Taking a U-turn from phasing out fossil-powered Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses, Kerala’s Transport Minister KB Ganesh Kumar has said that he was not in favour of electric buses as they were incurring heavy losses. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, January 17, the minister said that the electric buses that were bought by the state government for nearly Rs 1 crore each have become a liability due to less patronage.
“At least four diesel buses can be bought with the same amount. There is no guarantee regarding the life of electric buses too. Kerala SRTC buses are operated in areas where there are no train services, such as hilly areas. The department generates more revenue in such areas and electric buses are not a viable option in these routes,” the minister explained. Ganesh Kumar further said that steps would be taken to either stop or divert the buses in non-profit routes so as to minimise the expenditure.
The Electric Vehicle (EV) policy adopted by the state government in 2017 aimed to convert its entire fleet of more than 6,000 buses into electric vehicles by 2025. According to the order, the move was expected to substantially reduce the heavy outflow due to fuel cost.
It further reads, “With appropriate sizing of the batteries, charging infrastructure, and innovative electricity tariff, the cost of the buses is expected to be comparable with the present fleet of diesel buses. The huge reduction in maintenance cost of electric buses, reduced break down losses coupled with reduction of fuel cost per KM can be securitised for a longer period and used to service the initial capital cost of deploying the EV buses.”
Speaking to TNM, Sreedhar Radhakrishnan, an environmentalist said, “The minister is looking solely at the cost sector. Even though the initial investment is costly, the running cost is not. The union government is looking to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, to which the Kerala government has committed as well. Reverting to diesel buses is against state and national policy. When you define a goal, you have to work towards it. If the state is ready to take up the cost of transition, what is the problem?,” he said, adding that the new EV vehicles have also made urban commuting easier due to less pollution.
According to reports, the Kerala government had expressed interest to procure 12-metre-long low-floor electric buses from the union government under the PM's e-Bus Seva scheme, during the previous Transport Minister Antony Raju’s tenure. As many as 10,000 buses were expected to be deployed in the state, with the centre providing drivers and charging stations. The state government was expected to give a share of the revenue to the union government.