The department of heavy industry has granted in-principle approval to Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to introduce zero-emission retrofitted electric buses under its flagship scheme FAME India (faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid & electric vehicles in India).

Electric bus
According to sources in the know, HRTC and MMRDA will roll out 25 electric buses each. Under FAME India, the department will fund up to 75 per cent cost of the buses. A senior official in the department said pilot projects worth Rs 100 crore were in–principle approval and Rs 75 crore would be disbursed soon under the scheme.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, had mentioned in his Budget speech that Himachal Pradesh would be the first state in India to introduce zero-emission electric buses. The chief minister also announced exemption from token tax, registration charges and value-added tax on all electric vehicles for five years to promote eco-friendly transport services in the state.

While HRTC is the state transport corporation of Himachal Pradesh, MMRDA is responsible for preparing plans, formulating policies and programmes, implementing projects and directing investments in the Mumbai metropolitan region. It conceives, promotes and monitors key projects for developing new growth centres and brings about improvement in transport, housing, water supply and environment sectors.

The flagship scheme was announced in April 2015 with a total capital outlay of Rs 795 crore in the first two financial years starting with the current year. With this, the government hopes to save Rs 60,000 crore annually on the country’s oil import bill by 2020.

On why the scheme had not gathered steam since its launch, Heavy Industries Minister Anant Geete recently said one reason was the lack of demand for electric and hybrid four-wheelers. The minister said the government would gradually convert two-, three-, and four-wheelers as well as commercial vehicles and buses to hybrid and electric vehicles.

According to Geete, business interest is on the rise with Rs 15 crore worth of proposals pouring into the ministry every month. Critics, however, say that in the major metros where the scheme has already been launched — Delhi National Capital Region, Greater Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad — there is no infrastructure for smooth adoption of such vehicles.

“All electric infrastructure including the setting up of charging stations are to be undertaken by companies,” said Geete, adding that the government only aims to act as a handholder in the process.

Business Standard