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Increasing Number of Cars in Delhi Undoing Clean Air Gains; A Call to “Reverse Automobile Dependence”

More than half of the Indian cities monitored during 2004 recorded critical levels of PM10. Click to enlarge.

The increasing number of private vehicles in Delhi is putting the city at risk of losing its hard-won gains in cleaner air, according to a new publication from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The new publication, The Leapfrog Factor: Clearing the air in Asian cities, also notes that an increasing number of Indian cities, a number of which are small, non-metropolitan entities, are turning into “smog-encased pollution hotspots.”

Delhi would have been buried under a pollution load of 38% more particulates if the Supreme Court had not intervened to introduce cleaner fuels and emissions technology in the city, such as introducing CNG for city buses.

The city has seen the introduction of some 100,000 CNG vehicles within a span of five years, and currently has the largest CNG public transport fleet: 10,600 CNG buses. The city has also improved fuel quality with low sulfur and benzene limits, and introduced Euro-3 emissions requirements in 2005.

But, according to Anumita Roychowdhury, associate director, CSE and head of CSE’s Right to Clean Air campaign:

The most worrying trend in Delhi is that while the technology roadmap remains sluggish, the sheer numbers of vehicles are overpowering the change. Unbelievably, as much as 17 per cent of the cars in India run in Delhi alone. It has more cars than the total numbers of cars in the individual states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal.

The congestion and pollution crisis is building up not only in Delhi, but in all Indian cities because a large share of daily travel trips is being made by personal transport, according to the report. A car caught in congestion can early quadruple its emissions. Cars and two-wheelers take up nearly 90%, carry fewer numbers of people and pollute excessively.

As a result, according to the authors, public transport is collapsing in most cities. Only eight of the 35 cities that have more than a million population have dedicated bus services; even these are under extreme pressure. While India’s metro cities need to support approximately 80 million trips daily, the available rail and bus transport can support only 37 million.

Although some of India’s larger cities have seen a decline in their pollution levels, as many as 57% of all the cities monitored in the country have critical PM10 levels (more than 1.5 times the standards). Newer and smaller cities are more polluted than even the metros.

The health impacts are enormous. Each year, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution accounts for 0.8 million deaths and 4.6 million lost life-years worldwide; two-third of this occurs in developing Asian countries, and India alone accounts for more than 0.1 million premature deaths annually.

India’s metro PM and NOx standards relative to US, EU and Japan. Click to enlarge.

Two-wheelers and increasing dieselization pose significant challenges for India, especially given the relative laxity of the country&rquo;s emissions requirements for passenger vehicles. Diesel vehicles will dominate nearly 50% of new car sales in the country by 2010, according to the report.

Although India has some of the strictest emissions standards in the world for two-wheelers, a new two-wheeler in India emits 1.5 times more CO and 8 times more HC+NOx than and new Euro-4 in Europe.

The only way out, according to CSE, is to “reinvent the idea of mobility.” Accordingly the publication makes a series of policy recommendations:

  • Implement radical solutions within a short time-frame for long-term gains.

  • Cities should base themselves on public transport, and manage their mobility by restricting cars.

  • Leapfrog to cleaner vehicle technologies and fuels to cut exposure to toxic fumes.

  • Introduce fuel economy standards to improve energy efficiency of vehicles.

  • Use fiscal incentives for propelling change.


  • The Leapfrog Factor: Clearing the air in Asian cities (Presentation)



The Indian people and Government need to be applauded for getting a grip on pollution sources.
However, they will have to endure the same love/hate relations with the IC engine as Americans have, but for a shorter time because the oil will run out.


California had the right idea for solving this problem 10 or 15 years ago. It was called the zero emission mandate where all the big auto makers would be required to sell a small percentage of cars that are ZEV.

In every day terms that means battery electric cars. The automakers are a bunch of wimps who are scared to death of trying anything new, so they bribed the polititions with campaign contributions to repeal the ZEV mandate.

Maybe Ford and GM should have kept their EV programs instead of going for quick and dirty profits building SUVs instead.

Make sure you go see the documentry "Who killed the Electric Car" next month.
Kyle Dansie



You can't create a market by fiat, which is what California tried to do by mandating 2% of vehicle sales be electrics.

Want to know who really killed the electric car? The consumer. Because you can't force people to buy something that doesn't fill their needs. And you especially can't stipulate how many automakers will sell.

Hybrids are doing right now what the EV1 never could.

Jack Rosebro

Oddly, although the report does encourage the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel, it does not mention biodiesel, or any of the current Indian initiatives to promote and implement the use of that fuel.


I respectfully dissagree with your statement about the consumer. The people who leased EV1's from GM begged the car company to sell them the vehicles. GM refused.

The few Ford Ranger EV's that did not get crushed are hot sellers on eBay, often going for over 15 thousand each.

I was told by a Chevy sales person that there was always a waiting list for the EV1.

As for Hybrids, I really enjoy driving my 2006 Prius. If Ford or GM ever builds a car that gets better mileage than my Toyota, I will go back to buying American. Until then the Hybrid is good and my mountain bike is better.

Kyle Dansie

David Windsor

2003 Rav4 EV.
Current bid: US $45,600
End time: 3 hours 1 min



Do you think GM would have stopped the program if they thought they could make a profit on it? I doubt it. GM spent over a billion dollars on the EV1 program--and only because of the California mandate. The company lost a ton of money as it was. The company claims that the battery technology they were hoping for never materialized. The most range the Gen2 cars got was 130 miles.

Wikipedia has an article that cites some info.

The truth of the matter is that the EV1 was designed to comply with the crash-safety and equipment regulations in effect at the start of the project in the early 1990's. By the time the cars came to market in 1996, the designs no longer conformed to current regulations, as GM felt the cost of reengineering late in the development cycle could not be defrayed by a limited run of experimental vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) granted a temporary exemption to General Motors for the duration of the EV1 program, with the understanding that the cars be permanently removed from road use once the lease program had been phased out. Since the EV1 was never compliant with safety regulations for 1997-1999 model cars, it was never legal for sale or even high-volume leasing, hence the reason why production levels were strictly limited and why the cars could not be sold second-hand at termination.

Mandated by one kind of regulation, killed by another.


Crikey, 46K for a vehicle with a 100 mi range and 6.5 hr recharge time.... no thank you... not that I have 50K burning a hole in my pocket anyway.

I'm guessing the folks in India don't have that kind of money either ... or for many of them access to reliable electric power.

There is a link to learn more about the vehicle on the page, interesting stuff.

250 Wh/mi ave.

How large a battery would be needed to make the range _____ ?

From college to home was 350 mi so lets do that.

350 mi * (250 Wh/mi) = 87.5 Kwh

Using NiMh "D" size cells @ 6.5 Ah 1.2V

How many do we need? (approximately)

1.2V * 6.5 A/h ~ 7.8 Wh per cell

87500 Wh / 7.8 Wh = 11218 cells

4207 lbs @ 6 ounces each.

Only $108,988.49 for those cells.

$26k for a new battery sounds about right then.

Yes, I know the Rav 4 uses different batteries but I couldnt find info on them.

The Prius and Honda hybrids use D size cells with amp hour ratings similar to this.

Yes, the hybrid cars likely take fewer Kwh/ mi.

Care to guess why the plug in prius has a projected electric only range of 9 mi?

9 mi * 250 W/mi / 7.8 wh /cell = 288.46 blah

# of cells in current prius = 168


EVs MUST gain respect by the general public.
Respect? How? By beating the crap out of IC powered cars at NASCAR races!

Putting fantasy aside, I guess the point being made by Kid, was that California should have held firm with their mandate, which would have force all car manufactures to do their best in creating technical breakthoughs.
But, modern American culture is so wrapped up with IC cars and the power and noise(Hell, some people even sonically tune their exhaust!) that the California car culture would revolt if forced to buy wimpy EV cars available at the time.
So IC engines will be around for a long time. Gobal warming? Forgeta 'bout it!.
Californians have full faith gas will be down to $1.50/ gal by fall, so this is why SUVs are still hot sellers!


EVs obviously aren't practical for NASCAR, but they do pretty well at drag racing. check out


The severe PM load affecting these Indian cities illustrates why diesel cars were always viewed with suspicion here in the US, especially by CARB. I know that modern diesels are a lot better than the old ones, especially with the advanced pollution controls that ULSD allows (sulfur pollutes in and of itself, and also fouls equipment used to lower PM). But even the New Beetle TDi, one of the newest diesels on the American road, earns very bad EPA marks for non-GHG pollution. See:

PM has the nasty habit of being very bad for human health in a direct way (more so than NOx, SO2 and especially CO2), so strictly limiting its concentration within urban areas, even at some cost to fuel economy, is probably a good idea. See:

India might do well to copy a few pages out of the CARB playbook, or at minimum introduce ULSD and Euro 4 standards on an accelerated basis. They might also consider barring two-stroke engines in motorcycles and scooters and charging extra for car usage in city center districts (like London). This will increase revenues, make driving more expensive, and increase demand for public transit. Mass transit facilities should also be expanded, using the increased revenues and tapping into the new demand. The only alternatives are to try to grow dispersed cities on the American model, to reduce the geographic concentration of emissions (likely too expensive for India, as well as too destructive and generally unwise) or simply live with very high levels of pollution-induced illness among city dwellers.

Rafael Seidl

Superficially, the pollution problem in Delhi sounds like Los Angeles in the 60s. However, there are some very important differences:

(a) India - incl. Delhi - has a lot of poorly educated workers. It is quite common for a well-to-do family to employ a chauffeur, for example.

(b) Temperatures in Delhi are higher than those in Los Angeles, and urban sprawl not yet as severe. Solar irradiation - which catalyzes reactions between O2, HC and NO to produce NO2 (among other substances), aka summer smog - is also higher due to the geographic latitude of the Indian capaital. This adds up to a very severe smog problem.

Unfortunately, Indians are obviously finding personal tranportation just as beguiling as everyone else in the world. Buses, even CNG buses, simply don't get you from your origin to Byour destination in air-conditioned comfort, just from one bus stop to another.

Suggestions: introduce pedestrian zones in the city center, and install shaded walkways + bicycle paths there. Encourage the adoption of electric bicycles by introducing pollution limits for motorized two-wheelers - it IS possible to build compact four-stroke engines:;site=a4e/lng=en/do=show/alloc=3/id=2712

Of course, the use of existing two-wheelers in Delhi, Mumbai etc. must be curbed as well. This is more difficult, as selling them used to folks out in the country is difficult.

Another useful avenue is reserving traffic lanes for public transport and taxis. However, when I was last in Mubai (1999), there were six lanes of traffic on four lanes of road and a fire engines with sirens blaring was stuck in traffic with trucks cutting in front of it! Extensive video surveillance and fines may persuade drivers to respect traffic laws a little better.

Wrt taxis: thanks to GPS/Galileo, computers and the Internet, it would now be possible to operate a minivan fleet with optimized dynamic routes. Whenever someone calls for a pick-up for travel to a particular destination, a traveling salesman problems is approximately solved (using simulated annealing) for each vehicle in the fleet. The vehicle with the shortest wait+travel time is assigned the pick-up.

tom deplume

The Asians and especially Indians are smart enough to solve their own problems in their own way. Unlike China and a certain North American country India has democracy on its side.
Saying Dehli has more cars than several Indian states is like saying LA has more cars than North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.


It seems like Dehli would be the perfect market for electris scooters, recharged by solar panel. The public is used to scooters, and there is plenty of daylight.

amod rai

I need these type of stories please make me aware


we need 2 act

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