The Supreme Court’s ban on diesel vehicles is an imposition on the consumers and has an impact on certain segments of the automobile industry.

However, the ban on diesel vehicles above 2000 cc, while good in its intent to curb pollution, has resulted in the unintended favouring of certain automobile manufacturers while putting at major disadvantage others whose product profile is skewed toward diesel vehicles.

Had all diesel vehicles been banned, there would perhaps have been merit in examining whether diesel is itself harmful in the amount of particulate matter and Nox emissions it emits. It cannot be a valid argument that diesel, when used in 1900 cc vehicles, is harmless but deserves to be banned for 2000 cc vehicles.

It should be noted that all these years, the Centre had been subsidising diesel indirectly and thus encouraging the use of (diesel) vehicles. Thus the Centre must bear some responsibility for the current situation resulting from the Court order.

It needs to be examined if, with the advantage of state-of-the-art technology, a 2000 cc engine emits more pollutants than, say, a 1200 cc engine on a per kilometre basis or on the basis of the carrying capacity of vehicles. While the order may be based on the advice of experts, it would have more merit if diesel technology is better understood. This will happen when a review petition is filed in the Supreme Court by the affected parties.

Goal post

While the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has been in dialogue with various arms of the Centre along with industry representatives to make cleaner fuel a reality, a desirable outcome of this has been the announcement of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) norms that effectively kick in from 2017.

In the pipeline

The Centre also announced its timeline for the introduction of Euro-5 and Euro-6 fuels. But there is some scepticism on this as the Euro-4 has not yet been introduced across the country. The automobile industry is certainly geared to meet the challenge of Euro-5 norms but Euro-6 is a stretch. Only time will tell whether it can meet this target, failing which introduction of new models will be delayed.

So, perhaps the way forward for the automobile industry is to focus its efforts on meeting the timelines for CAFE norms. These norms will ensure less pollutants in the air; focus on introduction of environment-friendly automobiles such as electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and hydrogen vehicles; gear up immediately for the proposed introduction of Euro-4 and Euro-5 fuels; and encourage better driving habits, leading to lower emission levels. The industry, along with the support of the Centre, has commenced the introduction of electric vehicles, mild hybrids, strong hybrids and, hopefully, in the fullness of time, will be able to launch hydrogen vehicles.

The writer is Vice-Chairman and Whole-Time Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor