UITP India Office organised 3-days training program on Electric Buses from 24-26 July 2017 in Pune, Maharasthra, with support from Shakti Sustaintable Energy Foundation (SSEF). The training was attened by more than 50 delegates from various organisations in India, representing authorities, municipal corporatiions, metros, bus operators (public and private), electricity distribution companies, new mobility players and industry.
The training program was the first step towards building awareness about the new technology. Government of India (GoI) is keen to promote electric mobility in India and is already providing a subsidy to companies under the FAME (Faster Adaptation and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles) scheme. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of procurement of large electric fleet and creation of its supporting infrastructure.
The deliberation was held for 3-days to discuss various issues including:
a) Types of bus and charging technologies (Opportunity Charging / Overnight Charging / Battery Swapping)
b) Funding opportunities, economic, environmental and societal feasibility of electric buses
c) Operational challenges for the maintenance and operation of electric buses
d) Need to build charging infrastructure
e) New organisation structure and resource requirements
There were 10 technical sessions, 2 workshops and 2 site visits organised during the training program. The participants visited the plants of KPIT Technologies Limited and Tata Motors Limited to understand the electric bus technology.
UITP would like to compile some of the key takeaways from the training program for future actions:
1. The cities, which are currently procuring or conducting trial-runs of electric buses, are not fully aware about the various electric bus technology options. Currently, the industry players are majorly developing buses with overnight charging with a range of 180-220 kms with single charge.
2. The deployment of electric buses in a city is completely different from the existing operation of the conventional buses. Before initiating the procurement of electric buses, there is need to study the bus network and routes. Further, the operator shall optimise the network based on location of charging stations.
3. All electric bus technologies are in development phase. There is need to explore the feasibility of different technologies, i.e. overnight charging, opportunity charging and battery swapping with respect to the local conditions of the cities. However, experts are not very optimistic about battery swapping technology owing to absence of any successful pilot case in the world. Further, it would require the procurement of additional battery packs. The experts emphasised that battery swapping system may not work in India.
4. The costs of electric buses are very high globally, mainly due to the cost of the battery packs. Currently, battery packs account for up to 50% cost of the bus. The price of Lithium-ion battery packs is declining. However, it is likely to decrease gradually in next 5-10 years and may not be reduced by 50% in next couple of years. The operator can explore innovative models including procuring batteries separately on lease by open tendering or leasing from the manufacturers.
5. In order to manage electric bus operations successfully, the operator shall implement ITS (intelligent transport system) with planning and scheduling, depot management, vehicle tracking and big data tools, which can be integrated with BMS (Battery Management System). It is a pre-requisite to install ITS system before the procurement of electric buses for better management.
6. The operation and maintenance of electric buses are different to the conventional fleet. The operator will need to hire additional resources in the transition phase. The job profile of maintenance staff will be different with requirement of additional skillsets. The operator shall organise special training program for the manpower related to the maintainenance of the electric bus.
7. According to a BYD study, the energy usage between electric bus drivers can vary from 5-30%. Thus, it is very important to design special training program for electric bus drivers. The operator shall hire drivers with better qualification who can operate and manage electric bus fleets in an optimal manner.
8. Government of India may need to push for big volume orders to bring down the cost of the electric buses and to create an ecosystem. China provided big subsidies to the companies to popularize electric buses. India may need to also follow a similar strategy by incentivizing the procurement of electric buses. FAME scheme subsidy may not be sufficient to create big demand for electric buses. Further, the government should evaluate the pros and cons of leasing or buying buses.
9. Currently, most of the cities are conducting pilots by evaluating the energy consumption. There is a need for detailed pilot test analysis to certify the success or failure of any new bus. Further, there is a need to draft contracts with SLAs (Service Level Agreement) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The authority or operator should avoid risk stacking as it will increase the cost of the buses.
10. There is need to design interoperable charging infrastructure to avoid duplication of resources and reduce the capital investment. The operator should work with new stakeholders like power distribution utilities to plan the charging infrastructure on the street and / or at the depot. The charging of bus fleet will require high voltage. Further, power tariff policy should be modified to encourage charging of buses in non-peak hours.
There are many more learnings from the training programs. However, the training program helped to bring forward some of the areas where the authorities, operators and industry will require further support, like:
i. Standardisation of battery specifications and charging infrastructure
ii. Preparation of detailed guidelines for conducting pilot of electric buses
iii. Preparation of standards for comparing the energy consumption of different buses
iv. Preparation of model concession agreement for the procurement of electric buses
v. Supporting authorities or public operators during the procurement and implementation of electric bus projects