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Public transportation in cities: Banking on mass transit opportunities

Carmakers are eyeing the opportunities that will arise from the government’s smart city initiative by showcasing a wide range of smart mobility options at this year’s Auto Expo

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: February 10, 2018 12:59 am
public transport vehicles at auto expo 2018 Newly launched Tata’s electric bus is displayed at the Auto Expo in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. The biennial automobile exhibition opens to public Friday and runs till Feb.14. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Going beyond the future needs of mobility for individuals, the Auto Expo 2018 witnessed manufacturers showcasing their products for mass transportation that sync with the ethos of smart mobility and could catalyse the government’s plan of converting 100 cities into smart cities across the country.

Following the broader theme of providing smart mobility in smart cities, commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra and JBM, among others, showcased their electric buses for mass urban transit in cities going forward. Read: At Auto Expo 2018, EVs, concepts dominate

At the Auto Expo, Tata Motors showcased six electric vehicles following a broader theme of ‘Smart Mobility, Smart Cities’. The auto major also displayed its 12m Electric Bus as well as smaller electric passenger carriers — the Magic EV and the Iris EV.

Also read | Auto expo 2018: Volkswagen, Ford, Jeep, Nissan among brands who give it a miss

While Ashok Leyland launched its electric bus Circuit S for public transport, home-grown auto firm M&M unveiled its electric bus e-COSMO. Mahindra also showcased ATOM, a last mile urban mobility concept vehicle powered by lithium ion battery. The JBM Group, in a joint venture with Europe’s Solaris, launched its electric bus series: ‘Eco-Life’.

In 2011, the Government of India approved the National Mission on Electric Mobility (NMEM) with a view to promote electric mobility in the country and in 2013 it designed and unveiled National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, considering the Fuel Security and Environmental Pollution in the country. As part of this mission, the Department of Heavy Industry formulated a scheme – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME).

While the government is offering direct support for electric/hybrid vehicles under the scheme, bus manufacturers are preparing to bid for 450 electric buses for which the tenders are out in the first phase. The electric bus manufacturers are banking on the opportunities arising from the government’s Smart City Mission, city and municipal authorities, along with those from private organisations.

According to, Girish Wagh, president Commercial Vehicle of Tata Motors, in the government’s move towards electric, some segments are “very right for the EV strategy but some will take time”. “Buses are the one as the government has also said that public transport should be done as quickly as possible. It has started for buses. The new FAME scheme includes EVs and bidding is in process in 11 cities under the scheme in the first phase… It is very difficult to predict demand. At this juncture, we can only speak of the tenders that are coming in the first phase of FAME scheme which talks of 450 such vehicles. Bus buying is largely SQ driven and so the government can decide the agenda on how soon and how fast,” Wagh said.

Even Ashok Leyland plans to bid in all the 11 cities under the FAME scheme. “We would participate in all 11 cities identified under the Smart City Mission by the government,” said Vinod K Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland. He added that the buses would be commercially available over the next 3 to 6 months. Circuit-S will have a seating capacity of 25 to 35 and would have Sun Mobility as its partner as it would provide swappable smart battery solutions through its kiosks. Sun Mobility has plans to build a network of quick interchange stations, which can ready a bus by swapping a battery in five minutes and one kiosk will have the capacity to swap 400 batteries in a day.

These buses will come for a cost as JBM’s Eco-Life electric bus is estimated to cost between Rs 2 and 3 crore. While it is expected to be deployed in the second half of this year in India, it is estimated to save around 960 tonnes equivalent of carbon dioxide and 3.5 lakh litres of diesel over 10 years of operation. Powered by fast charging lithium batteries that can run 150-200 kms in 10-15 hours of city bus operation, the lithium batteries would be charged through pantograph as well as plug-in charging system. The buses would be manufactured at the company’s facility in Faridabad (Haryana) and Kosi (Uttar Pradesh). The two plants have an installed capacity to manufacture 2,000 buses annually.

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