The impact of the electric buses introduced recently in Kolkata, which were expected to reshape the future of urban mobility in the ‘City of Joy’, has been blunted because of a dearth of charging stations, in and around Kolkata, severely curtailing the number of services that these vehicles can operate in a day.
The state government had rolled out 40 electric buses phase-wise, from the month of February. The routes of these buses were planned strategically by the state transport authorities, focussing on routes with high demand.
The e-vehicles have been well received by the commuters of the city, particularly long-distance travellers. However, the operation of these environment-friendly bus services has been anything but smooth, due to insufficient number of charging stations, in and around the city.
For instance, for a bus plying from Tollygunge area to NSCB airport, the only charging options available are at the Lake Bus Depot.
“A fully charged electric bus plying between Kudghat in South Kolkata to the Airport is unable to make a round trip as around 75 to 80 per cent charge is consumed while completing one trip,” informed a driver of the route. “An electric bus on this route is supposed to do at least three round trips every day,” added an official of the transport department. “However, as 75 per cent charge is consumed in making a one-way trip from Kudghat to Airport, an electric bus starting in the morning is hardly able to make one round trip and has to be brought back to the Lake Bus Depot to be charged for three hours before making another trip,” he pointed out. As there are no charging stations at the airport, the authorities in such circumstances are left with no options but to engage a non-electric air-conditioned bus for the return journey, considering the huge demand from commuters.
Similar problems were reported by drivers of e-buses plying between Jadavpur and Behala.
The e-buses plying on this comparatively short route are supposed to make four trips per day. However, despite plying on a short route, most of the time, the charge runs out during a single round trip and the bus has to be kept on charge for three hours thereafter. The whole procedure results in fewer number of trips ~ a maximum of two round trips per day for each bus, informed a driver of the route. The three hours required for completing the charge in an e-bus, is too long and affects the total amount of revenue that can be earned, said some of the conductors of the route.
The problems faced in charging the buses plying between South Kolkata and airport, according to the officials of the state transport department, is mainly because of unavailability of land for setting up a charging station. “We have requested the airport authorities to allow us a space for setting up charging stations at the airport bus depot, but their response is still awaited,” said a senior official of the transport department. “There are plans to set up 17 charging stations in and around the city and work on the project is underway. The problem is being addressed and is expected to be resolved in a month or two,” he added.