Electric buses or e-vehicles are being promoted by the central and state governments in India. These vehicles, which run on lithium-ion batteries, have a range of around 150 kilometres on full charge. They can carry 31 passengers, come equipped with air-conditioners and also feature air suspension for both front and rear axles. The buses have been tested and validated by Tata Motors. The company has tenders to supply 255 electric buses to six public transport undertakings including the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), Lucknow City Transport Services Ltd. (LCTSL), Atal Indore City Transport Service Ltd. (AICTSL), Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC), Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (J&K SRTC), and Jaipur City Transport Service Ltd. (JCTSL).
The Indian electric bus market is primarily driven by strict government emission norms and regulations and is being supported through various subsidies and grants. In April 2015, the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles in India. In September 2017, the government extended the FAME subsidy to electric buses. As part of the National Mobility Mission Plan, FAME has a corpus of about eight billion rupees to be invested in electric mobility-based initiatives. Many cities like Hyderabad and Kolkata are conducting trial runs of these buses. Himachal Pradesh became the first Indian state to operate a fleet of electric buses between Manali and Rohtang (51km). The government of Himachal Pradesh has stated that it will encourage other cities to induct electric buses as well.
The Union Ministry of Urban Development recently launched The Green Urban Transport Scheme (GUTS) with the aim to reduce carbon emissions from public transport vehicles. The ministry proposed a Rs. 250 billion grant for developing electric vehicles for public transport. The Indian government has also unveiled a National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 to accelerate the growth of electric and hybrid components of the automotive sector.
The mark-up price of an electric bus is primarily decided on the basis of the battery that is used. In recent years, battery prices have been falling due to advancements in technology and that has positively impacted the price of these buses. The buses with seat capacity of around 40 passengers cost around Rs. 75 lakh. The second variety, with sitting capacity of 60 passengers will cost around Rs. 90 lakh. The costs of these buses are higher than normal ones but running and maintenance costs are considerably low.
Over the past decade, India’s cities have been witnessing an increasing trend in motorisation with deteriorating air quality. The shift from conventional diesel buses to electric buses results in reduction in local pollution, noise and fuel consumption. While electric buses for sale require a higher investment upfront, electricity is significantly cheaper than gasoline. It can be partially funded with state and federal incentives. Electric vehicles are composed of fewer moving parts compared to traditional internal combustion motors. Thus, electric buses cause fewer operational and maintenance issues. Tata Motors claims that these buses offer 50% lower fuel costs, 20% better energy consumption and lower maintenance downtime as compared to diesel buses.
The Indian electric bus market is projected to reach 4056 units by 2025. The Indian government has set a target of becoming 100% electric in public transport by 2030 several large auto and bus manufacturers in the world are working on electric vehicles. But simply replacing diesel buses with electric buses will not be enough. Along with environment-friendly electric buses, the introduction of ‘Smart Electric Bus’ could be a welcome move. With a well-connected Wi-Fi system, access to movies and music, these buses can make travel easier and pleasurable. These buses are also fitted with sensors that monitor commuter safety. It could change the way Indians commute and the quality of air they breathe.