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Electric Buses Earn 82% More Profit Than Diesel Daily

Deepa Padmanaban,
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Electric buses generate 27% more revenue and 82% more profits than diesel buses per day, according to an Indian Institute of Science (IISc) study evaluating electric vehicles for urban transport.


The findings have special significance because primary mass transit in Indian cities is provided by 150,000 diesel buses, held responsible for contributing to urban smog and carbon emissions that are warming the planet.


As much as 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission can be cut every year for every diesel bus replaced by an electric bus, said the IISC study, conducted by Sheela Ramasesha and her group at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bangalore. Electric buses emit no CO2, but the electricity needed for their charging stations comes primarily from coal-fired power plants, India’s primary energy source.


However, if solar panels are set up at battery charging stations of electric buses, the annual 25 tonnes of CO2 emission per bus can be further reduced. Put another way, if 150,000 diesel buses were to be replaced by electric buses, 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved.


Apart from reducing outdoor air pollution—which kills 670,000 people in India every year, according to this Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad paper—a clean bus system would aid national carbon-reduction targets. Transport accounts for a tenth of India’s greenhouse gas emissions, as we reported here, with a 2009 study attributing 95% of these emissions to road transport.


India is now the world’s fastest-growing major polluter, as we noted here, contributing to almost a third of global emissions growth in 2014.


Electric bus tested made environmental and economic sense


Using a Chinese-built electric bus provided for a three-month free test run to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC)—India’s largest and most-efficiently run bus fleet—Ramasesha and her colleagues ran their tests on a pre-existing route with an average daily travel of less than 200 km (the bus’ battery could run 215 km before recharge).


They compared economics and environmental impact of the electric bus with a diesel bus on the same route over a period of 93 days in 2015.




The electric bus was not just cleaner for the environment but also made economic sense. The revenue generated by both buses was almost the same while profits, as we said, were 82% higher. This is because the maintenance and variable costs of the electric bus are lower than its diesel cousin and its energy efficiency is higher.



The only downside of the electric bus is its relatively high price (Rs 30,000,000 vs Rs 8,500,000 for a diesel bus), which could reduce if electric buses are manufactured in India. The bus used for the tests was imported from China.


The electric bus was an easy winner, emitting about 50 kg less CO2 per day than the diesel bus. The diesel bus emitted 77 tonnes of CO2 every year.


The role of diesel heavy vehicles in carbon emission


Diesel-powered buses and trucks contribute higher CO2 than lighter motor vehicles powered by petrol, this study in the journal Atmospheric Environment reported in 2009.


Source: Emissions from India’s transport sector: State-wise synthesis


In 2010, India and 21 other Asian countries committed to more sustainable transport fuels and technologies, “low-carbon transport initiatives to mitigate the causes of global climate change and to fortify national energy security”.


Despite the high initial investment, the absence of tailpipe exhaust fumes, silent running, and lower idling motor energy losses at bus stops or traffic signals could make the electric bus one of those technological options for urban India.


(Padmanaban is a Bangalore-based journalist)


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  1. Abijit Aji Reply

    March 21, 2016 at 9:09 am

    The capex has to be amortised. The math is wrong here.

  2. Y.D. Yadav Reply

    March 21, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Congrats to the IISC research team! Special thanks to the writer and IndiaSpend for developmental journalism.

  3. sameera Reply

    March 23, 2016 at 10:52 am

    150,000 buses don’t operate in cities. That is the number of buses owned by state corporations that also ply inter-city routes. Urban buses are less than 30,000 and in cities like Delhi they run on CNG. But there is no doubting the lower pollution that small number of buses cause!

  4. LS Reply

    March 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Is the comparison of emissions after taking into account the emissions from the electricity production at the thermal power stations and other power sources that supply electricity to the respective cities? If so, is this the average for all cities in India since different cities will source power differently? Does it take into account T&D losses and add that to the calculations, This is a significant factor since T&D losses are high.

  5. LS Reply

    March 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Another aspect is the battery. What is the environmental impact of the batteries compared to those in diesel buses. Do electric buses need more frequent battery change? A solar-electric bus would also need batteries (perhaps more frequently changed than in diesel buses?) but the footprint of the power stations required to produce the electricity is eliminated.

    In short, is the comparison on the life cycle impact or is it only the actual emission from the buses in which case, the whole life cycle of power production and storage should be considered.

  6. Steve Hansen Reply

    March 30, 2016 at 1:09 am

    To call this a “study” is ridiculous.

    1) All of the data is based on one brand new electric bus provided by the bus manufacturer. Was it a standard road vehicle, or a “special” bus they use for tests? The study doesn’t say.

    2) All that is mentioned is the diesel bus used in the study was a legacy bus. Was it 5 years old, 10, 15? What emissions standard did it adhere too? Being it was a legacy bus, what was its service history? The study doesn’t say.

    3) As Kamil Kaluski noted in his critcial analyis of the “study”, most importantly, the study completely ignores several important cost factors. The overhead and capital costs associated with running and maintaining a fleet of electric buses is completely omitted.

    Also omitted is the recharge time and charging locations. To accommodate an electric bus fleet, significant capital improvements would need to be made to any existing bus facilities. Charging stations would need to be added in garages, along the bus routes, and/or route terminals. The amount of charging stations and their locations would vary greatly by route length, charge time, vehicle quantity, and the maximum range of the electric buses.

    Likewise, service and maintenance facilities would need to be suited toward electric vehicles with power connections. Personnel working in those facilities would need to be trained to work on electric buses or additional personnel would need to be hired. The cost of these capital improvements would be immensely significant, especially from an ROI point of view, and the study did not address it at all.

    4) In a brilliant move, however, the amount of money each bus accumulated in fares was included.

    To compare a brand new electric bus to an older diesel bus is bad enough. But to omit the basic expenses required in operating an electrical system is utterly ridiculous.

    Steve Hansen – Diesel Technology Forum

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