Transport Dept begins talks with KSEB on setting up charging points.

A State government notification that is awaited on permitting the operation of electric autorickshaws, buses and ferries in Kerala holds the key to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation inducting its first batch of electric buses.

As a first step, the Transport Department has initiated talks with the Kerala State Electricity Board on establishing charging points at public places or existing fuel outlets, to power 2,000 electric autorickshaws that are expected to be issued permits shortly, in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode. “Introduction of electric-powered buses and boats could follow suit. They hold the key to lessening air and water pollution caused by fossil fuels. The nitty-gritty of ushering in electric vehicles into the State are being worked out,” said Transport Commissioner K. Padmakumar.

The outcome of the negotiations with the KSEB will help policymakers take a decision on whether to establish recharging points or to swap drained out batteries with fully powered ones in autorickshaws.

Number of buses

The number of electric buses that the KSRTC will operate will depend on whether the government will permit wet lease from fleet operators or their outright purchase from manufacturers. “Wet lease under a gross-cost-contract model has numerous advantages like the KSRTC having to provide just fuel and conductor for each bus. The fleet owner will provide a driver and also bear the expenses for the upkeep of each bus,” said KSRTC Chairman and Managing Director Tomin J. Thachankary.

More number of buses could be introduced under wet leasing, by which the KSRTC would incur minimal expenditure.

“The KSRTC has submitted a proposal to the government to operate the initial batch of 10 such buses, which cause zero noise and air pollution, to Munnar, in keeping with the Neelakurinji blooming season. A few more will be lined up to ferry pilgrims to Sabarimala. The two proposals are awaiting clearance of the Finance Department,” said Mr. Thachankary.

On their part, private bus operators have sought tax sops and government subsidy to operate electric buses, since each such bus costs over ₹2 crore. “Moreover, they will need a different fare structure since a diesel-run bus costs approximately ₹35 lakh,” said T. Gopinathan, general secretary of All Kerala Bus Operators’ Organisation.

A Motor Vehicles Department official said 2030 was the deadline to ensure that all public-transport vehicles in India were powered by electricity, a cleaner and cost-efficient fuel. “Electric buses are easy to maintain since they have less than two dozen moving parts, considerably lessening wear and tear,” he added.

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