Driving towards cleaner air in India

Looking at issues in the round generally makes work more effective.  You can see this in how BASF build and operate their integrated chemical production facilities – known as Verbund sites – that are designed so that the waste product, and excess heat, from one process directly powers the next.  And BASF takes this holistic approach in its work to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues, like air pollution.

In India, the issues of air pollution are increasingly making headlines. The World Health Organization’s index reveals that India is home to the world's 14 most polluted cities, and a recent study reported that the country’s toxic air was responsible for one in eight of all deaths in 2017, a total of 1.24 million people. The Government’s recently launched National Clean Air Programme aims to change this by introducing tighter measures around emissions such as industrial and vehicle exhaust emissions, so that it can cut pollution in the 102 worst affected cities by 20-30 percent by 2024.  BASF’s proven technology is there to help.

BASF has a long history of supplying chemicals to the automotive industry.  It pioneered the first catalytic converters in the mid-1970s, quickly followed by its “three-way” catalyst which has continued to evolve and today is capable of removing over 90 percent of hazardous pollutants (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides) emitted from car engines. Its latest evolution, including the “four-way-catalyst” helps meeting the most stringent emission regulations today. With innovations like these, the world’s cars produce a lot less pollution – just 1 percent of the pollution that would have been created before 1975. That’s a critical achievement, especially considering that the number of cars has grown to 700 million worldwide.

Sharing knowledge across its global network means BASF can bring the latest innovations to scale and support India’s air quality ambitions. In 2017, Europe introduced the “Real - World Driving Emissions” (RDE) regulation to ensure that exhaust emissions like nitrogen oxide and exhaust soot particulates (or particulate matter) meet regulatory standards when cars are actually driving. Assessments to date are good, and air quality improvements are clearly seen. BASF is ready to bring the technical knowledge it has gained from the European experience, and mix it with its local insight should India, and China, bring in similar regulations as planned between 2020-2023.

“In many areas, like air quality, it’s technology that turns ambition into reality,” says Dr. Ramkumar Dhruva, BASF’s President, South & East Asia, ASEAN, and Australia/New Zealand, “Advances in efficiency of engines and electrification, combined with car-sharing and integrated mobility systems, have had a substantial benefit on air quality especially in urban settings.” 

The majority of vehicles today have an internal combustion engine and either petrol or diesel as fuel. They will do so even in the future as part of an electrified powertrain.  BASF continues to work to minimise unhealthy exhaust emissions with further innovations in catalysts. BASF’s “four-way” catalyst removes carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide with an integrated filter to capture particulate matter -analogous to the well-established catalysed diesel particulate filters in use since the early 2000s, so that even cars using petrol can meet the most advanced regulations in Europe (Euro 6d) and China (China 6).  Diesel vehicles can benefit from BASF’s patented zeolite Selective Catalytic Reduction catalysts (Cu-SCR). This breakthrough zeolite SCR technology features stability and performance at a wide range of temperatures.  It is therefore especially suitable for urban and suburban real driving conditions in India.

Electrified vehicles (BEVs and Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV)) powered by renewable energy are an important step toward clean transportation. Where renewable sources are not available, these vehicles still offer the benefit of distancing the polluting power source from populated city centres. This means that these vehicles are an important and considerable part of the solution to air pollution, and it is perhaps not surprising that sales of EVs in India are forecast to grow at over 28% annually until at least 2023[1].

Yet, the success of electric transportation is dependent on advances in battery technology. Batteries need to be efficient and cost-effective, delivering improved performance at lower costs. This is where BASF technology comes in. BASF cathode active materials - critical components of the lithium ion batteries used in everything from IT devices to home appliances to electric vehicles - make battery cells more powerful, more reliable and more affordable.

Dr. Dhruva concludes, “With our leading position in mobile emissions catalysts as well as battery materials, BASF is well positioned to support the entire suite of mobility technologies in the quest for cleaner air. Using our innovative chemistry, we look forward to creating chemistry for cleaner air in India for years to come.”


[1] The Electric Vehicle Market in India - Outlook to 2023 by Type,End-User, Battery Type and Geography -, 6 November 2018, at