The cash-strapped Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) Monday began operating an electric bus procured from a private firm on a 15-day trial run in three cities in the state. It’s for the first time that a battery-operated bus is being run in Kerala, joining the league of states like Telangana, Maharashtra and Goa.
“The trial run of the electric bus has begun today in Thiruvananthapuram and will later move to Kochi and Kozhikode over the next 15 days. We will be examining the performance of the bus and then take a call. As of now, for the trial run, KSRTC is not bearing any costs as the manufacturing firm is operating it for free,” said Udayakumar, Zonal Officer (operations) at KSRTC.
The K9-D.2 variant of the bus has been manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Goldstone Infratech Limited which has a technical partnership with BYD Auto, a Chinese automobile manufacturer based in Xi’an. Low-floor and air-conditioned, the bus can seat up to 35 passengers and has a wheel-chair facility. It has a wall-mounted lithium-iron BYD Goldstone FE battery which gets fully-charged in about four hours and can travel up to 350 kilometres.
If the trial run turns out to be successful, KSRTC could go for an international tender process to order the first batch of buses to be operated mainly in cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. The buses naturally do not consume fossil fuels and can be viable transportation model to cut down on air and sound pollution levels. It has GPS tracking systems and CCTV cameras.
Charging stations have been set up at the KSRTC regional workshops based in Aluva, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode with electricity being channelled from the state-run Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). KSRTC officials said the charging of the bus would be done overnight. One unit of current is required for the bus to run one kilometre and could cost up to Rs 6-7 for the bus corporation as per current tariffs, an official said.
The state bus corporation has its eyes on the subsidy offered by the central government under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (hybrid) and Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme. Instead of buying a fleet of buses, each of which could cost up to Rs 2.5 crore, KSRTC may plan to lease them out and test them for operational efficiency. The battery-operated buses could help stem its mounting operational losses, the corporation believes.
“Since the central government subsidy is available, it will be cheap for us (to procure). Also compared to conventional buses, the maintenance cost is minimal,” said Udayakumar.
For the trial run, the KSRTC has priced its tickets similar to what is being charged in its air-conditioned Volvo buses. The money collected through tickets will go into its coffers. As of 2016, the state-run corporation has more than 600 low-floor A/C and non A/C buses in its fleet.