulation which requires noise and safety tests along with emission tests in two-three weeks per model.
Another important issue is the quality of fuel required to meet the Euro-II norms. The question of fuel quality has to be addressed very seriously since the new norms will require not 0.25 per cent of sulphur but 0.05 per cent. So far only Reliance has said that it will be able to supply such fuel from July 1999, when its giant 27 million-tonne refinery goes on stream. Others are still working out the consequences of these norms. A.K. Jain and K.K. Gandhi, scientists at the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, point out that the fuel required to satisfy lower emission norms has to satisfy several criteria. For example, the sulphur content of petrol has to be brought down as well. Moreover, benzene and aromatic content has to brought down, volatility of the fuel has to be controlled carefully as it influences' the warm up time and evaporative emissions, oxygenated blend components to reduce co and HC emissions have to be added, multifunctional additives to control deposit formation within the engine have to be added and so on. Similarly, according to Jain and Gandhi, the diesel required has to not only have 0.05 per cent sulphur but also a lower density, lower boiling point (from 370 celsius to 340 celsius) higher cetane number (from 45 to 49-53 low aromatics, good oxidation stability and lesser amount of heavy cuts blended.
While the refiners upgrade themselves to meet these requirements, auto component manufacturers and auto makers have a lot of work to do. Automobile engines, be they petrol fuelled or diesel fuelled, are powered by burning fuel inside the engine in an explosive fashion. In a petrol engine, a mixture of petrol and air is compressed and is ignited by a spark from the spark plug. The combustion, however, takes place best when the air to fuel ratio is 14.7. However, even the most sophisticated carburettors rarely achieve this ratio and definitely not under all driving conditions. A multi point fuel injection (MPFI) system, which is controlled by a micro chip called electronic control unit (ECU) can achieve much less emissions and better fuel efficiency in petrol engines. Better combustion lowers HC and co emissions but can lead to higher NOX emissions. Improved catalytic converters like pre-heated or dose loop ones can take care of most of the noxious matter.
In the case of diesel engines, turbo charging inter-cooling, exhaust gas re-circulation, de-Nox catalytic converters, higher injection pressures, particulate traps and so on can similarly ensure that Euro-II norms are met. The technologies likely to be brought into India at the moment are multi point fuel injection with electronic control unit (not the state of the art engine management system), better catalytic converters, higher injection pressures for diesel engines and at least' soft' turbo charging - that is turbo charging to cut emissions but not for increasing the power since that will require major changes in the drive train. It is estimated that the new technologies can cost up to 10 per cent of the present vehicle price.
These are all proven technologies; though none of them are cutting edge the issue is: can changes in mass production be made within the stipulated time at the lowest cost to consumers? The coming months will prove as to who among the various vehicle makers is up to the task.