The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is eyeing policy intervention to make the electric buses segment lucrative for bus manufacturers and popularise it among State transport utilities and corporations.

Various tendering processes have already established that electric buses are cheaper than diesel-run ones, according to Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways.

‘Great potential’

“We need to prioritise public transport in our country. There is a lot of potential in this area. The cost of running one diesel bus is ₹115 per km whereas for an electric bus, our tender documents show that the cost of running a non-AC one is ₹39 per km and ₹41 for an air-conditioned electric bus,” he added. The Minister was speaking at the annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

One of the proposals that is under the works is to have buses with a single gate for entry and exit, along with digital ticketing and payment, he said, adding: “This will curtail instances of errant conductors not sharing revenues with transport companies.”

The Minister’s comments assume significance as a recent electric bus tender called by the Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL) is said to have witnessed lower than expected participation, and electric bus majors had reportedly stayed away. Lack of a payment security mechanism in electric bus tenders, too, is said to be major concern.

The London model

During his speech, Gadkari also cited the example of the London Bus Transport model where there are around nine operators. The bus owners there, hire the drivers, while the conductors are hired by corporations. He hinted at it as a possible model that could be explored to plug revenue or earning leaks.

India currently imports ₹16-lakh crore worth of fossil fuels, he said, adding that the country has thus prioritised usage of ethanol, methanol, electric cars, bio-CNG and bio-LNG in public transport to reduce pollution. India is now the third largest EV producer ahead of Japan; and it would emerge as the largest in the next five years. “We are a major export hub of cars and in the coming days, our tractor, buses, autorickshaws will be exported too,” said Gadkari.