Updated: Feb 17, 2022
The introduction of electric buses in India will assist in bringing down the consumption of fossil fuels and related carbon emissions. As per a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), an electric bus emits 50kg less carbon dioxide per day in comparison to a diesel bus. Though EVs bring in the “green” factor, the practical implementation as a mode of public transport is significantly limited by the high capital cost.
This is even worsened by the present financial status of State Transport Undertaking (STUs). According to the State Road Transport Undertaking report, published by Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), most of the STUs are in severe financial losses and even struggling to pay wages to their employees. Especially after COVID-19, the condition of STUs have worsened, which really makes it unthinkable to push and invest high capital cost on procurement of E-buses.
(as of July 2021)
Kadamba Transport Corporation
BEST - Mumbai
Navi Mumbai Transport Corporation
Rajkot Rajpath Limited
Surat Municipal Corporation
Chandigarh Transport Undertaking
Even after the introduction of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and EV (FAME) scheme under National Mission of Electric Mobility, which grants a subsidy of up to 60% on purchasing of electric buses, the remaining cost is still tough to swallow for STUs. As per the recommendation committee under Department of Heavy Industries (DHI), the indicative benchmark price for procuring a 12 Meter Bus, 125 KWh and 31 seater bus is almost INR 88 lakhs, which after subsidy will still cost STUs around INR 35.2 lakhs per bus. The major reason for such high cost of electric buses is the absence of lithium ion in India, which has to be imported 100 % from China, Europe, US and Japan.
In spite of keeping the capital cost of procuring buses aside, the lack of technical staff, capacity development, lack of charging infrastructure, knowledge building, lack of research and development funds are other major issues that have to be looked upon. For promoting energy-efficient bus service, private players have a big role to play in the design and innovation-related aspects. The testing of the cooling system which has been installed in E-buses is essential to be customized for the efficient and safer battery-driven rides.
Up-scaling and vocational training on E-Buses is another major aspect other than recruitment of technical staff. One of the other prominent issues is related to route rationalization for electric buses. The power companies cannot provide services on currently operating routes, which pushes for the need to amend the routes according to the feasibility of providing charging infrastructure. This might even mean to hamper the main purpose of public transport which is to provide equitable and accessible transport services for all as the amended routes might not go through the reach of needy people. This is another arena to master with innovative EV off-grid EV charging infrastructure.
Although the running costs of E-buses are currently at a higher-end as the technology is not very developed, in the longer run E-buses are definitely more sustainable than conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) buses. With only two-digit moving parts, the significantly low maintenance cost is another area in which E-buses have a clear edge over their conventional counterparts.
For a better and sustainable future, electric buses have to be an integral part of Indian cities in order to achieve sustainable development goals. The need of the hour is not to get disappointed with issues but is to find out a way to resolve them. Low-interest loans from international or national financial institutions could be a major help for reducing upfront capital costs. Carbon credits arising due to modal shift towards E-buses can also be generated and claimed from international organizations like the United Nations as done in the case of Delhi Metro.
Authored by Aditya Saxena
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