Smart City, Smart Transport: Electric buses transforming modern public transportation

Electric buses transforming modern public transportation

Evolving demographics and mobility patterns have transformed public transport operations substantially. With the central government aiming to achieve 100 per cent electrification of public transport by 2030, deployment of smart electric buses has emerged as a prominent factor for modern public transportation in smart cities. Phases I and II of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles Scheme have, to a large extent, fuelled growth in this segment. Pune Smart City has taken a number of initiatives in this area.

Smart bus initiatives

Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), a 60:40 joint special purpose vehicle of the Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, is the single largest intra-city operator of electric buses in India. It has transformed the Indian electric bus market. Under the smart mobility mission, 50 new smart e-buses and 50 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses have been added to PMPML’s fleet. PMPML has shifted from diesel to CNG due to the rising cost efficiency of the latter. The cost of running a diesel bus is between Rs 32 and Rs 38 per km, whereas the cost of running a CNG bus is between Rs 18 and Rs 26 per km. Electric operations are running smoothly and efficiently, owing to the fact that Pune Smart City is an electricity-surplus city, and the state government has so far supported the adoption of electric buses. The increased ridership rate indicates growing commuter satisfaction with electric buses, paving the way for the procurement of more electric buses in the near future.

Additionally, Pune Smart City has launched a viable Smart Electric Bus Project to improve Pune’s transportation. In the first phase of the project, 150 electric buses have been procured – 25 nine-metre-long non-bus rapid transit (BRT) AC electric buses and 125 twelve-metre-long BRT AC electric buses.

To ensure mobility across Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad, and the Metropolitan area and to help them become the preferred mobility route, PMPML has opted for the “City Waste to City Bus” programme, using compressed biogas (CBG) generated from the food waste of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. Pune is set to become the first city outside of Sweden to deploy bio-CNG buses. The performance of the CNG buses using CBG fuel has been found to be identical to those running on regular CNG, indicating their wide acceptability amongst commuters.

Key focus areas

Given the increased procurement of electric buses in the cities, the focus should be on scaling up each city’s charging infrastructure, as city authorities are facing challenges in terms of charging technology choices, and standards and availability of land for charging at bus depots. PMPML is planning to install smart instant charging systems in all its depots and terminals to provide more flexibility in the mobility of e-buses. Under the National Mission on Battery Storage and Transforming Mobility, a Make in India scheme is being established for batteries, which will be instrumental in promoting the growth of the whole ecosystem for electric buses.

Depot and route selection are crucial for e-bus operations to be efficient and cost-effective. Correct route selection will help minimise the requirement for spare buses, ensuring adherence to schedule and improving profitability. Further, correct depot selection can lower upfront investment costs and lead to better usage of charging technology. In order to achieve a balance between supply and demand for electronic buses, and help cities create well-managed routes for e-bus adoption, greater coordination between equipment manufacturers, suppliers and customers is required.

Future outlook

The solution to India’s existing pollution and traffic congestion problems is the use of smart, sustainable and economical smart electronic buses. Electric bus models have already been introduced by manufacturers in India. Although a few foreign players have entered the Indian electric bus market, India requires smart electric buses that are designed and manufactured in India. To boost the adoption of electric buses in the country, infrastructure investments, conducive policy regulations and developing an entirely dedicated ecosystem need to be prioritised.

Based on inputs from a presentation delivered by Dr Rajendra Jagtap, Chairman and Managing Director, PMPML