Commerce minister Piyush Goyal has told secretaries in the road transport ministry to prepare a joint action plan for the electrification of all public transport vehicles in the country in order to boost electric mobility in the country.
In an office memorandum released on January 4, along with PM Gatishakti National Plan, the minister told the secretaries to identify the measures and policy required by the Central and state governments to expedite the electrification of public transport vehicles; and jointly prepare a project proposal regarding the same.
According to the notification, once the plane is finalised, it will be discussed with the commerce and industry minister.
The details regarding the “Action Items” resulted from the discussions during a meeting held at Vanijya Bhawan on January 2, when the Minister of Commerce and Industry reviewed the progress of the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan with infrastructure and other ministries.
Kaustubh Dhonde, Founder and CEO of AutoNxt Automation Pvt. Ltd, told News18 the electrification of public transport is the most critical point that every state, as well as central government, should focus on, as it can solve multiple problems.
According to the industry insider, replacing all Internal Combustion (IC) engine vehicles used for public transport from the cities with electric ones will help reduce air and noise pollution in major cities.
Dhonde said: “People will prefer using public transport as it will become cheaper than any other mode of transport due to the very low operating expense and maintenance of EV. This will ultimately lead to less traffic congestion issues in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.”
“So, the EV revolution that we all are talking about actually should start and can be properly executed with public transport followed by commercial vehicles and then at last private vehicles,” he noted.
Nawneet Vibhaw, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, said electrification of public transportation system will curtail emissions and thus combat climate change. “A clean, cheap and efficient public transportation system will also encourage private vehicle users to switch to public transport thus easing congestion on the roads and reducing pollution.”
Meanwhile, Maxson Lewis, Founder and Managing Director of Magenta Mobility told News18 there are two aspects — public transport of people and public transport of goods. According to him, electrification of public transport requires huge capital investment, not only in terms of vehicles, but also the charging infrastructure. Since each bus may weigh 180-200 kg, a huge amount of energy dispersion is required. “What is happening is that the business economics is not working out well as all state transport units are essentially handled by the public domain, which means they are loss-making units,” he noted.
He further said “like-to-like comparisons” between electric buses and diesel buses will not work out. So, the electrification of buses, which work within the city and not intercity, should be done first.
Another industry leader, Harsha Bavirisetty, Co-Founder of Biliti Electric said: “Electrification of public transport vehicles must be done with a combination of both charging and battery swapping. In addition to leveraging charging systems for refuelling overnight, battery swapping helps in reducing the charging time from a few hours to a few minutes during the day, thereby reducing the downtime to refuel and increasing the productivity of the vehicle."
However, the office memorandum also highlighted the necessity of Automated Testing Stations (ATS), instead of manual testing, as it would help accelerate “Vehicle Scrapping"’—a process to scrap old and unfit vehicles and replace them with modern and new vehicles.
Vibhaw said: “Setting up well-structured vehicle scrapping facilities and automated testing stations will encourage owners to dispose of their end-of-life vehicles and switch to public transport. If implemented across the country in coordination with various states it will result in a rapid transformation, thus helping us reduce pollution and the adverse impacts of climate change.”
The government should become more aware about the much needed switch to electrification of public transport, but it is equally important to understand that the presence of e-buses will only be felt when an entire eco-system is developed according to electric public transport, said Nitin Kapoor, Managing Director of Saera Electric Auto Private Ltd.
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