Aanchal Jain is an accomplished leader holding a Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University and an MSc from LSE. With experience as an economist at esteemed organizations, a visiting scholar at Harvard, and a faculty member at UC Berkeley, she blends policy expertise and business acumen. She champions sustainability at PMI Electro, driving initiatives to minimize the company's carbon footprint and promote responsible manufacturing. In an interview with Industry Outlook magazine, Aanchal provided her expert analysis of the current trends shaping the electric bus manufacturing industry.
What are the critical challenges the electric bus industry faces in achieving widespread adoption, and how does the industry plan to address them?
Electric buses (e-buses) are rapidly emerging as a reliable mode of public transportation, with most State Transport Undertakings (STUs) initiating efforts to transition entirely from ICE buses to electric variants. Previously, challenges such as payment security and the availability of sufficient charging infrastructure posed obstacles for e-bus manufacturers. However, concerted efforts from both central and state governments have effectively addressed these concerns. Notably, initiatives like the Centre's PM eBus Sewa scheme and consolidated CESL tendering, complemented by state-level collaborations with e-bus manufacturers and operators, signify significant progress. Moreover, state governments are proactively allocating land parcels to facilitate the installation and operation of charging stations, ensuring seamless e-bus operations.
What role do you believe government policies and initiatives play in accelerating the growth of the electric vehicle industry, particularly for public transportation?
The government, encompassing both central and state entities, stands as a pivotal stakeholder in this ecosystem, fostering an investor-friendly environment conducive to the profitability of bus manufacturers and operators. Critical initiatives by the Central Government include issuing consolidated tenders through Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL). These consolidated tenders enable operators to optimize fleet sizes, enhancing operational efficiency. Addressing billing uncertainties, the Central Government, in collaboration with state counterparts, introduced the Payment Security Mechanism (PSM) scheme, offering crucial financial stability. A significant catalyst for the industry has been the PM eBus Sewa initiative, targeting the deployment of electric buses in tier-3 and tier-4 towns, thereby elevating public electric mobility.
"Initiatives like the Centre's PM eBus Sewa scheme and consolidated CESL tendering, complemented by state-level collaborations with e-bus manufacturers and operators, signify significant progress."
To further enhance sustainability, efforts are underway to establish solar-powered charging stations, minimizing reliance on the national grid and promoting eco-friendly e-bus operations.
How do the companies collaborate with other industry players to promote innovation and standardization in electric vehicles?
Continuous technological advancements have been driven by focused research and innovation. Embracing the philosophy of "Kaizen," the commitment to constant improvement as an e-bus manufacturer, we recognize our responsibility to contribute solutions aligned with the government's net-zero agenda. On the policy front, stringent specifications and minimal tolerance levels govern electric buses. Notably, the government engages collaboratively with industry stakeholders, fostering a synergistic approach to policy formulation. Many industry participants are pioneering innovative solutions that establish new benchmarks in areas such as safety, efficiency, and total cost of ownership.
Can you share your insights on the potential for expanding infrastructure to support the mass adoption of electric buses and its associated challenges?
Several cities, supported by state transport undertakings, are transitioning their intra-city transportation needs, creating opportunities for e-bus operators to establish depots and charging infrastructure. Extending this infrastructure to highways will facilitate the deployment of e-buses on inter-city routes. As the phased replacement of ICE buses progresses, there will be a growing demand for strategically located infrastructure across existing routes to ensure seamless operations. Much like petrol stations, strategically positioned charging infrastructure along highways is crucial. This enhancement will significantly accelerate the adoption of e-buses, especially considering the numerous inter-city buses awaiting modernization across the country.
What strategies does the electric vehicle industry employ to enhance battery technology and charging infrastructure tailored explicitly for electric buses?
It's essential to recognize that battery technology is continuously advancing, emphasizing efficiency, longevity, compactness, and cost-effectiveness. With the government's support and incentives, domestic manufacturing could significantly elevate performance across these parameters. India's identified lithium reserves further bolster the supply chain, paving the way for enhanced solutions. To promote sustainable transportation, a phased transition is imperative. This entails powering charging stations with renewable energy sources like solar power, moving away from conventional grid-based consumption.