Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) had come up with an extremely ambitious plan of placing a whole host of electric buses on Bangalore roads by the end of October. However, there is expected to be a considerable delay in implementing the project due to a seismic shift in terms of the operational model. BMTC had originally intended to procure e-buses from private operators, who would then be given a fixed fee per kilometre.

The lease arrangement for the e-buses has raised a lot of doubts with regard to the advantages for a lessee, total cost, use of subsidies, and operation.

BMTC had planned to introduce as many as 80 e-buses before the end of next month. A capital of 74 crores was allocated for this project with the first portion of 14 crores already released. Tenders were floated in order to pick the lowest bidder, who happened to be a Hyderabad-based company called Goldstone.

A major reason for going with the e-buses in great numbers is to take advantage of the enormous one crore subsidy from the central government for each bus. The government offers this huge subsidy as part of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles India (FAME India). Even though the subsidy was later reduced to 73 lakhs for non-air-conditioned buses, it is still the same one crore for air-conditioned buses.

A number of routes were initially identified in order to launch the buses in a staged manner. Measuring 12 meters in length and having a capacity of 35 people, these e-buses are on par with some of the best in the business. Crucially, these buses have a range of around 200 km per day and thus required planning, unlike a regular bus. The corporation was ready to hand out Rs. 37.50 per kilometre excluding the cost of power.

However, the decision to go with a lease option attracted criticism considering that the operators had little stumbling blocks towards making a profit. Since the corporation was to take care of most of the infrastructure necessary for the e-buses, operators were seen as having received an unfair advantage. As a result of the proposed changes, BMTC will be running all the affairs including procurement of the buses.

BMTC is actively pushing out electric bus services in order to combat the problem of pollution within the city. These electric buses will have zero emissions at their tailpipes but the process of charging them requires quite a lot of infrastructure addition. BMTC planned to provide charging points at the bus depots located in Electronic City and HSR Layout. An additional charging point was also expected to feature at the international airport in order to provide crucial connectivity between the city and the several hundred thousand passengers who hit the airport. Airport services and IT corridor will be the key routes once the electric buses hit the road in the new format.

It is also expected that the Indian Premier League will also benefit immensely with the introduction of these bus services, as it would help offer fans a quick route to the stadium. The Indian Premier League is a significant attraction in the city. While the likes of Betway provide an easy way to bet on this competition, BMTC is hoping to make it easy for fans to travel to the matches through the games.

The lease option has been done away with BMTC deciding to run and operate the business on their own. This will have a direct impact on the overall project cost, as BMTC need not exclusively fund the associated infrastructure projects whilst still paying the operator with associated costs. Now, the corporation will have to come up with a new standard in order to purchase the buses. This will be followed by an intense period of training in order to make sure that the staff are ready to handle the technical know-how required to operate this process. BMTC has certainly come a long way from arguing against scrapping old buses to going full electric.

Interestingly, BMTC is not the only corporation to adopt e-buses in this part of the world. KSRTC had recently come up with all-electric buses that will soon ply across the state after having begun services in Thiruvananthapuram.