Setback for e-mobility as BMTC, transport dept plans in limbo

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Bengaluru: A year after Karnataka became the first state in India to have an e-vehicle policy, the initiative to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and cut down on pollution appears to have lost steam.

The HD Kumaraswamy government has gone slow on the previous government’s ‘Electric vehicle and energy storage policy, 2017’ that aimed to promote manufacture and use of electric vehicles in Karnataka.

While Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s (BMTC) plan to induct 150 e-buses has been delayed, with transport minister DC Thammanna still ‘studying’ it, the transport department’s proposal to set up 100 charging points across the city too has been put into cold storage. Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) too has reduced the number of proposed electric vehicle charging stations from 200 to 123. Battery-operated rickshaws or e-rickshaws are yet to hit city roads with the transport department and traffic police not having arrived at a consensus.
Though induction of electric buses would have meant some relief for BMTC, which is bleeding after the diesel price hike, the proposal is waiting for the transport minister’s nod. This despite the corporation conducting a trial run in 2014 and its board giving an approval in 2016 to induct 150 battery-operated buses.

State transport corporations of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Manali and Kolkata have already inducted electric buses. While BMTC’s board decided to lease electric buses instead of purchasing them as the capital cost involved is Rs 2-3 crore per bus, the transport minister appears keen to purchase them.

While Thammanna was unavailable for comments, sources in the minister’s office said: “He is studying the proposal and feels purchasing e-buses is more viable.”

In February, Hyderabad-based Olectra Greentech Ltd (formerly Goldstone Infratech Ltd) emerged as the lowest bidder, quoting Rs 37.5 per km for AC buses and Rs 24.5 for non-AC buses. These rates are much lower than the operational cost of BMTC.

Sources say the firm will also have to deploy drivers and maintain the vehicles. However, BMTC is set to miss the October deadline to induct e-buses in Bengaluru.

Recently, the NITI Aayog suggested a public private partnership (PPP) model for operation and maintenance of e-buses. Fewer charging stations Sources in the transport department said they may shelve the proposal to set up 100 charging stations in the city.

The state budget for 2018-19 had allocated Rs 4 crore to set up these units. Sources say the project was put on the back burner after then transport commissioner Naveen Raj Singh was transferred.

Current transport commissioner VP Ikkeri was unavailable for comments. Bescom officials said they have already set up the first charging station in its corporate head office at KR Circle. “Soon, we will set up another 11 charging stations. The proposal to set up 123 stations is awaiting nod from the ministry of power,” said an official. The city has 76 lakh vehicles, of which only about 10,000 are electric.E-rickshaws yet to ply in city While e-rickshaws ply as shared auto rickshaws in most cities for first and last-mile connectivity, Bengaluru is yet to have such battery-run vehicles. Traffic cops fear these slow-moving vehicles would add to Bengaluru’s traffic woes. However, the transport department has given its nod for these vehicles on the grounds that they are eco-friendly. Currently, e-rickshaws are allowed in all districts of Karnataka except Bengaluru. (Representational Image)

Why leasing is a better option

  • Capital cost of an e-bus is between Rs 2- 3 crore; cash-strapped BMTC cannot afford to purchase 150 e-buses
  • There are only a few e-bus manufacturers in India. Technology is new and evolving; buying these buses would be a waste of taxpayers’ money
  • Little possibility of kickbacks in lease model as BMTC would allocate routes to firms and remunerate them on per km basis
  • BMTC could convert all its 6,400 diesel buses to electric ones in a cost-effective way under this model About the deal Hyderabad-based Olectra Greentech Ltd Quote: d Rs 37.5 per km to operate AC electric buses and Rs 24.5 for non-AC electric ones as part of the 150 e-buses under lease model. The operational cost of an electric AC bus, including cost of power, conductor’s salary and GST, would be between Rs 60 and Rs 63 per km, much lower than the Rs 75 to Rs 80 per km for a Volvo AC diesel bus. For non-AC electric buses, Olectra Quote: d Rs 24.5 per km, which means operational cost would be in the range of Rs 39.5 to Rs 41, while for a normal diesel bus it’s Rs 50-55 per km..

 

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