First announced in 2016, progress on the Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (BNCAP) has been slow, however, its implementation is now a step closer. In a panel discussion hosted by our sister publication Autocar Professional, Abhay Mannikar, advisor at the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), an autonomous body associated with the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries, said, “Documents for Bharat NCAP are ready and the time is right for the introduction of Bharat NCAP soon.”
- ARAI fully geared up to execute Bharat NCAP
- Common rating for adult, child protection
- Also focuses on CNG, electric vehicles
Explaining the need for India to have its own assessment programme, Mannikar said, “UNECE [United Nations Economic Commission for Europe] copy-paste solutions are no longer going to help, we need to have localisation rather than globalisation. Our solutions have to go with our own data.”
Having fully equipped laboratories in Pune and Chakan, which have conducted over 800 pre-NCAP crash tests, and armed with a significant amount of data and inputs from various other sources and agencies, ARAI is fully geared up to execute international levels of tests that are particularly relevant in the Indian scenario.
And it isn’t merely limited to passive safety tests and validation for internal combustion engine vehicles, but CNG vehicles will fall under the purview of Bharat NCAP and will be rated based on their crash performance. “For leakage of CNG post-crash, there are already stringent norms, because we’re talking of norms which are at par with hydrogen powered vehicles,” said Mannikar. “We need to build NCAP ratings for CNG and EV vehicles in India, which is not the focus of Global NCAP. In Bharat NCAP, we will address this gap because this is more of a local issue than a global one.”
In addition, ARAI is also equipped with a test facility for battery-electric and hybrid vehicles, meeting European standards. Mannikar explains, “EVs are a different breed of vehicle, and road safety will be redefined again as the number of EVs go up. We have to also understand their behaviour and fire sensitivity due to the thermal propagation, etc, which we have not experienced on the road as such. A controlled laboratory is a different ballgame altogether.”
While ARAI is armed to conduct standard crash tests, a lot more extensive real-world research is still required to paint an accurate picture in case of EVs, due to their different character.
Single star rating
Unlike other NCAP formats, which award separate star ratings for adult and child protection, BNCAP is likely to get a single unified rating for adult and child protection. “We can’t afford to have two different ratings – one for adult, other for child,” says Mannikar. “Indian consumers will be completely puzzled if they find out that a car is good for adults and bad for the child – it is not going to work.”
While it appears to be a step closer to implementation, there is still no timeline discussed. However, Mannikar explained that the focus was on mandating safety features first, “Our first priority was to lay minimum safety across, only then can we speak on improving safety margins”. Indeed, features like dual airbags, ABS, seatbelt reminder, speed warning and rear parking sensors are mandatory, and all new vehicles will have six airbags from October 1. Proposals for Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are in the works too.
On the other hand, UK-based Global NCAP, responsible for assessing and promoting worldwide vehicle safety, achieved a milestone of having tested 50 vehicles under its ‘Safer Cars for India’ test programme, which began in 2014. In a past interview, David Ward, executive president, Global NCAP, mentioned how the international body has secured funds to test vehicles in India for the next three years till 2025. Ward states, “There were discussions for a BNCAP, but those are bogged down, and the government has said they are not sure where they are with it and have encouraged us to keep going”.