Green cars: NGOs vs carmakers battle lands on PM's desk
The NGOs want cars to become green faster. The car industry says we are going fast enough. The PMO may take the final call.
New Delhi: Yet another NGO battle has washed up on the Prime Minister's desk. And we are not talking Kudankulam here.
Green NGOs are pushing the government to speed up the rate at which the auto industry improves fuel efficiency, but the industry is dragging its feet. The industry is also ambivalent about showing comparative star ratings for cars - where a buyer would be able to check, how, say, a Maruti Alto compares with a Santro.
The battleground is the draft fuel efficiency standard for cars. NGOs such as the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have criticised the draft saying the industry needs to improve further and faster than the 1.28 percent annual improvement in fuel efficiency suggested in the draft. (The draft, though, is not in the public domain.)
Under the proposed fuel efficiency norms, each car-maker has to certify each vehicle on how many kilometres it will run with one litre of fuel and these figures are certified by the ARAI (Automobile Research Association of India).
Also, the vehicle maker has to give comparative fuel efficiency data for all other cars in the same weight category. The norms make it mandatory for car makers to improve fuel efficiency by 1.28 percent every year progressively till 2015.
But the NGOs are saying this is not enough. They point out that 1.28 percent is too low when the industry has already achieved 2.8 percent improvement between 2006-07 and 2009-10 without any standards.
The Times of India said on Monday morning that the fuel efficiency labelling issue has finally landed with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in view of the sensitivities involved, after the auto industry opposed increasing the draft norms under pressure from the CSE.
But since the PM himself has not taken kindly to NGO activism in the nuclear protests arena, it remains to be seen whether the CSE's objections will be considered favourably or not.
Not just NGOs, even associations such as the US-based International Energy Agency have not bought the industry's claims that poor fuel quality, poor roads and differential pricing for petrol and diesel make it tough for the industry to dramatically improve fuel efficiency parameters between now and 2015.
Till January this year, stakeholders - car makers and the ministries of power, road transport and heavy industry -were broadly in agreement over what needs to be done to improve the fuel efficiency of cars being sold in Indian cities. But after the government began public consultations over the draft norms, trouble surfaced.
Speaking to Firstpost, Director General of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Vishnu Mathur said there were no differences between SIAM and the government over what needs to be done and SIAM was awaiting a formal notification over the issue.
But a senior government official said that after CSE and some other NGOs raised objections, things may have got stalled. Which is perhaps why the PMO may be entering the picture. "We have no communication about any meeting with the PMO officials," says one industry source.
Ajay Mathur, Director General of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), said the consultation process of drafting fuel efficiency norms was over and a notification should be coming out soon.
Apart from letting a buyer know the exact certified fuel efficiency, these norms would also involve star rating of vehicles, much like the star rating currently done for appliances such as refrigerators. Mathur said this would mean "that in a particular weight category, the stars will tell you which is the least fuel efficient and which the most fuel efficient car".
SIAM's Mathur says that it is incorrect to say that the auto industry is opposing these norms. "We began voluntary labelling of fuel efficiency three years back, we have agreed to the CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission norms proposed.... all we now want is a notification so that the required technology and supply chain changes can be made to prepare the industry for 2015. We can't have norms in 2014 for implementation in a year - all this takes a lot of time".
So today, if you go to purchase a Maruti Alto, for example, you can ask for certified mileage of the car and the mileage offered by other cars in the same weight category. This helps you in making a more informed choice on which car to finally buy - and this information is provided by the vehicle maker voluntarily.
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