Electric buses in Maharashtra: Lessons from interviews and recommendations for future rollout in India

Fleets Zero-emission vehicles
Clean air
Emissions control

Although only three new electric buses were registered in India in 2015, that grew to 1,176 new electric buses registered in the year 2021 alone. Some transit authorities in India have been operating electric buses for a few years now and innovative procurement models and schedules that accommodate the longer refueling time for electric buses are already being developed and used. This report captures the experiences from three Indian cities that adopted electric buses early: Mumbai, Pune, and Navi Mumbai. These cities represent about 42% of the electric buses already operating in India and they were obtained using both outright purchase and gross cost contract models. Taking information gleaned from interviews with 21 representatives from transit authorities and private bus operators, the authors identify key experiences and lessons from the electric bus rollouts. The report also draws from international best practices to make specific recommendations for the future.

Results show that electric buses are reliable. We see that transit authorities are already experiencing the numerous benefits that electric buses offer, including zero tailpipe emissions, fewer maintenance requirements, and better driver and passenger experience. Thus, cities need not utilize transient technologies like hybrid buses and can instead transition to electric buses directly. To streamline the transition to full electric bus operations, the authors suggest fleet-wide strategies, which can be based on fleet turnover, available technologies, models available in the market, and economics. These plans can be reviewed regularly to account for the development of the technology and can be made comprehensive by including infrastructure planning, especially identification of depot locations. Such strategies would also send a market signal to manufacturers and help them to be more confident in future demand.

image of a pull quote from the paper which says: We have maintenance staff working in three shifts of 8 hours each. Thus, we have people working around the clock on maintenance activities of ICE buses. Interestingly, the operator has only seven technicians for maintaining about 100 electric buses, mostly working at night.” — DEEPAK WALUNJKAR, DEPOT MANAGER, PMPML