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“BS-VI (Bharat Stage VI) | What it is, & What to Expect”

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to implement BS-VI fuel norms by 1st April, 2020, we try to explain, what BS-VI is? And how it differs from the earlier emission norms?


With Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) recently launching the company’s first two-wheeler, which will meet the Bharat Stage VI (BS6) emission norms, Honda Activa 125 BS-VI, the effects of the recent Supreme Court decision concerning the adoption of Bharat Stage VI (or BS-VI) emission norms are making themselves known.

The Supreme Court of India has ruled, that no Bharat Stage IV vehicle shall be sold across the country with effect from Apr 1, 2020. Instead, the Bharat Stage VI (or BS-VI) emission norm would acquire force from Apr 1, 2020 across the country. A three-judge bench ruled that the necessity of the hour was to move to a cleaner fuel. In 2016, the Centre declared that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.

Earlier in October 2018, The Supreme Court had passed a Judgement effectively eliminating the grossly polluting passenger cars in Delhi-NCR. For Delhi, that has over one crore registered vehicles, the Judgement directly impacts about 37 lakh cars that are older than fifteen years. The apex court mandated the Transport Department of NCR, with immediate effect, to ban diesel vehicles over ten years old and petrol vehicle over fifteen years from plying within Delhi-NCR. This is in conformity with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of Apr 2015. NGT’s order was challenged in the apex court, and the civil appeal was dismissed. Vehicles violating the order will be impounded.

To this end, the Central Pollution control board (CPCB) and also the Transport Department of Delhi-NCR are to, now, publish a list of such vehicles on their respective websites. Similarly, a significant promotion is to be printed in a local newspaper for the convenience of the vehicle owners.

The Supreme Court, in view of the worsening air quality trend in Delhi, has additionally directed the CPCB to make a social media account on which the citizens could lodge their grievance directly, to be acted upon by the Task Force, accountable for the implementation of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). Now, citizens are empowered to directly address the local sources of pollution in their neighborhood. The authorities responsible are going to be held directly liable for resolution of such cases, with strict directions to keep up the transparency of such necessary action undertaken.

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) is permitted to take preemptive steps under GRAP without strict adherence to pollution stages depicted in the plan. EPCA can exercise informed discretion to take pre-emptive steps to implement the point-to-point actions mentioned within the GRAP categories. They will take actions on any steps mentioned underneath any category regardless of the pollution category prevailing in the city.

But why is this decision so important now and how will it make an impact in your life? And in particular, what’s BS-VI and how will it differ from the earlier emission norm – BS IV – being followed by the Indian automakers until now?

How Does BS 6 Works?

To start with, the ‘BS’ in BS VI stands for ‘Bharat Stage’ that signifies the emission regulation standards set by Indian regulatory bodies. The ‘VI’ is a roman numeric representation for six (6) the higher the number gets, the stricter the Bharat Stage emission norms get, that eventually means that it becomes trickier (and costlier) for automakers to fulfill them. These emission standards were set by the central government to keep a check on the pollutant levels emitted by vehicles that use combustion engines. To bring them into force, the Central Pollution Control Board sets timelines and standards that have to be followed by automakers. Also, the BS norms are based on European emission norms that, for instance, are stated in a similar manner like ‘Euro 4’ and ‘Euro 6’. These norms are followed mostly by all automakers across the world and act as an honest point of reference on how much a vehicle will contaminate.

BS-6 Upgrade Standard

To wrap it up and place it merely, Bharat Stage emission norms are mostly like EU emission norms followed globally.

How is BS-VI different from BS-IV?

The major distinction between the present BS-IV and forthcoming BS-VI norms is the presence of sulfur within the fuel. Where, the BS-IV fuels contain fifty parts per million (ppm) sulfur, the BS-VI grade fuel solely has ten ppm sulfur content.  However, once we talk air pollution, particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the most harmful elements, and the BS-VI can bring down cancer-causing particulate matter in diesel cars by an exceptional 80%.

Why can’t we implement the BS-VI now?

While the application of a stricter emission norm might sound smart, particularly amidst the mounting considerations over the ever-rising pollution levels in the country, there’re heaps more to that than simply that. Firstly, it takes years for automakers to develop a new kind of engine or to tweak around with the present ones utilized in their vehicles. Once the research and development is over, the task of fixing full-scale production comes up. All of this comes at a cost that eventually makes the vehicle more expensive for the end-user of the product, and that can be a reason for concern for automakers, given how price-sensitive the Indian market is.

Automakers were supposed to create their models BS-IV compliant by Apr 1, 2017. Whereas some automakers have met the targets and updated their merchandise, there’s an enormous stock of vehicles left to be sold-out into the market that is BS-III compliant and as per the most recent SC decision, they won’t be able to do so. Recently, the Society of Indian Automobile makers (SIAM) had told the court that the businesses were holding stock of around 8.24 lakh such vehicles. These included around 96,000 commercial vehicles, over 6 lakh two-wheelers and around 40,000 three-wheelers. Then, there’s the additional need for cleaner fuel to run these vehicles that fits a stricter emission regulation as it isn’t feasible to make internal combustion engines contaminate less while using poor quality of fuel.

As per a report, the Centre has spent around Rs 18,000 to 20,000 crore for producing cleaner fuel.

Emission Standard for BS 6

To wrap it up, automakers have an enormous stock that doesn’t go with the soon-to-be-implemented BS-VI emission norm, and they risk facing huge losses. Whereas, as per the Centre, automakers have been given enough time for the transition, and that they have done their part to produce cleaner fuel, which cost a significant quantity of money to do.

Can BS6 cars run on BS4 fuel?

Let’s say you have bought a brand new BS6 ready automobile (perhaps the new 2019 Maruti Suzuki Ertiga BS6) and you fuel your car at a petrol station that solely stocks old BS4 fuel. Now you wonder, can BS4 fuel harm my BS6 car? Again, let’s put petrol aside, as the chemical composition of both BS4 and BS6 is identically the same. For diesel-powered cars, using BS4 fuel in a BS6 vehicle will cause a number of costly problems. BS6 diesel engines have very refined electronics and a re-developed exhaust system. With the introduction of DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) and SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction), using BS4 diesel with high sulfur content can drastically increase the emission (due to inflated sulfur ppm) eventually clogging up the diesel particulate filter. This may additionally have an effect on the fuel economy in diesel cars.

Sulfur Level in BS Fuel

Will BS4 cars be banned?

Yes, after Apr 2020.

As per the Supreme Court’s verdict on October 2018, sale and purchase of all BS4 vehicles are banned after Apr of 2020. The court has even given an ultimatum to automobile manufacturers to clear their previous stock of BS4 vehicles before the deadline. The court has also further made it clear that no extension whatsoever will be given to automobile corporations for old BS4 car stock clearance at any cost.

Will the vehicles with BS-VI tech become expensive?

The everyday client who is yet to buy themselves a vehicle or is aiming to get one might soon have to dole out more for their purchase. On top of that, the fuel prices also ought to be taken into consideration. But above all of this, there’s a much bigger target to be achieved. India has some of the most polluted cities in the world, and automobiles are usually considered as one of the largest factors to blame for it.  The need of the hour is to regulate the pollution levels, by all means attainable and since globally, countries are implying euro 6 levels of emission rules, India has to improve its game, and hence the BS IV to BS VI emission norm implication.  What should be expected in the future?  As of now, BS-VI will be enforced from Apr 1, 2020, 3 years after BS IV was enforced in 2017.

Those trying to purchase a vehicle will have to pay a higher amount than before to have one. The larger aim for the automotive sector as a whole is to implement BS-VI emission regulation by the year 2020 in India.

This will need an enormous amount of investment to make the oil refineries capable of producing an improved quality of fuel, and also investments in the infrastructure to make that fuel accessible across the country. Then, the automakers will have to make investments on their end too to speed up the research and development process and improve their own infrastructure – just like the manufacturing plants – to make their offerings BS-VI compliant.  This, eventually, can make owning an internal combustion engine-powered car more expensive to have, and maintain.

To sum it up, India is attempting to reach the global standards, and hence, plenty of changes in the trends, sales and choices made by customers are expected within the coming years.

Should I get a new automobile now or wait for BS6?

With the recent slump in new automobile sales, the apprehension to buy a brand-new car is perceivable. A part of the rationale is the BS6 emission norm which is deterring potential consumers from buying a car. Most consumers are merely holding on till April 2020, when BS6 rolls out.

Adding to this, the diminishing future of diesel cars in India. Major car makers like Maruti Suzuki, VW and Tata are phasing out their diesel inventory.

So, should you get a car now, or wait for the arrival of BS6? If you’re going to get a petroleum car, you can go ahead with the purchase because the difference between BS4 petrol and BS6 petrol is insignificant.  But, all isn’t identical with diesel. With the forthcoming BS6 upgrade, you can expect a price jump of around a ₹1,00,000 more for a BS6 diesel automobile. For comparison, a BS6 petrol automobile will only cost you ₹40,000 to ₹50,000 dearer. You can additionally bid adieu to compact diesel engines, as the huge price difference will void any saving you’re aiming to create.

The question remains, should you get a diesel car now? We say, YES. Consider buying a small capacity diesel though, because it is the best option for frugality and mile-munching. And if you’re planning on keeping a diesel automobile for over five years, the distinction is hardly distinguishable.

Here’s what to expect from the car manufacturers in 2019

Maruti Suzuki BS6 Cars: Maruti Suzuki has been ahead of the game, launching 6 new BS-VI complaint cars this year; Maruti Alto 800, Maruti Wagon R 1.2 Litre, Maruti Swift Petrol, Maruti Baleno Petrol, Maruti Dzire Petrol & Maruti Ertiga Petrol

Hyundai BS6 Cars: Hyundai also plans, and is likely, to begin roll out of BS-6 Compliant Cars with its new generation of vehicles. It is expected that Grand i10 new generation in Petrol, Elantra, Tucson will get BS-6 Compliant Engine by 2019 end.

Mahindra BS6 Cars: Mahindra would be rolling out BS-6 Compliant Petrol Engines for KUV100, XUV300 and XUV500 in & around the last quarter of 2019.

Tata Motors BS6 Cars: Tata Motors is also upgrading its line-up this year with Tiago Petrol, Tigor Petrol, Nexon Petrol , all being introduced into BS6 Compliant category this year. Hexa, Harrier, Nexon Diesel will likely get a BS-6 Compliant Diesel Engine at the dawn of 2020.