1. Timeline: Vehicle emission control in India
  2. What is Bharat emission standards?
    1. Sulfur lead content vs Bharat norms:
    2. Why additional Levy on petrol/diesel?
    3. Bharat Standards: limitations
    4. Flash point in Diesel
  3. Alternative Fuels
    1. #1: Methanol
    2. #2: Ethanol
    3. #3: Hydrogen fuel
    4. #4: CNG: Compressed Natural gas
    5. #5: LPG-Liquefied Petroleum gas
    6. #6: Hybrid and electric vehicles (HEV)
  4. Suggestions to reduce tailpipe pollution
  5. Mock Questions:
  6. Correct answers
Timeline: Vehicle emission control in India
1991 Vehicle emission norms introduced in India
1999 SC order government to introduce Euro norms like pollution control regime.
2000 onwards Bharat State emission standard I introduced.
  • Dr. R.A. Mashelkar Committee drafted “Auto Fuel Policy”.
  • Recommended adopting Bharat stage 3 and stage 4 fuel standards.
  • Auto Fuel Policy 2003 implemented.
  • Bharat 3 standards introduced in 13 major cities.
  • By 2010 entire India under Bharat stage 3.
Dec 2012
  • Petroleum ministry had setup Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee for Auto fuel vision policy 2025
  • Saumitra is was a member of planning commission. (not anymore because Montek & Co. gave resignation to Modi)
2014, May Saumitra Chaudhri gave recommendations. Hence in news.

What are Bharat emission standards?

  • Euro norms define the maximum limit of pollutant that a vehicle can emit. (CO2, nitrogen oxide, sulfur and suspended particulate matter)
  • If vehicle emits more than this limit, it cannot be sold in Europe.
  • In India, we follow Euro norms under the label “Bharat stage” norms. we are gradually implementing them in more and more cities

Timeline Bharat Emission Standards & Euro Emission Norms

higher stage means less emission (just for reference, exact numbers not important for exam)
Euro normBharat Stage limit of RSPM* India implements from
I (1) 0.14 2000: nation wide
II (2) 0.08 2005: nation wide
III (3) 0.05 2010: nation wide
IV (4) 0.025
  • 2010:
  • 2011: 7 cities
  • 2014: 24 more cities#
  • 2017: (All India)#
V (5) 0.005 2022 (All India)#
VI (6) 0.0025 after 2024 (All India)#
  • #as per Saumitra Committee recommendation.
  • *Respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM)

Map Cities & refinaries under Bharat Emission StandardsBharat Emission Standards 4 BS4 BS-IV

Sulfur lead content vs Bharat norms:

  • To reduce emission from vehicle, we’ve to fit “catalytic converter”, “particulate filter”, & other fancy devices in its exhaustion system.
  • But the chemical catalysts in such devices get immobilized in presence of lead/sulphur.
  • Therefore, fuel should have minimal quantity of lead and sulfur. Else, you’ll have to replace those fancy devices too often.
  • Lead: we are already selling lead-free petrol. Since year 2000 only lead free petrol sold in India.
  • sulfur: the Bharat norms give following limits:
year particles per million (ppm) in diesel
present (BS3) 350
2017 (BS4) 50 (already done in BS4 cities)
2020 (BS5) 10

Why additional Levy on petrol/diesel?

To implement Bharat norms, we’ve to do two things:

To Vehicle manufacturers To Oil refineries
You’ve fit “catalytic converter”, “particulate filter” & other fancy gadgets in the engine. This will decrease soot & pollutants. You produce fuel with less sulfur, olefin & other impurities. (especially for Bharat stage 5)
ok, Not a problem because these companies already fitting such equipment’s in engine, before exporting vehicles to Europe. (due to higher level Euro standards) Problem because refiners have to buy machines and technology worth Rs.~80,000 crore.
  • Government can arrange cash for refineries, by imposing 75 Paise “special fuel upgradation cess” on Petrol and Diesel. (says Sumitra Committee)
  • Send this cash to Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB)
  • Then, OIDB will upgrade the refineries to Bharat stage 4 and 5.
  • Previously, recall Famous lawyer Harish Salve reported to supreme court and asked for 30% cess on private diesel vehicles. and that money should be used for implementing Bharat stage 5 and 6.

Taxation: Misc. recommendations

  • Import duty should be 0% on both LNG and crude oil.
  • States VAT should be reduced on CNG sale (to promote CNG vehicles)

Bharat Standards: limitations

  1. Four refineries in the North East- Guwahati, Digboi, Numaligarh and Bongaigaon- their equipment outdated, cannot produce BS4, BS5 quality fuels.
  2. Government designated only a few cities under BS-4 standards. BS-4 vehicles more expensive than BS3. Hence public buys BS3 vehicles from peripheral towns to evade registration taxes.
  3. BS3 fuel is cheaper than BS4 fuel.
  4. On older vehicles, we need to fit “catalytic after-treatment devices” to reduce their emission. But government & public not pursuing this project enthusiastically.
  5. Our diesel to petrol usage ratio is almost (4.5): 1 hence more pollution. This ratio is low in USA, Europe and Japan.

Flash point in Diesel

  • It is the lowest temperature at which a fuel starts turning into vapor (which will later ignite)
  • Flash point of diesel is set at 35 degree C. (under both BS3 and BS4.)
  • Some journalist argue that 35 degree is too dangerous. Because in India, temperature often above 40 degree celcius (Even EU has flash point limit 55 C, despite having cold climate.)
  • Sumitra rejects this hypothesis, because even tropical countries like Brazil and Argentina have lower flash points. The temperature in and around the engine of the vehicle is well over 100 C – much above the highest flash point prescribed anywhere in the world. Hence 35 degree flash point doesn’t automatically mean explosion.

Misc. terms from his report

Olefin These are unsaturated alkanes. We need to reduce their quantity in fuel, to reduce pollution.
Cetane number It is a measure of diesel quality. Lower the cetane number, diesel will produce more smoke.

Alternative Fuels

Overall, Saumitra report is three things

  1. Bharat norms: implementing next stage
  2. taxation issues
  3. Alternative fuels- for reducing petrol and diesel consumption. Here, he give pros and cons of each alternative.

#1: Methanol

Good points Bad points
  • Methanol is readily biodegradable in both aerobic (oxygen present) and anaerobic (oxygen absent) environments.
  • is an alternative fuel for internal combustion engines
  • Can be used directly or by blending with petrol
  • Used in racing cars in many countries, even in China.
  • Methanol has a high toxicity in humans.
  • Even 10 ml pure methanol can cause permanent blindness. (recall those hooch liquor victims)
  • Methanol fire burns invisibly, while petrol burns with a visible flame.
  • So difficult to detect methanol fire hazard.
  • Pure methanol is corrosive to engine and fuel lines

Mrunal notes: Additional pros, cons and facts can be gathered for each “alternative fuel” via google books, Britannica etc. but then article will become 5 miles long and will take another five days to finish. And yet there is no guarantee that it’ll have sufficient facts to solve a possible UPSC MCQ! Therefore, I’ve confined myself only to the facts mentioned in Saumitra report, nothing beyond that. But you’re free to dig through all angles.

#2: Ethanol

  • is an organic solvent
  • Ethanol itself burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol.
  • Ethanol can be derived from Sugar cane juice and molasses.
  • Molasses is the byproduct when sugar cane juice converted to sugar.
Timeline of Ethanol blending program in India
2001 Government permitted adding Ethanol in petrol. Pilot project in Uttar Pradesh.
2006 5% Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) began in most states, except JK and North East.
  • National biofuel policy. Now oil companies required to blend atleast 5% ethanol with petrol.
  • But project mostly #EPICFAIL. Most companies not blending more than 2% ethanol, because ethanol not easily available at reasonable price.
2017 Sumitra Committee proposed 20% ethanol blending by 2017

Case study: Brazil’s ethanol blending program

  • Started in mid-70s
  • Their car-engines designed such way, they use even upto 18% ethanol blending. (Exact figures not important but for MCQ the examiner may twist statement saying “car engine cannot run properly if ethanol blending more than 10%“…then you should know it is an incorrect statement.)

#3: Hydrogen fuel

Bad points:

  1. Cost of hydrogen pipeline is 15x times more expensive than a CNG/LPG pipeline.
  2. Hence, only few areas of USA have hydrogen pipeline.
  3. In the entire world hardly 200 hydrogen refiling stations by 2013. (rank: N.America > Asia > South America)
  4. Hydrogen burns with colorless odorless flame, hence hard to detect leakage.

Hydrogen Vision 2020 – (GIFT)

  • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)’s Green Initiatives for Future Transport (GIFT)
  • It has vision 2020 for Hydrogen.
  • Aim: sell Hydrogen at cost of 60-70 per kg
  • Build pipelines and refilling stations for hydrogen fuel.
  • Get at least 1 lakh hydrogen vehicles on Indian road
  • Safety regulation, laws and codes.

#4: CNG: Compressed Natural gas

Favor Against
  • CNG emits far less pollutants than petrol or diesel
  • CNG doesn’t have carcinogens like Benzene.
  • Success story in Delhi and Mumbai CNG-public transport.
  • CNG filling station requires more investment than petrol pump.

Public not ready to buy CNG kits/vehicles because

  1. Lack of CNG filling stations in many highways.
  2. Price difference between CNG vs petrol/diesel not that big.

#5: LPG-Liquefied Petroleum gas

  • LPG is predominantly propane and butane. Propane constitutes 30-99%.
  • LPG can be derived from.
    • refining crude oil
    • natural gas
  • Hence no risk of “single source dependence”
  • LPG is globally surplus because of Natural Gas production.
  • In some countries, LPG is called “Auto-Gas” and used in taxis e.g. Korea, Turkey, Russia, Poland and Italy.
Good points bad points
  • emits far less pollutants than petrol or diesel
  • Unlike CNG, the LPG does not require elaborate gas grid-network or compressor station at refueling stations.
  • Therefore, LPG refilling station can be opened with less investment. Cheaper in long run.
  • Today, cost per km for LPG car is almost equals petrol car.
  • So there is no cost-advantage to make public shift from petrol cars to LPG cars.

#6: Hybrid and electric vehicles (HEV)

  • HEVs have both internal combustion (running on petrol) and electricity.
  • Both USA and China planning to add 1-5 million new HEV vehicles by 2020.
  • India should also work on this. More details in old article click me

Suggestions to reduce tailpipe pollution

List not exhaustive. I’ve lifted only a few non-technical, easy to memorize points from his report.

BEE Labelling for fuel saving vehicles

  1. BEE (Bureau of energy efficiency) labels on vehicles to show their fuel efficiency.
  2. We need to replace the existing PUC system to a more reliable computerized system.
  3. We need to link vehicle insurance with pollution. (i.e. higher pollution vehicle should be ordered to pay higher premium for same coverage)
  4. Give subsidy, tax-benefit to vehicle owners to retrofit their engines with newly emission control devices
  5. Impose higher taxes on old vehicles, because they emit more gases.
  6. More tax on diesel guzzling SUV cars.
  7. Less tax on hybrid cars, CNG vehicles.
  8. Use chemical markers to detect adulteration of diesel/petrol with kerosene. Make oil companies responsible for fuel quality at their station.

Mock Questions:

Correct statements

Q1. Petroleum ministry had setup Saumitra Chaudhari Committee for ___.

  1. Diesel subsidy pricing in India
  2. Petrol taxation in India
  3. Implementation of Bharat stage 4 norms.
  4. Auto fuel vision policy 2025

Q2. Suppose two cars are of identical size and body. One produced India and another in Europe. Which of the following is/are correct:

  1. Euro IV car causes less pollution  than Bharat V car.
  2. Euro III car causes more pollution than Bharat III car.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q3. At present, every city of India is under ___ norm.

  1. Bharat stage VI or higher
  2. Bharat stage II of higher
  3. Bharat stage III or higher
  4. Bharat stage IV or higher

Q4. To comply with higher level Bharat norms, oil refineries need to produce diesel with less sulphur content because

  1. It is an air pollutant
  2. It deactivates the catalysts in particulate filter & other emission reduction devices fitted in the vehicles.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q5. Consider following statements about flashpoint:

  1. Flashpoint is the temperature at which fuel catches fire.
  2. Indian diesel has flashpoint of 35 degree celcius.
  3. Higher the flashpoint, less dangerous the fuel.

Correct statement

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q6. Consider following statements

  1. To improve the quality of petrol and diesel, refineries will have to add Olefin into them from Bharat stage IV onwards.
  2. Diesel with higher Cetane number is considered to be of lower quality.
  3. National biofuel policy 2008 requires Oil refineries to blend at least 5% ethanol with petrol.

Incorrect statements are

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q7. Consider following statements about Methanol

  1. Pure Methanol can be used in treatment of retinal glaucoma
  2. Methanol is biodegradable in aerobic environment but not in anaerobic environment.
  3. In many countries, methanol is used as a fuel in race cars, including China.

Incorrect statements are

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them

Q8. Consider following statements

  1. CNG is not a safe fuel because contains traces of carcinogens such as Benzene in vapor form.
  2. In the whole world, North America has highest number of Hydrogen refilling stations
  3. Pure hydrogen fuel burns with blue flame hence provides highest amount of energy per kg, than any other fuel.

Incorrect statements are

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None of them


General Studies Mains paper 3 Syllabus topic: Environmental Pollution.

  1. Write a note on the salient recommendations of Saumitra Chaudhary Committee on auto fuels (200 words).
  2. What is India’s Hydrogen Vision 2020? (100 words)
  3. What are alternative fuels? Why is it impractical to adopt most of them in India? (200 words).
  4. What is Bharat Stage emission standards? Discuss the challenges in their implementation. (200 words).
  5. “To minimize vehicular pollution, Bharat norms alone are not sufficient.” Comment. (200 words).

Correct answers

  1. C-auto fuel vision policy
  2. D neither correct. Because Both Euro and Bharat norms are same. And higher stage means less pollution.
  3. C-Bharat Stage 3 or higher
  4. C both reasons correct
  5. B only 2 and 3 correct.
  6. A- 1 and 2 wrong. Olefin causes more pollution. Higher cetane is better quality.
  7. A- 1 and 2 wrong. Methanol itself can cause blindness even in minute quantity, how can you treat glaucoma with it! Second statement is also wrong.
  8. C- 1 and 3 wrong. CNG doesn’t have benzene and hydrogen flame colorless.