India's Andaman & Nicobar Islands show the way to all-electric buses future | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India's Andaman & Nicobar Islands show the way to all-electric buses future

Jun 14, 2024 06:36 PM IST

The A&N administration’s electric bus operational model could serve as a blueprint for the rest of India, for deploying electric buses and using clean energy

With operational 40 electric buses and plans to expand, the administration in Andaman and Nicobar Islands are setting a powerful precedent for clean transportation. The adoption of renewable energy sources and electrification can significantly reduce carbon emissions and pave the way for a greener future. The Islands aim to transition 100% of their 250 buses to battery electric and augment the fleet by 2030. This electrification model could showcase a decarbonisation strategy for India, both in deploying electric buses and using clean energy.

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In 2022, the Directorate of Transport of the A&N Island administration published the Electric Vehicle Policy to promote electric vehicles (EV) and encourage clean transportation of tourists. The main goal of the A&N Islands’ EV Policy 2022 was to speed up the adoption of EVs to improve air quality, aiming for EVs to make up at least 30% of new registrations by December 31, 2026. The energy source for charging EVs is crucial; using solar and wind at charging stations can reduce carbon emissions and costs. India aims to generate 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030, meeting nearly 50% of its energy needs. Integrating renewables into EV charging is essential for a cleaner future.

The A&N administration’s electric bus operational model could serve as a blueprint for the rest of India, for deploying electric buses and using clean energy. Currently, 40 battery electric buses operate in Port Blair, Ferrargunj, and Swaraj Dweep, covering 2640 sq. km under the South Andaman district. The islands are ahead of most tier-two and three cities in India in adopting battery electric buses.

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The Operation Expenditure (OpEx) model for electric buses consist of NTPC and NVVN owning and maintaining buses, while the Transport department manages charging, tyre upkeep, auxiliary batteries, and regulatory costs. This model adds buses without high upfront costs, reduces obsolescence risk, and lowers maintenance expenses.

The JBM group, an electric bus manufacturer, has provided all 40 buses under the OpEx model. The unique framework features a collaborative resource pooling model, optimising resource use and reducing costs. NVVN, a subsidiary of NTPC, owns the buses procured through a competitive tender process initiated by the administration. Under a 10-year contract with JBM, NVVN ensures at least 97% fleet availability, with penalties for shortfalls. This model offers the Islands a reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective transportation solution, showcasing how innovative operational models can succeed in challenging environments.

This model (as shown in Figure 1) emphasises meticulous maintenance of electric buses through a dry lease model with an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) framework, deviating from a Gross Cost Contract (GCC) approach. In a GCC model, the operator oversees bus operations, maintenance, drivers, and charging infrastructure, while the government pays a fixed rate per kilometre for each bus.

 

Figure 1: Operational model of electric buses in A&N
Figure 1: Operational model of electric buses in A&N

In contrast, the administration's dry lease model involves the transport department providing drivers and conductors, with the department covering maintenance costs (excluding tyres and regulatory charges). NVVN leases buses to the A&N administration at 49 per kilometre, ensuring operational reliability and minimal financial risk through a partnership with public and private stakeholders.

To ensure high vehicle quality and operational efficiency, NVVN has enlisted JBM's R&D team for technical advisory services. This collaboration underlines the commitment to maintaining top-notch bus standards. As per the operational agreement between JBM and NVVN, the latter compensates JBM at a rate of 7.95 per km under the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) model.

JBM's R&D team offers tailored advice to optimise technology efficiency and uphold vehicle standards, ensuring reliable bus operations. This partnership exemplifies a dedication to excellence, benefiting both the service provider and end-users who rely on these electric buses for daily commute.

The R&D team, consisting of mechanics, electricians, and high-voltage battery experts, focuses on critical issues like battery cooling, particularly vital in hot climatic weather. JBM manages fleet operations, overseeing workshops, ensuring mileage accuracy, and handling incident management, workforce training, and performance reviews. They prioritise compliance to prevent infractions and promptly address grievances, fostering a positive work environment.

The island is prioritising decarbonisation efforts in its electricity and energy sectors. The reliance on diesel generation for electricity reduces confidence in electric vehicle uptake. With support from the Indian government, the island administration has planned for extensive adoption of renewable energy sources.

Solar photovoltaic plant of 5 MW capacity with annual energy unit of 8 million unit along with a battery energy storage system has been commissioned by NTPC in A&N Islands in 2013(1unit of electricity = 1 kWh). Additionally, there is a hydroelectric power station on the Kalpong River in North Andaman, which has a capacity of 5.25 MW, contributing to a total aggregate installed capacity of 64.05 MW. The Department of Transport proactively identified buildings for rooftop solar installation to support charging infrastructure.

Currently, the JBM ecolite buses, which are 9 m long and equipped with lithium batteries are adopted in the island and they are chargeable with fast plug-in DC chargers. Overall, seven such chargers are operational in Port Blair, located in bus terminals and at the Transport department’s central workshop.

These buses have a passenger capacity of 42 and can achieve a real-world range of 140 km on a single charge. Commuters appreciate the noise-free rides, affordable ticket charges, continuous operation even during heavy rains, fully air-conditioned interiors, and improved connectivity on the island.

While challenges, such as limited grid capacity for deploying electric vehicle charging infrastructure and short trip distances exist, the administration's plans to expand electric bus fleets and prioritise renewable energy are promising.

A national target for electric buses could assist lower levels of government in coordinating their timelines and designing policies, creating a more significant national market. This model could be used as a blueprint for rest of India, not only for deploying electric buses but also for using clean energy.

 

Sunitha Anup, Bhaumik Gowande are Researcher and Associate Researcher, respectively, at ICCT in India.

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