Ethanol buses may be the best solution for India’s polluted cities

Ethanol buses may be the best solution for India’s polluted cities

By VINAYA DESHPANDE | NEW DELHI | 20 February, 2016
In a country which has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world, the prospect of less polluted public transport is an attractive one.
For any Indian city, the picture of a bus is incomplete without the plumes of black smoke billowing out of its exhaust pipe. But imagine a city bus which emits 90% less carbon dioxide as compared to those smoke-spewing machines. Scania’s ethanol buses promise just that. It uses 95% ethanol, and is touted as a sustainable transport mode, running on biofuel. In a country which has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world, the prospect of less polluted public transport is an attractive one.
Scania is now gearing up to manufacture 55 buses likely to be delivered to Maharashtra’s Nagpur city soon. The city already hosts a pilot project of Scania bus which runs on biofuel (95% ethanol).
The experience at Nagpur is encouraging, says Nagpur Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar. “We have been running it for the past one and a half years on a major route. Since there are no other air-conditioned buses in Nagpur, we have kept the fare normal (at the rate of a non-AC bus). The bus has received a good response here. We have also had the bus tested by the ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) and have found that it reduces the carbon footprint considerably,” he told The Sunday Guardian from Nagpur.
The bus was on display at the recent Make In India Week exhibition held in Mumbai. “People have been very curious about the bus. The idea of creating local fuel from local waste and using it for local transport is fascinating for many. It is a sustainable way of transport,” said a Scania sales executive.
The company launched its first ethanol bus way back in 1980 in Europe. Today, it has a range of products running on biofuels. Scania’s factory in Karnataka currently manufactures trucks. It will soon start manufacturing ethanol buses too.
 “Quite a few states have shown an interest in our ethanol bus. We are working on the proposals with them. At present, the challenges before us are different,” said the representative.
 
CHALLENGES
For the bus to run smoothly there has to be a steady supply chain of high quality ethanol. “It is a completely different ballgame to run hundreds of buses across the country. Here in Nagpur, they can take the responsibility of operations, fuelling and maintenance for one bus which runs for limited hours of the day. But they will have to set many processes in motion to widen the scale,” said a senior reporter from Nagpur who has covered the pilot project extensively.
When asked about the steps taken by the company for the sale of ethanol buses, the company representative said the current priority was to hold talks with fuel producing companies. “We have been talking to companies like BPCL, HPCL, and have been spreading awareness to ensure a steady supply chain of high quality ethanol,” the official said.
Also, though the company has claimed that its price and average is similar to that of a diesel bus, it may in fact be costlier than a diesel bus. The price of one ethanol bus manufactured by Scania is Rs 1.13 crore.
 
BOON FOR FARMERS 
The move to ethanol buses will be a win-win proposition for farmers whose farm waste can be utilised to produce ethanol on a large scale. “Availability of ethanol should not be a problem,” Hardikar said. Quite a few states in the country including Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh produce large-scale ethanol already. It is also used in the liquor industry.
 “Apart from helping farmers earn income from farm waste, the biofuel industry will also lead to creation of local jobs, reduce reliance on oil imports and lower emissions,” a company representative said. 
The company has claimed that use of ethanol buses reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 90%, NOx emission by 70% and particulates emission by 80%.
 

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