Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami on Monday flagged off the state's first electric, air-conditioned bus in Chennai. This is the first of 525 buses the state government plans to ply, with the objective of reducing air pollution.
Automobile giant Ashok Leyland has manufactured the bus, which can hold close to 50 persons at any point of time. The Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Education Minister Sengottaiyan, Tamil and Culture Minister Mafoi Pandiarajan and transport officials inspected the white and green bus which travelled from Thiruvanmiyur to Koyambedu.
The project is under the auspices of central government’s FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles) INDIA-2, a programme to encourage the purchase and usage of electric vehicles. Under this, the government of Tamil Nadu had agreed to purchase and operate 525 electric buses in major cities like Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Erode, Tiruppur, Salem, Vellore and Thanjavur.
The bus can travel for 50 kilometres once completely charged and currently the only charging point is at the central depot. While a regular Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation vehicle costs close to Rs 30 lakh, a battery-operated bus cost Rs.1.5-2 crore. It, however, significantly reduces cost of fuel, a recurring expense for existing buses.
Commuters are charged same as that of a regular bus with the tickets priced between Rs 11 and Rs 25. In its first phase, these electric buses will start plying on the A1 MTC route from Chennai Central to Thiruvanmiyur.
However, environmentalists point out that in the larger picture, the state's carbon footprint could remain the same.
"Yes, local pollution levels, say within the city would reduce with the introduction of battery-operated buses," says Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre. However, Pooja says that it will make a difference if the battery is re-charged from renewable sources of energy.
However, the state government says they will make efforts to use solar panels to recharge the batteries. "We are recharging through electricity board. Wherever possible we will encourage solar panels to be set up and address the issue as per the E Vehicle policy," J Radhakrishnan, Transport Secretary told TNM.