Volkswagen scandal could bring about changes in emission norms in India

Thursday, Dec 24, 2015

The diesel-gate scandal involving German auto major Volkswagen is likely to spark off changes in the regulation of vehicle emission standards in India, with the road transport ministry considering defining guidelines for testing and validating permissible range of emissions for vehicles that are in use.

The move, if implemented, could see random inspections of in-use vehicles of all makes and engines types to gauge compliance with reworked standards. Currently, India defines regulatory standards (Bharat Stage emission rules) for new vehicles and not in-use ones.

"Variations are expected in emission levels of vehicles tested from the factory floor and those tested on-road," a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified, told ET. "However, there are no clear norms today defining permissible on-road emission levels, which would allow us to know if these (variations) are nominal or of alarming proportions. We need to refine the architecture."

The decision comes after road tests by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) showed 5-6 times more emissions from some of Volkswagen Group's diesel-run vehicles, compared with what the company had reported based on trials carried out in laboratory conditions. According to the auto maker's findings, its cars didn't violate India's Bharat Stage IV (BS-IV) emission rules.

"For each engine type, each vehicle type, there should be norms defining the permissible on-road level of emissions. There can be penalties if significant variations are found after factoring in at what stage of its lifecycle the vehicle is being tested and to what extent the vehicle has been maintained. The standards set would also need to have an in-built mechanism to offset commercial interests of various players in the industry and prevent them from hitting out at one another," the official said.

The road transport ministry will shortly undertake a study of regulations being put in place globally to determine a framework for on-road testing of vehicles. India can broadly adopt the European structure (which is set to come into force starting 2017), the official indicated.

Abdul Majeed, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, called this a step in the right direction. "Onroad testing of vehicles is crucial to curb rise in pollution. However, the norms should also have checks in place to determine whether variations in emission levels are due to manufacturing defects or on account of vehicles being badly maintained. Stringent penalties should be imposed on the manufacturer or the owner accordingly," he said.

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