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Calcutta makes rapid strides in replacing diesel public buses with electric ones

A global study says the city has electrified 4.7 per cent of its buses and is ranked third after Shanghai which has electrified its entire fleet

Anasuya Basu Calcutta Published 08.03.21, 02:27 AM
An Electric bus seen on a Kolkata street.

An Electric bus seen on a Kolkata street. Shutterstock

The city has made rapid strides in its programme to replace its diesel driven public buses with electric ones.

A global study says Calcutta has electrified 4.7 per cent of its buses and is ranked third after Shanghai which has electrified its entire fleet and Santiago which has electrified 8 per cent of its fleet.


Calcutta is followed by London (2.2 per cent), Izmir in Turkey (1.3 per cent). In terms of the actual number of buses electrified, the city is fourth at 80 buses below Shenzen, Santiago at 776 buses and London 376.
Electrification of buses, a mass rapid transport, is one of the key solutions to the common urban problems of pollution and congestion. Rapid advances in technology, with electric buses improving range, power and reliability are encouraging cities around the world to electrify their buses.

In the next five years, almost a million electric buses are expected to be on the road, according to the 2021 edition of EV City Casebook, published by Urban Foresight, a smart city consultancy group, IEA, an energy research organisation, Electric Vehicles Initiative, and HEV TCP (Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technology Collaboration Programme), a multi-government forum.

While the number of registered e-buses globally stood at 136,000 in 2019, it was 425,000 in 2020 and is projected to be 835,200 by 2026.

The market is still relatively immature and there are technical and operational challenges, such as the capital cost of the buses. “Many cities have invested in legacy diesel buses, and have a mix of public and private bus providers,” said Tata Energy Research Institute fellow Alekhya Datta who took part in the case study.

Talking about the Calcutta experience, Datta said: “The city is now also taking a lead role to introduce electric buses for public transport. With a complex mix of existing transport systems, the city was keen to ensure that new forms of transport integrated with old."

“So these routes were designed to connect with ferries, trams and passenger rail to create seamless multi-modal transportation in the city – ultimately leading to faster uptake by the public.”

Calcutta will further augment its e-bus fleet by driving up its intake further with future contracts issued by the city’s transport authority requiring providers to use electric or CNG buses.

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