ABB to electrify Indian buses

Flash charge: The technology could help India save 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, even as the country seeks to reduce its Rs.8 lakh crore annual crude import bill.— FILE PHOTO:REUTERS  

Swiss power and automation technology group ABB has drawn up plans for India to become a fully electric vehicle nation by 2030, including an offer to supply electric buses that can be charged within 15 seconds.

India has plans to convert around 1.5 lakh diesel buses run by state transport corporations into electric buses in a bid to reduce its Rs.8 lakh crore annual crude oil import bill and check pollution, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had said last year.

With no overhead lines, the electric buses by ABB connect to a high-power charging contact at bus stations through its controlled moving arm. It is equipped with on-board batteries and gets charged at various ‘flash-charging’ bus stations within 15 seconds.

At the terminals, buses can be fully charged within five minutes and can help save up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions ever year, compared with existing diesel buses.

Power boost

Come December, a new line of such buses will replace some of the diesel buses in Geneva with flash-charging connection technology taking less than a second to connect the bus to the charging point at 13 bus stops with a 600-kilowatt power boost.

ABB has partnered with Geneva’s public transport operator TGP, the Office of Promotion of Industries and Technologies and Geneva power Utility SIG to develop a fleet of 12 such electric buses, also known as TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Systeme Alimentation) connecting 14 kilometre distance from Geneva’s airport to its sub-urban beginning December this year.

When asked about the potential of TOSA buses in India, ABB’s chief executive officer (CEO) Ulrich Spiesshofer said: “We are working with potential customers all around the globe and India is definitely the target market for sustainable transport.”

“We look at India at a long-term perspective. India has steep ambitions for electric vehicles till 2030 and altogether we are a long-term partner,” Mr. Spiesshofer said.

“The bus wastes no time as the on-board batteries get charged within 15 seconds while passengers are boarding and de-boarding the bus. The idea is to utilise the bus station space by using it as charging points and operate them at par with the diesel fleet,” said Bruce Warner, Global Product Specialist for rail and urban transportation at ABB.

Mr. Warner added that the bus system is safe as the voltage is only released when the bus is connected for charging at the bus stations. “So, even if someone climbs up on the bus station, he won’t get any electric shock. It’s totally safe,” he said.

ABB has a tie-up with Volvo Buses, which operate in 13 cities across the country, to co-develop and commercialise electric and hybrid buses with fast charging systems.

ABB India Managing Director Sanjeev Sharma had said in August that the Union government has agreed to his request for operating the electric buses with flash-charging facility on a pilot-basis. Mr. Gadkari had said that ticket fares can be halved on electric buses as these can be charged at night, when excess electricity available at as low as Rs.3.5 per unit equivalent to one litre of fuel which may range between Rs. 50-60.

The National Electricity Mission Plan 2020 had identified the need to build rapid charging points at prominent bus stops in India to eliminate the need for large batteries. It had, however, said a pilot projects needs to be rolled out to see the viability of its operations on a large scale as it costs five times the cost of normal charging stations.

It had said that the likely potential demand for electric buses in India will be in the range of 2,300-2,700 units by 2020.

(The correspondent was invited by ABB to attend its Swiss Icon Tour 2016 in Switzerland)

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