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An ‘electrifying’ future for public transport? Delhi govt plans 8,000 e-buses in next 3 yrs

Plan is to solely procure e-buses instead of CNG/diesel variants & let 80% of existing bus fleet be phased out by 2025. Currently, national city has 250 e-buses.

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New Delhi: When the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) got its first electric bus in January, it was the first and only addition to its fleet in over a decade. Now, the DTC is all set to execute its ambitious plan of making nearly 80 per cent of its entire fleet electric by 2025.

Calling it “the most ambitious agenda,” DTC Commissioner Ashish Kundra said the total number of public buses currently on Delhi roads stands at 7,150, which includes both DTC (3,910) and private clusters (3,240). Currently, Delhi needs at least 11,000 buses, of which 5,500 should be ideally owned by the DTC.

The shrinkage in the bus fleet over the years has resulted in large parts of Delhi, which is “expanding both in size and in population, being deprived of coverage,” Kundra said.

The plan now is to solely procure e-buses instead of CNG/diesel variants and let the 80 per cent of the existing fleet be phased out by 2025 as per the earlier strategy. “If everything goes by the plan [Delhi incorporating 8,000 buses in a total fleet of over 10,000 by 2025], then a complete electrification [drive] may be possible,” Kundra said, referring to the Centre’s aspiration for 100 per cent electric vehicle mobility by 2030.

China’s Shenzhen is the only city having a fleet of over 16,000 e-buses, he said, giving the scale of e-mobility that Delhi is aiming at.

Kundra said Delhi has 250 e-buses now and soon it would become 300 as per the contract signed for the first batch of e-buses. Another 1,500 are expected by December next year. “We have also floated tenders for about 4,000 buses through Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL). We are also planning to put out a tender for 2,000 more buses on a dry lease. All of this is being done to ensure that 80 per cent of the total fleet in Delhi is turned electric by 2025,” he added.

Combined bid for bulk purchase

A wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Efficiency Services Limited under the Ministry of Power, CESL is tasked with floating combined tender for procuring e-buses for several cities. Bulk procurement makes cheaper buys.

Tenders through CESL is a unique form of cooperative federalism. Several cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat and Pune came together and ceded their power of procurement to the Centre.

While the per km cost of running 300 e-buses procured on its own by the DTC was Rs 67 per km, this went down to Rs 47 per km when it opted for the combined bid under CESL. There was a reduction of 39.8 per cent in tender rate under the CESL Grand Challenge tender for Delhi, stated a WRI report.

Under the Centre’s FAME II scheme, Kundra said, states procuring e-buses got subsidies of about Rs 45 lakh on a bus costing Rs 1.5-Rs 2 crore — 5 per cent of capital cost. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme is aimed at reducing the use of diesel and petrol powered vehicles.

Also Read: From 6,342 buses to 3,910 in 12 yrs, Delhi commuters suffer with old fleet, depleting further

State-of-the-art buses

Delhi’s all-electric low-floor electric buses are touted to offer state-of-the-art technology for sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical public transport that comes with facilities like AC, ramp facilities, and panic buttons. It provides space for 35 passengers and is estimated to cut 0.33 million tonnes of PM 2.5 and PM 10 carbon dioxide each in its life span of 10 years.

The ticket price is the same as the AC buses ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 25, according to the  DTC. Non-AC buses charge between Rs 5 and Rs 15.

Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot had earlier termed the induction of new buses as a “befitting reply” to those who were spreading rumours that the DTC would shut down.

The government has also been aiming to electrify 100 per cent of the public transport fleet, a point that Gahlot has advocated on different occasions and called it Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s vision.

How prepared is Delhi administration

It was reported before that the Delhi government had started electrification of all its 62 bus depots to accommodate the upcoming fleet. There are bus depots  — Mundhela Kalan, Rohini Sector 37 and Rajghat — currently equipped for parking and charging e-buses.

In all,12 depots have been prioritised for electrification by next year. These include Rohini II, Mayapuri, Nehru Place, Subhash Place, Banda Bahadur Marg (to be electrified this year.) Rohini II, Hasanpur, Sukhdev Vihar, Wazirpur, Kalkaji, Naraina and Sawda Ghevra.

“Not just for Delhi. But for the entire country, there is already a requirement for fleet modernisation: to change the buses that are over 10 years old. So, instead of replacing them with diesel buses, STUs [State Transport Undertakings] will be encouraged to move toward electric fleets,” CESL consultant (electric mobility) Kalyan Reddy said.

Most of the electric buses in India are procured through Gross Cost Contract (GCC), a type of public-private partnership (PPP), where the public authority pays the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) on a per kilometre basis and supervises their functioning, while the latter bears all the operation and maintenance cost.

In Delhi, all the e-buses are being run on the GCC model for 12 years. While government officials say it is too soon to comment on efficiency and shelf life of e-buses, sustainable mobility experts and OEMs claim these buses are “absolutely” cheaper compared to other buses when it comes to operational cost.

“It’s cheaper in comparison to the maintenance of other buses. It’s very cost-effective since private operators are running it and they are responsible for figuring out ways to operate and employ people. The cost of maintenance gets drastically down. Delhi was one of the first to adopt the model,” said an official, who works at Delhi’s Electric Vehicle (EV) cell.

Pawan Mulukutla, Program Director, Clean Mobility and Energy Tech, WRI India, said there were multiple advantages for transport corporations when it comes to e-buses.

“When you look at the life of the bus, the cost of e-buses starts coming down. Because when you’re renting out, you’re not operating them yourselves. You get them with typically a driver also. Electricity is also priced lower. Then there is a special price [after subsidies] for these buses, and the government has been planning that electricity will be sourced from renewable energy. So, it becomes even better for running in terms of efficiency and lowering emissions,” he said.

Is Delhi ready?

Reddy informed that the role of STUs was to provide upstream infrastructure and it was the operator’s job to take a line from the transformer to the charging station and to develop the station for accommodating the incoming fleet of e-buses.

“Readiness of infrastructure is an important factor. All depots have to be ready because electric bus maintenance requires high-voltage line connection and setting down transformer unit charging, among other things. E-buses have to be charged externally overnight. And sometimes there is daytime also,” said Mulukutla.

He explained that on an average, five depots with charging facilities could cater to roughly 150 to 200 buses and about 30-40 depots would be ideally needed for 8,000 buses.

According to a UN report, Indian cities prefer plug-in charging for e-buses as it is a well-established system across the world. However, the daily operational kilometres for an e-bus is high in major Indian cities which had to be met with heavy batteries.

The disadvantages of this charging method is that the time required for charging from 0-100 per cent is about 6-8 hours for slow charging and 2-3 hours for fast charging, reduced carrying capacity among others. Also, overnight charging alone is not enough which in turn leads to the need for charging during the day time.

Another challenge was delay in procurement as seen in Delhi where the gap between the signing of contract and delivery was a couple of months. Overall, it took 10 months for e-buses to be deployed on roads in the national capital. As per experts, the time should be less than six months.

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: Armed with science & tech solutions, govt & IIT-Delhi come together to fight air pollution

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