Electric buses are being adopted increasingly across the world - in China, Europe, North America, and, more recently, in Indian cities. The 12th Bus Karo workshop, hosted by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in partnership with the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF), and with support from the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and FedEx, provided guidance and international perspectives on how Indian cities can successfully transition to electric buses. The goal was to outline the rationale for and elements involved in implementing electric bus projects, at a pivotal time in the country’s efforts to promote electric mobility.
The CFF co-created the agenda of the workshop, leveraging C40 and CFF expertise in supporting the delivery of electric bus projects around the world. CFF experts shared initial findings and lessons learned from Mexico City, as were examples from London, Eindhoven, and Los Angeles. The C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative recently published a report on how electric buses are being introduced in cities around the world, including detailed information on business models and the current market.
This 12th edition of Bus Karo (a WRI initiative bringing together Indian bus operators and municipal agencies), titled ‘Strategising electric bus operations in Indian cities’, came at a crossroads in the transition to electric buses in the country. The Indian government selected 11 cities, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Jaipur, to receive a USD $150,000 subsidy per unit for the procurement of 390 buses. The bidding process is now complete, and municipal corporations across the country are expected to start operating electric buses before the end of 2018.
In the workshop, CFF experts covered a number of topics. This included early insights from analyses on vehicle technology and institutional framework for Mexico City’s Eje 8 Sur, where the CFF is supporting the development of an electric bus corridor project. Similar experiences from London were also presented, focusing on the need for interoperability and how that influenced the choice of technology. They also emphasised how electric buses are only a piece of the public transport puzzle, and that their successful deployment will require investment in supporting infrastructure and partnerships with numerous stakeholders, including some who have never been involved in mobility projects, such as utilities (e.g. Los Angeles).
Several challenges to widescale implementation of electric bus projects in India remain. These include often inconsistent and unclear federal policies, variance in maturity and competence between bus agencies, a legacy of underinvestment in public transport and a corresponding lack of supporting infrastructure such as dedicated bus lanes, a broader lack of information on electric bus technology performance – particularly at higher temperatures - and project management structures – specifically on how best to create a stable, functioning ecosystem of old and new stakeholders.
However, the opportunities are enormous. Not only can the adoption of electric buses spur an increase in investment in (and professionalisation of) public transport systems, but also address the serious issue of air quality in India, where currently a majority of the world’s most polluted cities are located. The CFF will continue its engagement in India over the coming years to ensure a successful implementation of electric bus projects.