Transitioning towards Electric Buses: City Dialogue Highlights Financial, Operational Challenges

ICLEI South Asia organised the first City Dialogue for India under TUMI E-Bus Mission City Network on “Introduction to electric bus fleet ecosystem and experience related to operational challenges shared by leading cities” on the 6th of July 2022. The online dialogue focused on the ecosystem of electric buses, with experts from the electric vehicle sector in India and across the globe, as well as city officials from Surat and Kochi speaking on the operational challenges being faced in the sector. The 12 participating cities learned about the E-bus deployment on the existing procurement model and the existing challenges from the experience shared by the city officials from Surat and Kochi.

The TUMI E-Bus Mission City Network is a learning network of cities committed to accelerating the transition toward e-bus fleets within public transport systems in the Global South. The network will contribute significantly to the goal of creating sustainable urban transport systems and support 20 deep dive cities in their transition towards e-bus deployment and upscale these efforts to 100 mentee cities until the end of 2022. In India, the project aims to help reduce air and noise pollution, as well as the CO2 emissions created by urban transport systems and will cover the cities of Bhopal, Indore, Navi Mumbai, Surat, and Rajkot, besides Shimla, Bhubaneswar, Kochi, Panaji, and Pune.

At the dialogue event, Mr. C.K. Goyal, Senior Vice President, Road Transport, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System, described the infrastructure upgradation required in depots for overnight charging of e-buses with the help of a case study from Delhi. He stressed the role of depots’ location and infrastructure in the faster adoption and smooth functioning of e-buses.

Mr. Sumit Mishra, Executive Director – Consulting, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, spoke on the different financing mechanisms for the procurement of e-buses, adding that the major challenges of technology and operational risks could be overcome by mitigating high capital costs, dividing risks and enabling the finance ecosystem through a collaborative approach. Ms. Swati Khanna, Sector Specialist, Urban Development and Mobility, KfW, highlighted the requirements put forth by international development agencies for funding e-buses, such as detailed feasibility/investment reports, sustainability of projects, and procurement strategies.

Referring to the operational challenges of e-buses, Mr. Mustafa from Surat Sitilink Ltd, a transportation company, mentioned the Gross Cost Contract model-based operation where the operator is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the vehicles, minimising the risks for city authorities, while Ms. Mahima Mary Thomas from Kochi Kleen Smart Bus Ltd (KSBL) shared her experiences with e-bus operations and the idea behind KSBL.

The TUMI E-Bus Mission City Network is funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ with the partners C40 Cities, the International Council on Clean Transportation, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the International Association of Public Transport and World Resource Institute.

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