Ashok Leyland to make electric buses in India

CHENNAI, Oct 15:  After the successful run in the UK, Hinduja Group flagship company Ashok Leyland will introduce an electric version of Optare buses in India early next year and plans to make them here, a top official said today.
The company holds a majority stake in Optare PLC, UK.
“The UK government with its green fund scheme really supported Optare and that has allowed Optare to innovate more and come up with newer technologies. Today it is one of the world leaders in terms of electric and hybrid buses. And learning from that technology, we would like to bring that technology to India and manufacture those buses in India for the Indian market,” Ashok Leyland Managing Director Vinod K Dasari told reporters here.
“We will do that (manufacturing) next year. We will first showcase them at the Bus Expo in January 22, at Delhi,” he said, on when the buses would be locally produced in India.
The company will consider the plant at Alwar, Rajasthan, or the one in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, Dasari added. It has bus manufacturing facility at both the locations.
“We are also considering whether we should make use of our facility in the Middle East. In fact, we have already showcased our product in the Middle East,” he said.
The company would sell the buses in India under the Ashok Leyland badge, Dasari said.
It has invested about 25 million pound in Optare, UK. “We will probably have to do investments in electric and battery handling capabilities. The bus itself will not require substantial investments other than the tooling to make the structure.”
The company has been selling about 100 Optare buses a year in the UK market.
On the type of buses to be made in India, Dasari said: “We will first look at Solo and Versa models of Optare. Those will be the first ones to be made in India. Optare recently launched one of the world’s lightest double decker metro called MetroDecker.
“In India, we are the only ones who manufacture double decker buses. So we are learning from that.”
He said the buses would have electric motors and batteries and does not have engines. “We have a diesel variant also. Hybrid version has a smaller diesel engine and its connected to electric drive. The diesel engine buses will be made by us. The electric motor and the batteries will be imported from UK, US or from China,” he said.
Electric Vehicle market is very small in India, Dasari said but added that when the company brought CNG buses in the country 20 years ago, there was no market for that at all.
“We are the market leader and you have to do things to lead. We have to lead and say that electric and hybrid vehicles are the future,” he said.
The buses would be run only for state governments, he said, adding that once charged, the vehicles would be able run for 200 km. “Cost of buses will be around Rs 2-3 crore. It is only made for State governments and for tarmac applications where these buses can be run inside the airport.”
Capacity is not a constraint as the company can make buses as per demand, Dasari said, adding that several state governments have shown interest in these buses.
“We have talked to several state governments. Many state governments have shown interest. The Ministry of Heavy Industries is very keen on pursuing electric vehicles. That is why we will be showcasing it in January (2015)”, he said.
“Basically, this is to say we are ready for the government. Which ever state government wants we can make. If the state government is keen on CNG buses, we can make… If they are keen on ethanol buses we can make it”, he said.
On support Optare received from United Kingdom, he said that government had contributed about 1.5 million pounds.
“There is an National Electric Mobility Programme (in India) which allows us to bring electric parts at discounted rate but it not like the one offered by UK government,” he said. (PTI)

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