The West Bengal government plans to add 2,000 more e-buses to its green fleet in order to improve the commute in Kolkata and clean up the air.
The state transportation department has set a goal of obtaining 2,000 electric buses for Kolkata to supplement its present fleet of 80, which is the most of any metro city in the country. When these buses reach the road, they may not only revolutionize the way people commute in the city, but they may also drastically improve the city's air quality.
The purchase will be made as part of the second phase of the Centre's Rs 10,000-crore scheme Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (Fame), which was launched last year to support the electrification of public transportation as part of the government's strategy to reduce vehicular emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
According to an official, the process of inducting 50 more electric buses has already begun, and the department is also shifting from Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) to operational expenditure (OPEX)mode while acquiring the buses, while also opening up the sector to private partners to run the service and share a royalty with the government. Currently, state transportation enterprises operate the whole fleet of public e-vehicles.
The city's first 80 buses were purchased under the CAPEX concept. The West Bengal Transport Corporation took over ownership of these buses. The OPEX model would be a game changer since the state will not have to make large investments all at once, transportation minister Firhad Hakim said.
Buses will produce income on a daily basis, which will be used to pay the State Transmission Utilities (STUs). It's similar to renting a car in several ways. Private operators will operate the buses and will split a predetermined fee with the STUs for the use of the buses, depots, and charging infrastructure, He said.
The addition of 2,000 buses would revolutionize the way the city commutes on a daily basis, according to Hakim, who is also the municipal mayor. Electric buses will address the issue of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions while also combating the ever-increasing cost of fossil fuels, he noted. While admitting that all state transportation projects were fighting to stay afloat due to the consecutive increases in fuel prices, he stated that electric buses would give strong financial sustainability in the long term.
The only roadblock is a severe shortage of lithium-ion e-vehicle batteries. Because of the crisis, most Electric Vehicle (EV) producers were unable to meet their order obligations, said a transportation official, adding that one of India's largest makers of dry and wet cells will shortly begin to manufacture EV batteries. Furthermore, we are investigating alternate technologies. According to some sources, sodium-ion technology is similarly effective and costs half as much as lithium-ion batteries.
According to the state's EV policy, 2021, the Bengal government also proposes special inter-city green corridors for electric vehicles, charging stations at 25km intervals, and green zones where only non-fossil-fuel vehicles would be allowed to promote EVs, with an ambitious target of having 10 lakh such vehicles across all segments and one lakh public or semi-public charging stations.