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Delhi government plan to buy electric buses suffers another setback

The proposal to procure electric buses has been delayed with the Supreme Court on Monday asking the Delhi government to explore other hybrid models as well.

delhi Updated: Jul 03, 2018 12:46 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi govt,Kejriwal govt,Electric buses in Delhi
New Delhi, India - March 10, 2016: DTC Electric Bus after the flag off by Gopal Rai (Minister of Transport, Delhi) at Delhi Secretariat,I P Extension in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, March 10, 2016. (Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/ Hindustan Times)(Hindustan Times)

After the stay on the procurement of 2,000 CNG buses, the Delhi government’s plan to get electric buses will also get delayed with the Supreme Court on Monday asking it to explore other hybrid models as well.

The court’s directions to the Delhi government came on a day when the transport department had submitted a cabinet note to minister Kailash Gahlot on the city’s ‘e-bus vision plan’. The proposal, which includes procuring 960 electric buses, was to be taken up by the Delhi Cabinet chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal this week.

“The cabinet proposal that was to be put up included the detailed project report and request for proposal for appointing a consultant for the project and then for procuring the electric buses. But with the SC’s observations coming in, those details too would have to be added to the proposal,” said an official privy to the development.

While the SC asked the government to ponder the possibility of using hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses, transport officials said that hydrogen-based models were still at an “experimental” stage in the Indian market. “It was only three months ago, in March, that trials on India’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus were flagged off. It will take at least two years until modalities are finalised,” a transport official said.

Experts said the hydrogen fuel cell technology is about three times more efficient than a traditional combustion engine. But Delhi, which currently has only 5,429 buses against the mandated requirement of 11,000, needs buses immediately.

“No doubt, it is hybrid and has zero emission as its fuel cell operates like a battery which, unlike electric vehicles, does not even need charging. But to be rolled out as a fleet for public service will take time as the number of manufacturers are even lower than that of electric buses,” said Geetam Tiwari, professor, transportation engineering, IIT Delhi.

The fuel for such buses is hydrogen and oxygen and its cells generate electricity and water. While the cost of one such hybrid bus is not yet known, an electric bus would cost R 2.5 crore.

The Delhi government decided to procure e-buses after it faced criticism for not using Rs 1,301 crore funds collected from commercial vehicles as environment compensation charge.

The Supreme Court on Monday also asked the government about its plan for creating a charging infrastructure in the city for electric buses.

“Charging facilities for buses are all planned out. The government will build robust charging points at all the bus depots identified to park these 960 buses. We have already held discussions with distribution companies and they have agreed to collaborate,” a transport official said.

The government’s plan to add 2,000 new buses to Delhi’s fleet this year onward also hit multiple roadblocks, the biggest one being a stay imposed by the Delhi high court because the buses are not disabled friendly.

First Published: Jul 03, 2018 12:46 IST