As Delhi gets ready for the official rollout of BS VI petrol and diesel from April 1, the team at Mercedes-Benz India will have every reason to feel proud too.
After all, it was the first car-maker to launch a BS VI model, the S-Class, last month. And the best part is that this model can can be operated on BS IV fuel too, which means that it is not confined to the Delhi region alone.
Roland Folger, Managing Director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, concedes that it was not the easiest of exercises and needed a lot of “brainpower to make it a reality”.
Delhi’s diesel ban
The spark was triggered by the diesel ban in Delhi, which lasted a good eight months through 2015 and 2016.
It was a huge shock to auto-makers who were impacted by the move and saw their sales plummet. After all, Delhi is an important market, which takes up a large share of car sales.
This was the time the leadership team at Mercedes realised that it was important to do “everything from our side” to prevent an encore in the future. Beyond this, it was clear to Folger that the automotive industry was being perceived as “as the guys who delay things” and who constantly say things cannot be done.
“As an industry, we needed to do a little more than just a PR campaign and put our money where our mouth is,” he says. The usual excuse of putting things off just because they could cost a little more was not going to work.
From Mercedes’ point of view, the task of readying a BS VI engine was challenging simply because of the reality of diverse levels of fuel in India. “Some adjustments had to be made and we spoke to colleagues in Germany to come up with a solution. We needed the security and understanding that these cars could be used anywhere else beyond Delhi,” recalls Folger.
In short, the need of the hour was a BS VI engine that could tolerate BS IV fuel and still fulfil all the requirements of BS VI emissions. The good news came on April 1, 2017, when supply of BS IV fuels was made mandatory across the country.
This meant lower sulphur content of 50 ppm, which helped Mercedes go about its task. “Without this change, it would not have been possible. We are now able to ensure that our engine can break this down and achieve emission targets that are in line with BS VI,” says Folger.
Other models to get it
The S-Class is the first to be fitted with the engine and Mercedes plans to extend this to other models whenever there is a chance to change the engine or transmission. Clearly, this cannot be done en masse right away in the middle of a production cycle as it will disrupt schedules. However, the company is confident that its entire India fleet will be BS VI ready by the end of of 2019.
Folger is also reasonably sure that the BS VI era will portray diesel in a more kindly light compared to all the flak it has been receiving lately, especially in Europe. From April 2020, when BS VI becomes a nationwide reality, emissions of petrol and diesel will be the same.
In fact, the diesel engine could just score thanks to lower carbon dioxide emissions “which everybody chooses to ignore but is equally significant”.
Consequently, diesel-run vehicles will become the cleaner ones compared to petrol, though this will take time for people to understand. And, hopefully, diesel bans in Delhi will also become a thing of the past!