Home Interviews We plan to enter public transportation through e-vehicles

We plan to enter public transportation through e-vehicles

We plan to enter public transportation through e-vehicles

Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi is known for following astute corporate governance practices across his businesses, and for pioneering a series of firsts in business – including transforming white collar productivity with Modi Xerox and pioneering mobile telephony improvements with Modi Telstra and Spice Telecom. He is known for bringing the latest technologies into India by forging partnerships with industry leaders like Xerox, Alcatel, Telstra, Olivetti, Telekom Malaysia and Singapore Telemedia, amongst others. Dr. Modi has a global footprint across India, ASEAN, China, Africa, USA and the UK. Along with e-vehicles, his fund is currently investing in areas like clean energy, smart cities and healthcare.

Dr Modi was recently in India to unveil the first-of-its-kind electric bus manufacturing facility at ModiCiti next to Muradabad. HUNED CONTRACTOR interacted with Dr Modi to know more on his new concept of Smart Dreams and his plans on e-vehicles. Excerpts:

Could you elaborate on Smart Dreams?

It is a conscious attempt to provide affordable, completely pollution-free, world-class transportation on Indian roads. An eight-year study, from 2008-2015, conducted by IIT-Roorkee, University of Minnesota, US and University of Surrey, UK has shown that emissions from vehicles in Delhi have increased up to three times between 1991 and 2011; these could rise by up to 19 times by 2020. The study projected greater pollution from buses. Taxis and cars (30-34 per cent) were found to be producing the highest CO2 emissions during 2011 to 2015. There is a likelihood that buses could dominate in the years after 2015.

Smart Dreams aims to take a lead in the pure-electric vehicles segment by being the first and only Indian corporation to delve into production of pure-electric vehicles, with a primary focus on public transportation. We plan to enter public transportation through e-bus and e-taxi with such offerings. To fulfill this vision, Smart Dreams has tied up with BYD (Build Your Dreams) Auto Industry Co Ltd, the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, and an investee company of investment guru Warren Buffett. BYD has set up an electric bus manufacturing plant in southern California in 2014 and has a contract to supply electric buses to Los Angeles County. In the past two years, its electric buses or cars have gone into service from Montevideo (Uruguay) to Jakarta.

What has been BYD’s track record?

BYD Company Ltd is one of the world’s largest companies in the electric vehicle space and the largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. Specialising in pure-electric vehicles, their green mission to “solve the whole problem” has made them industry pioneers and leaders in several high-tech sectors including high-efficiency automobiles, electrified public transportation, environment-friendly energy storage, affordable solar power and information technology. In 2015, BYD sold the most renewable energy-powered vehicles in the world, marking its presence in 190 cities across 43 countries. BYD and all of their shareholders, including the great American investor Warren Buffett, see these environmentally and economically forward products as the way of the future. BYD has made a strong entrance to the North, Central and South American markets with their battery electric buses and line-up of automobiles.

Has there been a trial for this e-bus project?

Given the rising concern about pollution and public health in the Indian capital, and to realise the government’s vision of a clean and pollution-free India, Smart Dreams is one of the first automobile industry player to display its commitment and offer two pure-electric buses to the Delhi government for free trial. These buses are currently being tested on a commercial route pre-allocated by the Delhi Transport Corporation.

How does this bus work?

The bus is completely air-conditioned with first-class comfortable seating facilities, and has a battery life of more than 4,000 recharging cycles. It can cover a distance of 250 km with a fully charged battery. Further, the battery used is recyclable, and addresses this environmental concern as well.

Will these buses be made in India? And how will they be charged?

In line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the vehicles will be manufactured in India. Power stations and grids remain underutilised during the night hours and with these e-vehicles being charged in the night hours, the energy will be utilised efficiently, thus resulting in a higher social return on capital.

Could you give an example of the success of such e-vehicles?

Today, countries like China have put air quality on same priority as core sectors like infrastructure and defense and it’s about time India did the same. For the same, the government in India will have to take bold steps and incentivise citizens and industry players to adopt electric vehicles. One of the ways we could encourage the industry is by making it a zero tax (duties, customs, excise, etc) industry. Sixteen years ago, BYD had this dream about China, and today it has been able to achieve this through consistent efforts. India is a very big market for us, and with the business environment being favourable we feel it’s the right time for us to capture the e-vehicle market of the country.

What are your long-term plans?

In India, the target is state transport undertakings (STUs) in macro-cities and the upcoming 100 smart cities where an efficient public transport system is
the need of the hour. The e-buses will start production with a 50 per cent localisation content that will be steadily built up to 75 per cent with the battery to be indigenised last over the next 3-5 years. The company is in talks with several
STUs for city electric buses and is hopeful of bagging multiple orders soon. This will be followed by production of cars for use as e-taxis and later a separate plant will be set up for manufacturing electric cars.

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