In a first in the country, Hinduja Group-owned Ashok Leyland is all set to ply 50 electric buses by May for Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL), which manages Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in the Gujarat’s biggest city.
As per the contract, Ashok Leyland would run entire fleet of electric buses for the first seven years with a provision of two years extension, said Karthick Athmanathan, head – EV & eMobility Solutions. AJL is a “special purpose vehicle” incorporated by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to run and to operate BRTS buses.
Talking to FE, Athmanathan said that during the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019, an electric bus would be displayed at the venue of the summit and by February five such buses would be run on trial basis on four different routes. According to him, the company would invest Rs 500 crore till 2020 for the development of electric vehicles including that of buses.
Divulging about the agreement with AJL, he said that the SPV would pay on a per kilometre basis to Ashok Leyland for running electric buses on BRT routes. The company is strategically investing in EV segment for long term benefits, he added. The eBuses of the company will have multi-optional energy management applications including Auto Battery Swap technology as well as high value Fast Charge Battery Chemistries that offer competitive value propositions, he said, adding that the world-class passenger transportation solution would come with ‘cradle’-based architecture that provides for quick maintenance and has India’s largest capacity EV Midi Bus with a capacity of 50 passengers.
“In August 2017, the company’s UK subsidiary Optare had got order for 31 double-decker electric buses for London city. It would get another order of 45 similar buses for six other cities in Europe in next three months,” he said. However, it would be more challenging in India as the company would require to manufacture buses which suit Indian conditions, he added.
According to him, the biggest challenge was tropical atmosphere of the country where heavy downpour and extremely high temperature need to be considered while manufacturing the EVs. Moreover, factor of traffic congestion couldn’t be ignored unlike cities in European countries. At Chennai plant the company has manufacturing capacity of eight EVs per day. By 2019-end, the company aims to roll out at least 350 EVs including that of electric buses on Indian roads.