Setback for e-mobility as BMTC, transport department plans in limbo

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A year after Karnataka became the first state in India to have an e-vehicle policy, the initiative to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and cut down on pollution appears to have lost steam.

The HD Kumaraswamy government has gone slow on the previous government’s ‘Electric vehicle and energy storage policy, 2017’ that aimed to promote manufacture and use of electric vehicles in Karnataka.

While Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s (BMTC) plan to induct 150 e-buses has been delayed, with transport minister DC Thammanna still ‘studying’ it, the transport department’s proposal to set up 100 charging points across the city too has been put into cold storage.

Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) too has reduced the number of proposed electric vehicle charging stations from 200 to 123. Battery-operated rickshaws or e-rickshaws are yet to hit city roads with the transport department and traffic police not having arrived at a consensus.

The Karnataka government’s initial enthusiasm for electric vehicles was almost too good to be true, and perhaps that should have been a sign of things to come. While it even drafted a policy, things aren’t moving on the ground as quickly as they should have. While many governments, including those in the Middle East, and automobile companies are backing e-vehicles to the hilt, the Karnataka government seems to be losing steam. It’s high time all stakeholders got on the same page and gave the much-needed push to ensure we don’t lose the initial momentum so early in the game.

Though induction of electric buses would have meant some relief for BMTC, which is bleeding after the diesel price hike, the proposal is waiting for the transport minister’s nod. This despite the corporation conducting a trial run in 2014 and its board giving an approval in 2016 to induct 150 battery-operated buses.

State transport corporations of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Manali and Kolkata have already inducted electric buses. While BMTC’s board decided to lease electric buses instead of purchasing them as the capital cost involved is Rs 2-3 crore per bus, the transport minister appears keen to purchase them.

Fewer charging stations

Sources in the transport department said they may shelve the proposal to set up 100 charging stations in the city. The state budget for 2018-19 had allocated Rs 4 crore to set up these units. Sources say the project was put on the back burner after then transport commissioner Naveen Raj Singh was transferred.

Current transport commissioner VP Ikkeri was unavailable for comments. Bescom officials said they have already set up the first charging station in its corporate head office at KR Circle.

E-rickshaws yet to ply in city

While e-rickshaws ply as shared autorickshaws in most cities for first and last-mile connectivity, Bengaluru is yet to have such battery-run vehicles. Traffic cops fear these slow-moving vehicles would add to Bengaluru’s traffic woes. However, the transport department has given its nod for these vehicles on the grounds that they are eco-friendly. Currently, e-rickshaws are allowed in all districts of Karnataka except Bengaluru.

The Karnataka government’s initial enthusiasm for electric vehicles was almost too good to be true, and perhaps that should have been a sign of things to come. While it even drafted a policy, things aren’t moving on the ground as quickly as they should have.

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