TN to launch trial of LNG buses in Chennai, aims to cut fuel costs

Following approval from the state government, TNSTC (Villupuram) and MTC have been allocated one bus each for conversion from diesel to LNG.
An LNG-fuelled bus can approximately cover 850-900km on a 180-kg cryogenic tank filled to full capacity
An LNG-fuelled bus can approximately cover 850-900km on a 180-kg cryogenic tank filled to full capacity(Photo | Express)

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu transport department is set to launch the trial of two buses powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in Chennai soon. The Villupuram division of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) will introduce one bus on a mofussil route and the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) will deploy another on a city route.

If the trial is successful, the project can be expanded enabling the eight cash-strapped transport corporations to cut fuel expenses compared to conventional diesel buses while offering commuters more comfortable travel.

Following approval from the state government, TNSTC (Villupuram) and MTC have been allocated one bus each for conversion from diesel to LNG.

Official sources told TNIE the conversion of buses to LNG is currently underway in Villupuram and Chennai. “Our current target for diesel mileage is 5.7km per litre, but we have achieved around 5.68km so far. We have also been informed that travel comfort would be improved with LNG. Only after completing the trial can we determine if it is truly feasible for large-scale bus operations,” said an official from TNSTC (Villupuram). The official added that pollution levels of LNG buses are less compared to diesel buses.

As per industry sources, an LNG bus can cover approximately 850-900km with a 180-kg cryogenic tank filled to full capacity. However, this can vary depending on the number of commuters transported on each trip.

“The transport corporations could not maintain the mileage of 5.7km per litre of diesel due to overcrowding of buses during peak hours. Factors including road conditions, crowding and other maintenance expenses will also be considered during trial,” the official noted.

According to official data, the transport department’s annual expenditure for FY 2022-23 stood at Rs 16,985 crore, with fuel costs alone constituting 28.35% of it, at Rs 5,194.68 crore. Fuel costs accounted for 15-18% of total expenses during FY 2018-19. Moreover, during FY 2022-23, the average daily loss incurred by all eight transport corporations in the state stood at Rs 15 crore.

Hike in fuel prices a major loss factor for transport corpns

The losses of transport undertakings are primarily attributed to increasing expenses related to fuel, maintenance, wage revisions, and other factors. The price of diesel was Rs 63.5 per litre in January 2018, when bus ticket prices were raised, and it stands at Rs 93/litre now. However, the cost of tickets remain unchanged.

To reduce pollution levels, the state government proposed to replace 3,313 BSIV buses with BSVI buses, and also decided to purchase 500 zero-emission electric buses last year. While over 600 BSVI buses have already been procured, the process for the remaining buses is in various stages of progress. With a fleet capacity of 19,500 buses, the eight transport undertakings in the state cater to about 1.7 crore commuters every day.

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