Friday, August 01, 2008

Soon, a fuel efficiency tag for cars

How fuel efficient is your car or two-wheeler? Chances are you don't know or have only a foggy idea, based on what brochures collected from showrooms said.

And they don't even factor in the difference between "test conditions" and real-life ones. By the year-end though, the government will make your job easier.

Under a voluntary scheme, vehicles are set to carry "star rating labels" that will specify how much fuel each model consumes and how well each fares in comparison to others in the same range. The government will certify as much.

The star ratings will conform to a voluntary standard and labelling scheme for the automotive sector - the first step towards enforcing mandatory fuel efficiency standards for cars, two-wheelers and heavy commercial vehicles.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency had begun the process of setting up mandatory fuel economy standards for cars, two-wheelers and heavy commercial vehicles almost a year ago but the move has gained momentum since following pressure from consumers.

With today's buyer as much hemmed in by growing oil prices as he or she is influenced by environment concerns, BEE believes the market itself will force a substantial number of auto manufacturers to fall in line with the voluntary standards and get their models verified for mileage before they put them in the market.

The auto-fuel policy had more than three years ago suggested that the auto sector come up with such voluntary schemes but the industry dragged its feet.

Now the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, mandated under the Energy Conservation Act, wants to use growing consumer consciousness to its advantage. While most developed countries spread over the Americas, Europe and Asia as well as key developing countries like China have already brought in mandatory standards, India has lagged behind substantially in "cleaning up" its act.

BEE, along with the auto industry, experts and other stakeholders, is already in the process of developing standards for different categories of cars. The auto industry, which has for long held back from sharing fuel efficiency data with buyers, is now more constructive, BEE sources said, adding that the agency will help willing manufacturers label their models and certify the fuel efficiency ratings of the vehicles.

With the bureau having successfully set up the two-step process of first bringing in voluntary labelling and then setting up mandatory standards for electrical appliances like air-conditioners and refrigerators, it is confident that with some modifications, the system would become successful for the auto sector as well. For starters though, it needs to work on a comprehensive classification method — two committees set up to formulate standards are yet to arrive at one.

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