New Delhi: After hybrid cars, get ready for hybrid buses. Swedish auto maker Volvo Bus Corp. believes India is ready for hybrid buses and is working on starting trials in the local market.
“We are in discussions where we would like to bring the buses to India as soon as possible for exhibitions and discussions,” said Edward Jobson, environmental director, Volvo Bus Corp.
The company could start offering test rides to prospective customers next summer, he said.
Hybrid buses, which run on both a diesel engine and electric batteries, typically emit half the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by diesel buses.
However, they are also around one-and-a-half times more expensive. This has resulted in transport companies across the world being wary of making them a part of their fleets.
“This is a new concept and we’ll have to see how it develops,” said Sugato Sen, senior director general at industry lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. “While state transport undertakings may not be very interested initially, there could be a market among long-distance operators and hotels.”
But Volvo, which has secured an order to sell hybrid buses to Sales-Lentz, a Luxembourg-based bus operator, says that this perception is changing. Lower costs in operating these buses would mean operators could recover their costs in five-seven years, it claims. Running costs are between 30% and 35% lower, according to Volvo.
The firm said it is in discussions with the urban development ministry on how the government can make it viable for state transport undertakings to run these buses.
“Government support would be required in the initial first step,” said Akash Passey, managing director of Volvo Buses India.
He declined to provide details on the kind of support the bus maker is looking at.
The company initially plans to import the buses as none of the key components of hybrid vehicles such as the battery pack and electrical motor are made in India. These components are difficult to localize, according to Jobson. “They’re global products in the automotive world,” he said.
The company declined to talk about when the buses could be assembled in India. “It’s too early to talk about assembly,” said Passey.
However, Passey hinted that Volvo could look at making the buses in India. “We must remember that every bus Volvo sells in India at present is made in the country,” he said.
“The government’s intention is to always work on localizing technology, but they could make an exception for public transport vehicles especially when they have to be imported in a completely built up form,” said V.G. Ramakrishnan, senior director, automotive and transportation practice at consultancy firm Frost and Sullivan.
Heavy industries minister Vilasrao Deshmukh recently said that his ministry would ask the government to reduce duties on hybrid vehicles when it presents the next budget.