THE LOSS-MAKING Brihan-mumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking will pay double the cost of an ordinary bus to procure six battery-operated ones. With the undertaking using a Rs 10-crore grant from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the purpose, each bus will cost over Rs 1.5 crore, in comparison to the Rs 50 lakh a normal bus costs.
In a meeting held on Thursday, the BEST Committee approved the proposal to approve the grant given and bring the buses on the road. Two companies — AV Motors and Impact Automotive Solutions Limited — have agreed to manufacture the buses at a cost of Rs 1.8 crore for each bus.
“Four buses from AV Motors and 2 from Impact will be procured by the undertaking after two buses are supplied to the undertaking in January on a trial basis. The other four buses will be made available by the manufacturers after receiving positive feedback on the first two. The buses will mainly assist in reducing pollution,” said Sanjay Bhagwat, Additional General Manager, BEST.
The electric buses will have a capacity of seating 34 passengers including the driver. Made of an aluminum body, the bus can run for seven hours and will require to be charged at depots.
“The trial performance of the initial bus can only convey its efficiency on the roads. With a fully charged battery, the bus can run for either 130 kilometres or 180 kilometres which should be enough for the congested feeder routes in the city. Introducing more multiple points inside the depots for a faster recharge of buses will remain the aim,” said Kedar Hombalkar, BEST committee member.
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While an air-conditioned bus costs around 1 crore, an ordinary bus comes at half the price. However, BEST officials consider supporting this experimental move. “As this is on an experimental basis, our main aim would be to check functioning of the buses on the road. Cost should not be considered an important factor as it is a green initiative,” Bhagwat added.
Committee members asked the government to minimize taxes that could be levied on running electric buses on the road. “An electric bus will have BEST paying at least 45 lakh rupees of octroi and other added taxes. If this is an initiative supported by the government, the taxes on them should either be relaxed or removed. The money saved from that will help the undertaking buy another bus,” Hombalkar added.
Till now, 7,500 such electric buses have run in the UK, Netherlands, Malaysia and Hong Kong, besides Delhi, Rajkot and Manali in India. BEST, which is facing a loss of more than Rs 1,000 crore, also plans to wet-lease 300 more buses as an economical solution for the undertaking.