This is the second blog in our three-part blog series, that explores key insights and learnings of the Grand Challenge and electric bus procurement in urban India. Read the first blog in the series here.
The Grand Challenge is a giant stride towards the electrification of India’s public transport, paving the way for accessible, affordable, safe, and clean public transport. Under the Grand Challenge, the state-owned Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL) announced one of the world’s largest electric buse (e-bus) procurement tenders, focusing on the deployment of 5,450 e-buses in India. The Grand Challenge, aimed at benefiting state transport agencies (STUs), aggregates demand for e-buses supported under the government’s FAME-II scheme.
This endeavor managed to achieve harmonization of specifications across five major cities: Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Surat.
Some highlights of the tender were:
According to a report released by WRI India, India needs to operationalize at least 5.85 lakh buses by 2031. Around 3.38 lakh of these buses will be offset by the business as usual (BAU) procurement patterns of public and private operators with an additional requirement of 2.46 lakh buses by 2031. To meet this target, India needs to formulate a national-level program to access the aggregated demands of tier-II cities that has the added benefit of boosting localization of electric bus component manufacturers.
The government now plans to expand the Grand Challenge to tier-II cities with the aim of reaching 50,000 e-buses by 2030. The travel demand, travel conditions and traffic congestion conditions vary from city to city, and it will affect the average vehicle utilization in terms of operational kilometers travelled by bus. With the reduction in vehicle utilization, cities might not be able to run the assured kilometers that would further result in authorities compensating the operators for remaining kilometers and thereby increasing the actual effective cost per km.
City-specific travel demands need to be analyzed and evaluated thoroughly considering the futuristic scenarios stated above. The following factors also need to be considered:
OEMs will be evaluated based on their supply chain readiness for their current production capacity and expansion capability. A healthy competitive environment needs to be built amongst different OEMs to ensure quality services and timely delivery of key components and technology.
With the EV battery being one of the most important components of an electric bus, OEMs should work towards evaluating bus battery health to arrive at assured kilometers requirement for each city. It is recommended that operators and cities opt for operations with higher assured kilometers as this is expected to gradually decrease with time as the battery ages.
Lastly, a comprehensive approach towards tendering must be considered that is a mix of standard basic requirements and city-specific requirements — such as the bus-mix that best meets a city's needs.
It is a challenge to bring different smaller cities, with very specific demand sets, onto common ground. This is exactly what the expanded Grand Challenge hopes to achieve as it sets forth the road map for bus electrification across urban India
View the first blog in our three-part series -
Key Lessons for India’s Bus Electrification Drive
Sanjay Bhatia is a Senior Consultant for the Sustainable Cities & Transport Program at WRI India.