Kerala: Minister Ganesh Kumar's stand on e-buses to slow down govt’s green push

Transport Minister's reversal on EVs challenges state's eco-friendly transit goals
Transport Minister K B Ganesh Kumar behind the wheels of an electric double-decker bus of the KSRTC before a 
test drive in Thiruvananthapuram.
Transport Minister K B Ganesh Kumar behind the wheels of an electric double-decker bus of the KSRTC before a test drive in Thiruvananthapuram.(Photo | Vincent Pulickal, EPS)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Transport Minister K B Ganesh Kumar’s U-turn on electric vehicles goes against the state’s electric vehicle policy which makes an aggressive push for electric vehicles in public transport.

The electric vehicle policy of 2019 emphasises that the entire fleet of KSRTC shall move into electric vehicles by 2025. The policy highlights the cost-effectiveness of electric vehicles in reducing fuel cost and maintenance in the long run. It looked like a difficult task considering the fact that the KSRTC currently has less than 150 electric buses. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also affirmed his commitment to the electric vehicle policy for the sake of environment at an international conference last year.

The industries and power departments have also taken steps to promote the ecosystem for electric vehicles in accordance with the policy.

However, Ganesh Kumar is not convinced about the viability of electric buses in KSRTC. A day after he made it clear that he would not encourage any more purchase of electric vehicles in KSRTC and Motor Vehicles Department, he reiterated his stand during the launch of an electric double-decker bus on Thursday.

According to him, diesel buses are less costly and can be redeployed in high ranges where KSRTC makes more money. Most of the electric vehicles purchased are used for city operations in Thiruvananthapuram under the Smart City project. According to reliable sources, KSRTC has already started inquiries with diesel bus makers. They said that a plan to wet-lease electric vehicles has also been shelved.

The minister’s decision comes at a time when most of the state road transport corporations are purchasing electric buses. “Three hundred electric buses are operating in Bengaluru. The ticket price ranges from Rs 5-25. The cost comes to just Rs 6 per unit. It takes one unit to run a kilometre,” said an officer of an electric bus manufacturer. According to him, states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Telangana have recently made bulk purchases.

Ganesh’s contention that electric buses make less revenue has been contested by KSRTC officials. According to them, KSRTC electric buses operating in Thiruvananthapuram make a revenue of close to Rs 7,000 per day. “The other buses also make similar revenue. Unlike electric vehicles, diesel buses also incur huge losses in terms of earnings per kilometre,” said an officer.

Dijo Kappan, a consumer activist, said diesel vehicles are more expensive when compared to electric vehicles in the long run.

“A diesel bus costs Rs 26 to run one kilometre. But an electric vehicle costs just Rs 6. So despite the initial cost, electric buses are clear winners,” said Dijo Kappan. He also criticised the move to increase the fare of city circular service. “The state has the highest ticket fare in the country. There will not be any public transport in the next five years if the fares are kept high. The rates shall be reduced to encourage people to take bus rides,” he said.

Khaki returns

KSRTC has changed the colour of the employees’ uniform to khaki from blue. The new uniform will bear the emblem of KSRTC and employee identity. The minister distributed khaki uniforms to the employees at the event held in Anayara

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