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India heading towards bigger car economy: study

The share of small cars (800 cc) fell from 21 per cent in 2001-02 to 11 percent in 2004-05, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2007 22:30 IST

India is moving towards mid-segment and bigger cars, preferably diesel, leading to higher energy consumption and pollution, a new study released by the Centre for Science and Environment on Thursday, said.

Anumita Roychoudhury of CSE said the combined share of compact and mid-size car has increased from 53 per cent in 2001-02 to 63.2 percent in 2004-05.

The share of small cars (800 cc) fell from 21 per cent in 2001-02 to 11 percent in 2004-05.

She said the bigger cars are less fuel-efficient and therefore, more drain on India's limited energy capabilities. To support her statement she quoted data from the Automobile Research Association of India, which said, the smaller cars are more fuel-efficient than the bigger cars.

Unlike in West, the fuel efficiency certification is not mandatory in India. And, in a bid to provide this vital information to people before they buy a vehicle, the CSE urged the government to have mandatory fuel efficiency certification for vehicles.

"Other countries like China are working on mandatory fuel-efficiency certification. We have to just enforce a recommendation of Auto Fuel Policy which has asked for mandatory voluntary declaration of fuel economy levels of car models," the CSE stated in a letter to Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

What's more alarming is that sale of more fuel-efficient diesel cars is moving at a much faster rate than the less polluting petrol cars, she said.

From about 30 per cent share in vehicle sales in 2005, the percentage is expected to increase to 50 per cent by 2010, the study said.

"There was a rapid increase in sale of diesel cars in the past one year when the government categorised up to 1,500 cc diesel cars as small cars, thereby bringing them under a lower tax net.

It was a big mistake," she said, while suggesting an environment cess on diesel cars. An idea opposed by car manufacturers since it was first floated for Delhi in 2003.

The study found that as compared to European diesel cars the Indian diesel cars are 20-30 per cent less fuel-efficient and 50 per cent more polluting than their counterparts in Europe. But, in India the diesel vehicle is preferred because of highly subsidised cost of the fuel, she added.

The study also pointed out at irony in the taxation system where public transport vehicles like buses are taxed much higher than private vehicles, in a way encouraging private transport mode.

"To reduce congestion in cities the government should encourage people to shift from private vehicles to public transport," said Sunita Narain, Director, and CSE, asking FM to make corrections in 2007-08 budgets.

First Published: Feb 15, 2007 22:30 IST