In an attempt to go green, BEST has launched electric buses on its South Mumbai route. BrihanMumbai Electrical Supply and Transport (BEST) is the only public transport corporation who has the additional charge to supply electricity to Mumbaikars. An electric bus would be an untapped opportunity as BEST may not need to purchase additional electricity from other players. BEST would just need to build electric charging stations inside its depots.

B.E.S.T, though their buses run almost full states a loss of more than Rs 500 crores in its audited report. To curb these losses, BEST closed down it’s AC bus service which was run on Made-In-China Kinglong fleet. Commuters say that the bus was substandard and even failed to accelerate on flyovers. AC buses are widely popular in the villages of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry etc. After JNNURM funding, AC buses were no longer treated as a luxurious way of travel. Bus geeks on twitter stated their displeasure over BEST’s decision. A Twitter user said, “India’s financial capital not having AC bus service is a real shame when even Tier 2 cities have world-class Volvo/Scania buses all over India.”

The electric buses were procured from a Hyderabad based company named Goldstone who is a channel partner of BYD. BEST will run these K7 mini-buses on South Mumbai route. Each electric bus costs about Rs 1.61 crores. Electric buses when bought are expensive due to a higher cost of lithium-ion batteries and 5-year comprehensive warranties. As stated by Nitin Gadkari, “The operational cost of a BEST diesel bus is Rs 110 rupees per kilometer but AC electric buses in Nagpur costs just Rs 65 rupees per kilometers.”

BYD K7 bus can accommodate around 29 passengers and has a range of 250km in a single charge, says company website. Although buses procured by BEST are non-AC, so we can expect a range of 300km in three hour charging time. BEST has also decided to procure two Eicher Skyline electric buses which will be locally manufactured here in India. BYD buses have been successfully tested by various state transport corporations in India. Just a few months back, Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation successfully tested the K7 model on Manali – Rohtang Pass route.

Tata Starbus Hybrid bus
Tata Starbus Hybrid bus at BKC

BEST is likely to get around 30 electric buses by the end of 2017. 25 of these will be premium models of Tata Skybus with hybrid technology. 25 Tata Skybus electric hybrid was procured by MMRDA and these buses will run on these routes: Bandra W Station – Kurla station, BKC – Thane and BKC – Gorai route. In just one year, cost of lithium-ion battery has been reduced by 40%. As more state transport corporation adapt electric bus transport, cost of these buses is expected to fall to Rs 60 lakhs by 2020.

– Chaitanya Kulkarni

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