Tata Motors has conducted a third on-road trial of its all-electric buses, and the first one in Eastern India. As part of the trial, the company plied its Ultra Electric automatic (9m) bus in Guwahati, and was used as a free service for participants of the FIFA U-17 World Cup during the seven-day period between October 16 and 23. The bus has maximum seating capacity of 34 passengers, and alongside being all-electric, is also equipped with a fully automatic transmission to improve the driving conditions on congested roads.
Tata Motors has previously showed its line of low pollution commercial vehicles, beginning with the Tata Starbus Hybrid that I drove in the company's test track in Pune. The first commercial vehicle to ply under Tata's stable was the Starbus Hybrid, which could travel at peak speeds of around 80kph, while improving emission norms. The Tata Ultra Electric bus, which was then a production-ready concept, is now being tested on Indian roads as part of the Government's push towards electrifying cars in India and focusing on smart cities. The Ultra Electric bus is equipped with brake energy regeneration, which will improve the overall driving range in the long run. In Tata's first test held between Parwanoo and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, the Tata Ultra Electric showed total driving range of 160km in one charge cycle, which is fairly decent and may imply two full route cycles for intracity routes.
Dr. A.K. Jindal, Head of Tata Motors' Engineering Research Centre, stated, "These buses qualify for the subsidy under revised FAME scheme which will give a big boost to the electrification of public transport. We have conducted trials all across the country to understand the local city requirements and fine-tune to bus specifications to offer most economical mobility solution and we have been receiving positive response to our trails." While Volvo already has its 8400 Hybrid low-floor city bus commuting under charter with the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) authority, Tata Motors will look to gain its share in plying the all-electric buses on Indian roads, following trials.
The new electric buses are equipped with smart city-ready technologies, including automatic ticketing/smart card system, rear view camera, in-seat charging port and PA systems, most of which are modular and can be fitted as per requirement. With the government increasingly focusing on smart cities and electric vehicles, it remains to be seen how soon we see one of Tata's electric buses plying full time on Indian roads.