Companies are gearing up with solutions and technologies to address future emission norms; the transformation of electric mobility into mainline transformation is taking shape
Air pollution is considered to be one of the biggest factors driving climate change across the world. Looking at the Indian sub-continent scenario, the country has earned notoriety for harbouring some of the most polluted cities across the globe, with various reports finding a majority of the population living in areas that have a high concentration of PM 2.5, far above the stipulated average of 10 µg/m3 annually by the World Health Organisation.
In metro cities such as Delhi, alarm bells have been ringing for years when it comes to air quality with pollution levels nearly three times over the desired limits. The government has taken several steps to curb this menace, including imposing a ban on sale of diesel vehicles in the capital for a stipulated time frame, subsequently announcing the big move of migrating from BS IV to BS VI emission norms by April 1, 2020. While many initially opposed the diktat, most OEMs have now fallen in line and are gearing up to introduce their BS VI-compliant vehicles well ahead of the roll-out.
Collaborations between OEMs and suppliers have been driving the pace towards achieving BS VI emission norms. Further, OEMs have been striving to increase the efficiencies of their existing line-up of internal combustion engines (ICEs), using hardware and software upgradation to not only achieve regulatory compliance, but also improve the overall efficiency of their products. Ahead of the new emission norms kicking in, various industry stakeholders have come together to iron out the solutions required for BS VI and have played an important role in this emission transition journey.
It is anticipated that going forward complete or partially electrified powertrains will have a larger role to play in terms of reducing vehicular emissions. OEMs have even begun rolling out electric vehicle solutions or are on track with the development of electric vehicles, specifically for the Indian market. Domestic OEMs such as Tata Motors and Mahindra have commercial EV solutions available in the market and are looking to roll these out for the mass market in the near future. In the two-wheeler space, there has been a sharp rise in start-ups offering electric solutions with the most prominent being Ather Energy. Bajaj Auto too has come up with its new EV scooter ‘Chetak’ that will be launched in January 2020 – it is betting on electric mobility for the future by leading the way with solutions that will drive synergies for the industry.
GEARING UP FOR THE FUTURE
From the ICE perspective, petrol and diesel-powered models have been dominant in the market. However, with component technologies playing a major role in the implementation of BS VI-compliant powertrains, the cost of vehicles is set to increase. Some OEMs are opting to steer away from diesel-powered IC engines as there is a higher cost associated to make these engines BS VI-compliant.
While some OEMs are adopting a wait-and-watch approach, global OEMs possessing expertise in Euro 6 norms are using their know-how to develop diesel engines that will be compliant with BS VI emission norms. For BS VI, cost becomes a critical factor and OEMs that do not have technical know-how and synergies concerning the manufacturing of these engines, cost optimisation will be a critical factor. A few companies have committed to furthering diesel engines for the Indian market and will roll out BS VI-compliant diesel models for small as well as mid- and premium offerings before the April 1, 2020 deadline.
The move from BS IV to BS VI compliance will require aftertreatment systems for both petrol and diesel engines. The first step has been to improve the efficiency of the current IC engine set-up and then implement an aftertreatment system that will focus on the reduction of particulate matter (PM), CO and NOx emissions. The robustness of the engine is an important factor in BS VI norms. The regulation is not just about meeting the tailpipe emission norms, rather during the vehicle lifecycle, emissions will need to be consistent. As long as the vehicle is maintained and serviced at right intervals, the emissions should conform to the defined norms for ‘In Service Conformity’.
A vehicle that has run 15,000 km or for six months and then at five years or 1,00,000 km, will have to be provided by OEMs to test agencies that will ascertain the conformity of these vehicles during their lifecycles. These will require robustness of the powertrain system to consistently perform and conform to emission regulations throughout the entire vehicle lifespan.
OEMs are leveraging aftertreatment systems using catalysts and sensors to reduce pollutants in tailpipe emissions. Changes have also been made to the catalysts being used, and their loading has been altered as well. O2 sensors will also get activated. Manufacturers have identified ways of reducing NOx emissions using technologies such as multi-layer EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) cooler with bypass, model-based EGR rate, boost control as well as an LNT (lean NOx trap) catalyst. Further, technologies such as high pressure injection (up to 2,000 bar) and spray divided type optimised combustion chamber can also be used to reduce NOx emissions. Companies can make use of systems such as a diesel particulate filter (DPF) or a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) to reduce PM emissions.
With larger diesel engines, companies have also opted to implement strong aftertreatment systems such as selective catalyst reduction (SCR) and Urea injection (AdBlue) technologies that will also help achieve future emission control norms, which are likely to be implemented for smaller engines. Urea injection into the exhaust stream aids in breaking down NOx emissions into nitrogen and water, thus making exhaust gasses less harmful.
India is predominantly a small car market. The country has seen a majority of 800 cc, 1.0 l and 1.2 l petrol engines. As per industry leaders, there is no further scope to right-size engines with over 70 % engines having a capacity lower than 1.2 l. However, powertrain technologies need to improve, in terms of combustion and friction reduction. Manufacturers have also ascertained that forced induction will further help reduce NOx emissions.
In the two-wheeler space, OEMs had witnessed a rather brash deadline with the transition to BS IV norms. At that point in time, technologies such as canisters were applied to conform to BS IV norms. For BS VI, most OEMs are leveraging fuel injection technologies to achieve emission compliance.
ELECTRIFICATION – PIPE DREAM TO REALITY
While the race to make IC engines cleaner picks up pace, companies are gradually steering their ships towards driving synergies for vehicle electrification. Be it hybridisation or completely electric powertrains, OEMs have been making strides towards adapting to the changing times. Electric mobility may have zero tailpipe emissions; however, the source of electricity generation is the primary factor, determining how clean EVs will eventually be. India at present relies heavily on thermal power generation and as long as the country is not able to adopt zero emission power generation systems such as hydro, wind and solar, EVs will not have an entirely green footprint. Battery technologies such as lithium-ion have also been maturing in a gradual manner with engineers being able to extract greater charge holding capacities and longer durability of batteries.
Global sales of EVs and plug-in hybrid cars reached 1 134 000 units in the 1st half of 2019, 46 % higher than for 2018. Analysts have estimated a growth rate of as high as 33 % in 2030. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated this market to grow to 125 mn units in 2030. Battery prices have also dropped by over 82 % since 2010. While prices in 2010 were around the $1,000 per kilo-watt hour, in 2018 prices fell to $ 176 per kilo-watt hour. While some analysts have estimated that by 2026 prices will touch $ 100 per kilo-watt hour, others believe it may be even lower at $ 74 per kilo-watt hour. Such advancements are anticipated to make battery-powered EVs attractive for buyers in the near term.
From an Indian perspective, electrification will eventually come about. There are various forms of mild-hybrids in the market with start/stop, power recuperation and boost technologies. With these systems there is an improvement of roughly 5-7 % in vehicle efficiency. Moving forward from hybrids to EV will mean an increase in cost of the overall product. To meet CAFÉ and emission requirements customers may not be willing to pay a higher cost for their vehicles that will come with advanced technologies. It is observed that regulatory changes may have to be thrust upon the industry in order for them to be implemented.
Further, EVs and hybrids will also share some level of technology, in terms of components such as batteries, motors and power electronics. At the moment, the cost of EVs is high with prices around two times more than a ICE-powered vehicle. The cost of EV, range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure are a major concern among consumers. Customers may not easily bite the bullet and hybrids may be a transitory technology. Electrification is slated to take place but will go through the normal route of mild-hybrid, strong hybrid, PHEV, and so on.
Going forward, companies will be working towards RDE and CAFÉ norms, improving fuel efficiency beyond the current stage and next stage of CAFÉ 2022 and eventually 2027. This will require further improvements on the combustion front, reduction in friction and improvement in fuel injection systems. For diesels in 2022-23, when RDE comes into effect, SCR technologies will be introduced into the market for smaller diesel engines with a capacity of 1.5 l - 2.0 l. Beyond 2027 the potential to take diesels forward will be more difficult.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther