Having made the challenging transition to BS6 in April 2020, the Indian auto sector is now looking at the next tranche of emission norms that is set to come into effect from 2022-23. Despite the tight deadline, carmakers believe that they will be able to meet the target on time. “Technically, we can do that,” said Krishnan Sundararajan, MD, Renault Nissan Tech and Business Center India, at a recent virtual conclave organized by our sister publication Autocar Professional on ‘Meeting Emission Challenges’. He added, “For BS6 Phase 2, our reaction is not as bad as it was for BS6.”
The next round of regulations will kick off with the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE 2) rules in April 2022 that will lower the permissible average CO2 levels of any carmaker’s fleet from the current 130g/km to 113g/km. The following year, Real Driving Emissions (RDE) norms will require cars to achieve emission targets even in real world conditions, as opposed to just a laboratory environment. This second phase of BS6 (or BS6.2), then, is set to make the emission limits a lot harder to scale for automakers than before. Explaining the strategies to achieve the more stringent targets, Sundararajan said, “Moving from BS6.1 to BS6.2, we have a very good understanding that the technologies applied in Europe can’t be copy-pasted here. So, we have to adapt. We have taken enough time for this adaptation and we are trying to solve the problems going towards 2023.”
He continued, “We know that the areas which we have to tackle are PGM (programmed fuel injection), which is related to hardware, and (upgraded) semiconductors, which is related to software.” For reference, programmed fuel injection controls the timing and amount of fuel injected in petrol engines, based on the input of sensors monitoring various parameters such as the throttle and crankshaft positions, engine temperature, intake temperature and pressure, oxygen content in the exhaust and so on. “All our energy and effort is now on optimising PGM and figuring out how we are going to operate at scale, in terms of all the technologies that we want to put in BS6.2. We are working on how the cost can be managed with different innovations in PGM optimisation, like expanding the technology to more types of cars,” said Sundararajan. Since more stringent regulations are already in place in Europe, luxury carmakers are all set for BS6.2. “With the introduction of new engines, which we had done around 2019-20, all our cars globally are compliant with Euro 6d standards. This helps us be ready for the (BS6) Phase 2 norms already today,” said Martin Schwenk, MD and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India.
However, the tighter CO2 targets are set to have a significant impact on IC (internal combustion) engines as we know them today. “Meeting the (new) CAFE requirements will obviously require us to have alternate powertrains, whether it is electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrids or something else. But it is very clear that simply the IC engine will not be enough to meet the CAFE requirements of 2022,” said Dr Pawan Goenka, the former MD and CEO of Mahindra and Mahindra.
Electrification to feature more prominently
Speaking on the technologies required to hit the CAFE 2 target, the Chief of Global Product Development at Mahindra and Mahindra, R Velusamy, said, “In sedans (and hatchbacks), you mainly have gasoline, and therefore you have to go with hybrids.” However, he mentioned that selling 1-5 percent of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the segment could also help achieve the same results. “In the SUV category, you have a gasoline and diesel (model) mix. To a large extent, T-GDI (turbo gasoline direct injection) and diesel compensate for carmakers not wanting to put hybrids,” said Velusamy. Diesels have a comparatively smaller CO2 footprint than petrols. This means, as per the engineering chief, that SUVs can meet the overall CAFE target just with the help of “certain internal engine measures”.
Other strategies, like reducing the vehicle weight and lowering drag and rolling resistance can have a significant impact too. However, he added that depending on the automaker’s exact SUV portfolio, “a certain percentage of battery electric vehicles” could still be required.
Added tech to come at a cost
It is fairly obvious that electrification of any form will see car prices inch upwards. However, even other measures, like programmed fuel injection, are set to come with a cost penalty. “You are going to pay significantly higher for PGM. And similarly, on semiconductors, whether we like it or not, because of COVID, all wafers are going to go towards non-automotive segments. So in a nutshell, whether you want to do a soft amendment related to the semiconductors, or the hard amendment in terms of PGM, there will be some difficulty in moving towards the milestone of implementing at the right time and at the right cost,” said Renault-Nissan’s Sundararajan. He added, “Technically, we can do that, but affordability or TCO (total cost of ownership) for customers is something that we have to be careful about.”