ABB to electrify Indian buses – Autotech making its mark in India

Are we really moving from being called a developing country to a developed Nation? Recently, while skimming through the newspaper one headline caught my attention. The headline, “ABB to electrify Indian buses” looked interesting and the news quite surprising. Swiss power and automation technology group ABB has drawn up plans for India to become a fully electric vehicle by 2030. As per a lot of media reports, the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari had said last year, “India has plans to convert around 1.5 lakh diesel buses run by state transport corporations into electric buses in a bid to reduce its Rs.8 lakh crore annual crude oil import bill and check pollution.” With no overhead lines, the electric buses by ABB connect to a high-power charging contact at bus stations through its controlled moving arm. It is equipped with on-board batteries and gets charged at various 'flash-charging' bus stations within 15 seconds. At the terminals, buses can be fully charged within five minutes and can help save up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, compared with existing diesel buses.

Pollution – Free Ride: According to the news, buses can be fully charged within 5 minutes resulting in no carbon dioxide emission, reducing pollution to a great extent. The plan will soon be implemented in Geneva replacing few diesel buses by flash charging technology. ABB has partnered with Geneva’s Public Transportation the Office of Promotion of Industries and Technologies and Geneva power Utility SIG to develop a fleet of 12 such electric buses, also known as TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Systeme Alimentation) connecting 14 kilometer distance from Geneva's airport to its sub-urban beginning December this year.

Indian Market: Regarding the potential of TOSA in India, Ulrich Spiesshofer quoted, "We are working with potential customers all around the globe and India is definitely the target market for sustainable transport. We look at India at a long-term perspective. India has steep ambitions for electric vehicles till 2030 and altogether we are a long-term partner.”

Potential of Electric Buses: Electric buses reliability, efficiency, and promises to operate a par with the diesel fleet. At the Press Conference, Bruce Warner (Global Product Specialist for rail and urban transportation at ABB) shared, "The bus wastes no time as the on-board batteries get charged within 15 seconds while passengers are boarding and de-boarding the bus. The idea is to utilize the bus station space by using it as charging points and operate them at par with the diesel fleet”.

Bus Safety and Fare: The bus system is safe as the voltage is only released when the bus is connected for charging at the bus stations. "So, even if someone climbs up on the bus station, he won't get any electric shock. It's totally safe,” Warner added. ABB India Managing Director Sanjeev Sharma had said in August that the Union government has agreed to his request for operating the electric buses with flash-charging facility on a pilot-basis. Mr. Gadkari had said that ticket fares can be halved on electric buses as these can be charged at night, when excess electricity available at as low as Rs.3.5 per unit equivalent to one liter of fuel which may range between Rs. 50-60. ABB has also tied-up with Volvo Buses, which will operate in 13 cities across the country. The idea is to co-develop and commercialize electric and hybrid buses with fast charging systems.

Future Plans: The National Electricity Mission Plan 2020 had identified the need to build rapid charging points at prominent bus stops in India to eliminate the need for large batteries. It had, however, said a pilot project needs to be rolled out to see the viability of its operations on a large scale as it costs five times the cost of normal charging stations. The potential demand for electric buses in India is likely to be in the range of 2,300-2,700 units by 2020. Apart from buses, ABB venture is also looking forward to electrifying railways and has already supplied different variants of railway engines (diesel –cum- electric engines). ABB is also working with the government program to provide technology solutions for solar powered agricultural pumps to farmers.

Now, as we are walking on the road map of developed countries. Does it make us a developed country? We believe we are switching from Developing country to a Developed Nation!

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