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Electrifying the Highways: End of Dominance Of ICE-powered Public Transportation? In the history of the nation, an electric bus left from Delhi in an attempt to cover the distance of approximately 280 kilometres to reach Jaipur

By Saptak Bardhan

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India has been moving towards sustainable sources of energy and promoting electric power in order to reach its promised goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The first step of reducing emissions have been taken by the Union government by introducing electric buses for intra-city use as well as introducing incentives on the purchase of electric vehicles under the FAME-I and FAME-II initiatives. These initiatives have been partially successful but due to the lack of infrastructure, the adoption of these vehicles has witnessed sluggish pace.

The NHEV initiative undertaken by Abhijeet Sinha, director of program, Ease of Doing Business, is set to revolutionize the future of public mobility and inter-city travel in the years to come. A trial run of an electric bus travelling from Delhi to Jaipur was conducted on 9 September, a day recognized globally as the World EV Day. The trial run was a part of a greater pilot project that will pave the path for electric highways to exist as well as the introduction of electric buses for intercity travel. The trial addressed the issue at hand that has been the bane of existence of electric vehicles for a very long time: infrastructure.

Increase in the number of charging stations

The NHEV initiative would look at strategic points on the Delhi to Jaipur and Delhi to Agra highways to station electric chargers, and with the age-old toll system about to go extinct, the NHAI has offered land for the NHEV initiative to set up charging stations for electric cars and buses to run on highways. It would take 1.25 acres of land to set up a charging station that would go on to charge 20 cars at one time, consisting a mix of AC and DC chargers. The nation is moving ahead with its plan to go carbon neutral initially and then go carbon negative.

Electric energy has been touted as the 'future of energy'. According to the pilot program, there would be 20 stations across the two highways.

Charging stations are the need of the hour as electric cars have come to the fore. Even though the internal combustion engines are more popular, electric vehicles are slowly picking up the pace and putting up a fight against the ICE-powered cars.

"The charging stations would be a great investment for people who are looking for an investment avenue. The initial investment cost would be INR 5 crore and it would reach break-even in 36-40 months. The charging station requires no license and with a turnaround time of one to two months," said Abhijeet Sinha, director of program, Ease of Doing Business.

Green mobility on the rise

The year 2022 has witnessed major developments in the EV space despite the problems the space has witnessed early on in the year. Green Cell Mobility's, NueGo EV bus that was used in the trial run has a capacity to run approximately 270 kilometers in a single charge. The company has partnered with NHEV for the initiative. Test runs would be conducted throughout the month to gather important information to assess the performance of the battery under different weather conditions. The trial runs would also be conducted to determine economic and social results in adopting the electric mobility.

Sinha highlighted that there are close to 10 moving parts in the engine of the bus whereas the moving parts in an ICE-powered bus would be close to 2,000. Hence, it would be really complex to repair an ICE-powered bus if something goes wrong due to a complex web of moving parts that reside in the engine. The NHEV initiative would have a bus on stand-by that would reach the location of the stranded passengers if something goes wrong.

"Transport is one of the biggest polluter and it contributes to approximately 20-25 per cent pollution especially in our mixed traffic and by going electric, we would solving a huge problem. Parallely, another pollutant is the burning of the agricultural waste but now we are using that agricultural waste to generate ethanol which can be used as an alternative fuel too petrol and diesel," said Akhilesh Srivastava, ex-NHAI and member, NHEV.

The entire highway would be geo-fenced which would make it easier to track the location of bus and alert the headquarters if the vehicle breaks down. The fleet that would run on the Delhi to Agra and Delhi to Jaipur highways would consist of 100 cars and 24 buses.

The success of the trial runs would witness India take the first step towards its COP26 sustainable goals of reducing its carbon output. The next four months would be crucial to the initiative as the minister of transport and highways of India would assess the feasibility of the model and would take the decision to go electric.
Saptak Bardhan

Former Trainee Writer

Former Trainee Writer
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