The Ashok Leyland Circuit-S electric bus has a seating capacity of 25-35 seats that runs on easily swappable smart batteries that are one-fourth the weight of a regular lithium-ion battery.
Although the Centre may have red-flagged the idea of swapping of batteries in order to promote expensive yet emission-free electric vehicle mobility, some state governments have come forward to adopt this technology.
Hinduja Group flagship company Ashok Leyland and Chetan Maini’s Sun Mobility have developed India’s first electric bus with battery swapping ability and a fully automated quick interchange station that can replace drained batteries with new fully charged ones without human intervention.
Transport ministers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh seemed positive about this new technology, which is also much more cost-effective than the general electric mobility solutions.
Speaking exclusively to Moneycontrol, Tamil Nadu Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar said: “We had run an electric bus in Chennai and lot of suppliers came to show us their buses. They were all with four batteries and the driving range was about 250kms or so. But these options were very expensive at around Rs 2 crore. However, the swapping mechanism presented by Ashok Leyland in collaboration with Sun Mobility is very good as it is going to be lesser weight and lesser cost. So it will be very cost effective.”
The Ashok Leyland Circuit-S electric bus has a seating capacity of 25-35 seats that runs on easily swappable smart batteries that are one-fourth the weight of a regular lithium-ion battery. These smart batteries have a range of 50-60 kms and take under four minutes to replace the drained batteries with recharged ones.
While Ashok Leyland has developed the bus, the swapping station is developed by Sun Mobility. The Maini-promoted company has committed to install several such interchange station, which it claims is easy to install and operate.
“It is an Indian innovation. The central government may have seen it not happening outside the country. This is the first time we are doing this inside the country. The idea is to change the way our public transport system works,” Vinod Dasari, managing director, Ashok Leyland, told Moneycontrol.
Handling of batteries at swapping stations of was one of the biggest worries of the central government as it requires skilled manpower with zero operational errors.
“It has not worked anywhere in the world and replacing batteries could take too long. These are two big apprehensions with the government. This solution will address both issues. Government needs to be technology agnostic,” said Chetan Maini, co-founder and vice chairman, Sun Mobility.
In its report, Niti Aayog had suggested that battery swapping is the ideal solution for India’s dense public transport system. However in November last year minister Gadkari had said that the battery swapping policy is ‘not appropriate for the country because it is a very difficult thing to do’.“We have also asked for a subsidy from the central government for 200 electric buses. This will help control pollution. We have already done a road trial of one electric bus and we are happy with it. I have met the union minister (Nitin Gadkari) and requested him for the same. We should get it and the rest we will put in from the state government,” added Vijayabhaskar.