A Chinese company backed by Warren Buffet and Samsung could soon be the future of Make in India for Electric Buses

We speak to Goldstone Infratech MD, Mr N K Rawal about their collaboration with BYD, their plans of expansion in India, and how they are in a favourable position to take over the country’s public transport scene.

By: | Updated: March 29, 2018 8:50 PM

You would be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Goldstone Infratech, manufacturers of Electric buses in collaboration with BYD of China, under brand name Goldstone- BYD, prior to this.

Although BYD has been around for a while on the global scene, Goldstone-BYD recently shot to fame for having beaten the likes of Mahindra, Ashok Leyland and in some cases Tata Motors Commercial to the punch on several of the recently released tenders for electric buses under the FAME scheme.

In fact, Goldstone-BYD claims to be the only company in India to have already deployed electric buses for commercial use.

BYD is essentially China’s answer to Tesla (considering China’s very mature Electric Vehicle Market, they are much larger than Tesla).

BYD is also the only electric vehicle company that is backed by the Warren Buffett seal of approval considering that he holds a 10% stake in the company. BYD is, interestingly, even backed by Samsung who recently bought 1.6% stake in the company for a whopping 398 million USD.

Goldstone -BYD recently won multiple tenders issued by various State Transport Units, and will now begin delivery of the 290 buses as part of this tender.

After winning the tenders for 290 buses across India, there was an appeal raised by the Goldstone Infratech in the supreme court, in order to make some changes in the terms, after which the state government withdrew the initial tender.

“Yes, I believe there was some trepidation on the matter last week. This has been cleared now. The Supreme Court ruled in our favour and we have moved on since”.

The company had disputed the condition wherein experience in building diesel buses, was one of the factors to be eligible for the recently issued tender. However, the same has been resolved by Supreme Court.

“We are the only company in India to actually have buses running on Indian roads.

There are two procurement models currently being followed by various State Transport Units or (STUs), the first is an outright purchase model or Capex (capital expenditure) and the other is Opex model. In the Capex model, the company pays for outright purchase. In Opex model the purchase is on per-km cost basis over the life cycle of the bus.

In the Opex model the buyer is insulated from various after sales costs the maintenance expenses. The cost of this varies on warranty periods. Most STUs have opted for Opex model, as this allows STUs to factor in costs holistically over a period of time, including maintenance and warranty and ask for a cost.” Said Mr N K Rawal in response.

The interesting thing is, that Goldstone-BYD is currently the only manufacturer with Electric Buses plying on Indian roads. And both the routes that their buses follow represent extremities of the Indian condition. The first set of buses ply between Manali and Rohtang Pass, one of the most arduous routes in the world. The second set of buses are being used in Mumbai, a city that not only experiences highly humid conditions but also some of the worst traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) in the world.

Till date, they have no reportable complaints. A total mileage of 1.5 lakh has been covered in India using the buses that comply under “Make in India” guidelines.

Goldstone-BYD claim their entire ecosystem is happy, the drivers are happy thanks to the automatic transmissions which exponentially reduces the fatigue and the users are also happy with comfort.

This is far from a surprise considering that BYD has a wealth of experience in this sector.

What really sets BYD is the fact that the technology itself is purely electric, as opposed to the modified platforms that are being used by the competition.

Goldstone Infratech says they are the only manufacturer currently that uses monocoque chassis to manufacture buses in India. They are capable of making buses with a 300 km+ range which eliminates the need for a mid-day charge. BYD says this alone can reduce the buses footprint. They claim for every 10,000 km their buses travel a total of 10.2 tonnes of pollutants are reduced from the atmosphere.

BYD-Goldstone believes that the only way to turn the interest of the public to Electric Vehicles is by providing them a commuting experience that is unlike anything that can come from an ICE driven bus. Which is why all their buses are air-conditioned and come are capable of kneeling to a side to allow for ingress and egress of differently-abled people.

Optimistic for a company that has sold 31 buses in three years? It may well be.

But Goldstone projects that the Market will grow to 10,000 crores in the course of 5 years and the company, with BYD as technical and strategic partners, is confident that they will be a large stakeholder in it.

With BYD global prowess in Electric Vehicles, we asked NK Rawal whether they would consider taking their electric buses to private sector as well.

He said “Yes as of now yes, I think as we move forward we will be bidding for private sector as well. However, considering today’s environment. electric private vehicles is still some time away, since, private vehicles need a strong public infrastructure which is still some time away.

We feel like electric commercial vehicles can be easily implemented at this stage since buses have terminals and fixed down-times which can be used to charge the vehicles.

Private Electric Cars will require an ecosystem for people to start buying. Once there is an eco-system the opportunity will exist. However there are no plans for this space as of now .”

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