What a total ban on diesel vehicles could mean in India

Source: The post is based on an article What a total ban on diesel vehicles could mean in India” published in The Indian Express on 10th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment

Relevance: concerns over banning diesel-powered four-wheel vehicles

News: The Energy Transition Advisory Committee formed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has recommended a ban on the use of diesel-powered four-wheel vehicles by 2027 in cities with a population of more than 1 million.

It recommended shifting towards electric and gas-fuelled vehicles along with city transport consisting a mix of Metro trains and electric buses by 2030.

Why has the panel come up with such a proposal?

The panel’s recommendation is along the lines of the government’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to produce 40% of its electricity from renewables as part of 2070 net zero goal.

Diesel currently accounts for about 40% of India’s petroleum products consumption. Therefore, the proposed ban will be significant in achieving the desired government’s aim.

What are the issues with the proposal?

Around 87% of diesel fuel sales are in the transport segment, with trucks and buses accounting for about 68%.

Therefore, difficulties in implementing a total ban are – (a) Carmakers and oil firms have invested greatly in shifting to BS-VI, and all of those investments might be lost if a complete ban is enacted and (b) a total ban would cause serious disruptions in the commercial vehicles segment, where diesel penetration is very high and alternative fuels options such as EV, CNG, and LNG are still being explored.

Note: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Haryana account for almost 40% of the diesel sold in India.

What actions have diesel vehicle manufacturers taken?

Maruti Suzuki, the nation’s largest producer of passenger cars, discontinued producing diesel cars from April 1, 2020.

Since 2020, most carmakers have discontinued diesel car manufacturing. As a result, the contribution of passenger vehicles to overall diesel vehicle demand has fallen to 16.5%, compared to 28.5% in 2013.

Why do people prefer diesel vehicles?

People prefer diesel vehicles because – a) diesel vehicles use less fuel per km, b) there are lesser chances of diesel vehicles to stall, and c) lower cost of the diesel compared to petrol.

However, the price of the diesel increased after 2014. Due to which, sales of diesel vehicles have fallen. Diesel cars accounted for less than 20% of overall passenger vehicle sales in 2021-22.

Why are carmakers moving away from diesel engines and what are the drawbacks of diesel engines?

The major drawback of diesel engines over petrol is that diesel engines have a higher compression ratio. This causes increase in emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), leading to pollution.

Moreover, carmakers have turned away from diesel engine cars because the new BS-VI emission norms involve a high cost of upgrading diesel engines to meet the new standard, unlike petrol engines cars.

What lies ahead?

Steps have been taken to reduce emission from the diesel such as – a) standards under BS-VI have necessitated oil refineries to reduce the level of sulphur in diesel and b) the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has developed a standard for diesel containing 7% biodiesel.

Therefore, looking at the current demand of diesel in the market, the government should concentrate on phasing-out diesel rather than completely banning diesel vehicles.

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