11/03/2016 12:33 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

The Urgent Need To Improve India's Fuel Economy

Greenhouse gas emissions--mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO₂)--are generated in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels to produce energy for activities such as electricity, heat or transport. Concerning the transport sector, the majority of CO₂ emissions result from the combustion of petroleum-based products, such as gasoline, in internal combustion engines.

India is home of some of the most polluted cities in the world like Delhi, which is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, owing to the large number of vehicles in the city - according to a study published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. India is also the fourth largest carbon emitter after developing countries such as China, Mexico and Brazil. According to 2012 data gathered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - 'the Indian transport sector is responsible for 14 per cent of the country's energy related CO2 emissions, as well as impacts on air quality, public health, road safety, and sustainable urban development.'

The 2016 Union budget by Finance minister Arun Jaitley has introduced an infrastructure cess and luxury tax on petrol/LPG/CNG-driven as well as on diesel-driven motor vehicles. The infrastructure cess levies a 1 percent tax on passenger cars less than 4 meters long and with engines smaller than 1,200cc that only run on petrol, compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Moreover, small diesel cars less than 4 meters in length with engines below 1,500cc will be taxed at 2.5 percent while bigger diesel cars will levy an infrastructure cess of 4 percent. The finance minister has also announced a "'luxury tax to collect tax at source at the rate of 1% on purchase of luxury cars exceeding value of Rs 10 lakh." Additionally, customs duties on commercial vehicles will increase from 10 to 40 percent. Car prices are likely to go up, as manufacturers need to cover the costs of these taxes.

Joe King, Head of Audi India, said the budget measures would have a negative impact on the automobile industry: "We are disappointed that the industry's demand on reducing excise duty has not been addressed. On the contrary, infra cess has been added which will further affect the price and consequently demand. Also, we need to evaluate the impact of extra tax levy on purchase of cars above Rs. 10 lakh." Nevertheless, according to Sumit Sawhney, Country CEO and Managing Director of Renault India: "Such a policy will benefit the environment, reduce fuel consumption and propel further demand for greener and efficient vehicles."

To reduce fuel consumption, it is also important to reduce the rolling resistance of tyres. Rolling resistance (also called the rolling friction or rolling drag) is the opposite force resisting the motion, when tyres are rolling on the surface. A new research study published on the India Transport Portal argues that in order to improve a vehicle's fuel consumption, it is necessary to take into account the effects of tyres' rolling resistance. Diminishing the rolling resistance will not only help in preserving the environment, but it will also reduce the costs of consumed fuel by decreasing the vehicle's operating cost per kilometer. Randy Clark, manager at Michelin said, "The International Energy Agency has recommended that legislation to set a maximum rolling resistance of tyres is a good step towards reducing fuel consumption in a country."

The initiatives of India's 20 smart cities rely on 'proposals to develop better infrastructure in terms of assured water and power supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity, e-governance and, most importantly, citizen participation.' For instance, a proposed intelligent parking management system aims at helping citizens find parking space more easily with the option of online pre-booking parking slots. Managing on-street parking will thus reduce traffic congestion, increase the effective carriageway width available for vehicles, as well as reduce fuel consumption and pollution. Bhubaneshwar, Davanagere, Indore, Udaipur, Guwahati, and Chennai are some smart cities, which have recognized on-street parking management as a prime winning position.