Monday, May 16, 2005

Eco-friendly transport system for Delhi

New Delhi is preparing for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. With transport infrastructure creaking despite the metro, new alternatives are being sought. Electric buses are one of the transport options being thought of.

In a move that found its way to posts on Green Car Congress and Worldchanging (and lots of discussion groups), central minister for S&T announced that Bangalore based Reva was being considered for providing 16-seater battery-cum-solar powered transport buses for a transport solution to ease congestion in the capital city.

The proposed size of the order for Reva is around Rs 260 million, in addition to which, "the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has offered to fund further research for developing a 20 and 32-seater bus prototype, as also three-wheelers, through the Technology Development Board."

The good news is, it appears that Reva might not be the only contender for an electric future for mass transit in Delhi. BHEL has been making electric buses and vans (Electravan) for years, though a comparison with the Reva product is not available.

IIT-Delhi however appears to have come up with an interesting solution: convert the 9000 discarded diesel buses to diesel-electric hybrids. Working on a Rs 56 million grant from the petroleum ministry, the battery operated bus can carry 150 people, has a top speed of 65 kmph and can cover 160 km at a go, and does not generate vibration, noise, heat or emissions (as long as it is run on electricity). The battery has a life of 25 years, and is charged using an on-board diesel motor (thats why they call it a hybrid).

Now for the finances. A new bus using this technology would cost Rs 2.1 million. A diesel bus costs just Rs 1.4 million, whereas a CNG bus would cost at least Rs 1.6 million. Not sure about the fuel charges, but if you use the grid to charge the batteries, the charges will be pretty low. The Reva bus runs at Rs 1.20 per km, though it is just a 16 seater. What does it cost? Rs 2.6 million (more than the IIT-D bus that can carry many, many more people).

Of course there is a difference between technology demostration and commercialization, but Delhi could do well with a combination of solutions to start with, and decide on the actual path once they stabilize.