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India Sets Fuel-Economy Rules; Could They Stem Rise Of SUVs?


Tata Nexon concept [Photo courtesy of MotorBeam].

Tata Nexon concept [Photo courtesy of MotorBeam].

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India is the latest country to set stiff fuel-economy standards for new cars and light trucks.

The Indian government has mandated a 14-percent increase in gas mileage beginning in 2016, The Economic Times (via Indian Autos Blog) reports.

MORE: 2014 Toyota Corolla Eco LE: Gas Mileage Test Drive

The 14-percent target will apply to all passenger vehicles sold in India--including cars, vans, and "utility vehicles"--and will be implemented in 2016 and 2017.

Following that, a further 38-percent increase is mandated between 2021 and 2022.

According to The Economic Times, Indian passenger vehicles currently average around 37.6 mpg. The fuel-efficiency mandate would raise that number to 42.8 mpg by 2016-17, and 51.7 mpg by 2021-22.

The new standards are called Corporate Average Fuel Consumption (CAFC) and were drafted by the Indian Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Their purpose is largely similar to that of the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, which requires carmakers to attain a fleet average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Honda Vision XS-1 concept [Photo courtesy of MotorBeam].

Honda Vision XS-1 concept [Photo courtesy of MotorBeam].

Enlarge Photo

(The math is complex for the U.S. CAFE standards, and that 54.5 mpg translates to about 42 mpg on the EPA window sticker.)

However, India's CAFC rating system will reportedly be based on vehicle weight rather than vehicle footprint, as is the case with U.S. CAFE regulations.

The Bureau also proposed a star rating system for fuel economy, similar to the efficiency rating system for household appliances.

It remains to be seen whether CAFC calculations will include "adjustment factors" to more-closely align fuel-efficiency numbers achieved in testing with real-world consumer results, as in the U.S.

Also unclear is whether the system will provide credits for the manufacture of zero-emission vehicles, or mandates requiring minimum sales of such vehicles.

There has been some doom and gloom among U.S. automakers regarding the feasibility of the 54.5 mpg CAFE standard, and Indian automakers seem to be having a similar reaction to CAFC.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers--the Indian auto industry's main lobbying group--said it hadn't expected higher fuel-economy standards to take effect until 2017 or 2018, and that manufacturers may not have the time or funds needed to meet the 2016 deadline.

The new standards could force those manufacturers to shift their attention away from the larger SUVs currently gaining popularity in India over conventional sedans.

That may be one force behind alternatives like the plethora of tiny SUV concepts shown by Honda, Tata and others at the recent India Auto Expo.

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