By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Electric vehicles in Nepal have been successful in impressing even commoners as these are good things for people and planet. The government’s tax rule has been remade favourable as well by the budget the fiscal year 2021-22. So as EVs are gaining popularity rapidly. The importers and distributors of electric vehicles are getting better business since then.
Moreover electricity for charging the EVs has become more reliable than the situation of 4 or 5 years back. The electric vehicle importers and distributors are working to install charging stations in the cities and in the long route travelling sectors. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is also installing charging station. It is extending technical supports to those who intend to run charging stations. The changed situation is supporting EVs to grow more.
Now time has come to realise that need of the hour is generating technical and financial support to entrepreneurs who intend to operate electric vehicles for public transportation which contributes to lessen use of private vehicles and reduce road use other than regularly claimed benefits such as support to activities to reduce climate change effects, reduce air pollution, reduce consumption of fossil fuel, contribute to reduce wider gap in balance of trade, and so on. Therefore, the government, development agencies, activists and private sector need to work for creating conducive environment for electric public transportation to develop in the country.
Train, Metro, Monorail, Cablecars, electric buses including bus, mini bus, micro bus, 3 wheelers, taxi cars, even ride sharing motorcycles and scooters are to be considered as non-polluting means of electric public transportation for Nepal.
Presently, in Nepal, we see fossil fuel run buses, mini buses, micro buses, taxi cars and ride sharing motorcycles and scooters operated for public transportation service. In Terai plains, many thousand electric 3 wheelers are providing short route transportation service.
Modes of electric transportation such as Train, Metro, Monorail are talked much but all these demand a high technical capacity to build and operate, more time to build and heavy cost to manage which are not easy in Nepal’s present context. In addition, decision making procedure is too lengthy and investment modality and endorsement from the concerned authorities are complicated jobs.
Keeping in view above mentioned limitations, electric bus system should be picked up to utilise the existing infrastructure or with light improvement on them to make well fit.
First of all, the public transportation entrepreneurs or new comers need to be well aware that the electric bus service can be a profit making business. What they must know are cost of energy, cost of maintenance and better performance are the good aspects of electric buses. Charging facilities even good for electric buses are available now and in process to install in a number of locations. This is also to be realised that the cost of electric bus at the initial phase is high but can be managed well.
The success story of electric buses operated in Kathmandu – Sindhuli – Kathmandu route, Kathmandu – Manthali – Kathmandu route and some other cases can help prospective electric bus operators to trust more on their business shift. The electric bus service operated in Kathmandu Ring road doing good business.
Similarly, the business community also need to understand that fossil fuel run buses can be converted to electric drive in Nepal in the future.
However, to get it started at the soonest for electric vehicles for public transportation, the government sector must be first in the field to offer facilities and supports to private entrepreneurs. So as government should work out to support the initial cost of electric bus to make cheaper.
Following suggestions may be taken up for creating a better environment for private sector to operate EVs for public Transportation.
(1) The cost of duties, taxes on import and related costs may be refunded as a financing support to the entrepreneurs. Ceiling for a reasonable amount for such financial supportmay be instrumental.
(2) Government should manage to lower the rate of interest on loans for electric vehicles for public transportation. Subsidising the interest rate may be a big support to the entrepreneurs.
(3) Electric bus operators may be incetivised by providing support a fair amount on the basis of per kilometre run.
(4) Nepal Government should be ready to go with private sector on co-investment or Public Private Partnership where an appropriate ratio of investment on EVs for Public Transportation comes to be possible. Government can take an option to buy electric buses to be operated by private sector. That means there will be enough room for co-investment like opportunities for both parties.
(5) The government sector must be well equipped to evaluate and monitor the operations, repair, maintenance and well keeping of the EVs for public transportation.
For all such, financial and technical supports the government expected to extend can be managed by utilising the Pollution Control Fund, the tax raised on use of every litre of petrol and diesel since so many years which has been swelled to around eighteen billion rupees so far. The fund collected since more than twelve years has not been spent at all. Thus, utilising in promotion of EVs for public transportation will be a wise decision.
Similarly, climate related global funds, multilateral and bilateral supports may be taken as resources for technical and financial supports for Nepal to promote electric vehicles for public transportation.
In addition, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been taken as an important measure for electric public transportation for Nepal.
BRTis a bus-based public transport system designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional bus system. Typically, a BRT system includes roadways that are dedicated to buses, and gives priority to buses at intersections and their travel routes where buses may interact with other traffic; alongside design features to reduce delays caused by passengers boarding or leaving buses, or paying fares.
BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of a metro with the claimed flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system. Such systems have been successfully operated with better convenience to passengers in heavily populated cities around the world.
Town Development Fund, a government agency is preparing plans to operate BRT is some selected routes.
BRT is commonly owned and operated by government entities. Role of private may be ‘no’ or ‘negligible’ in BRT business. So the government may consider to open doors for private entrepreneurs to involve in electric vehicles for public transportation.
Moreover, electric public transportation should also consider on maintaining elegancy of users behaviour. The public transport operators will have to work out little more for this aspect to bring into effect. Likewise, apps support and electronic fare collection system can contribute to upgrade the image of electric public transportation which ultimately should be able to serve every class of society with equal and elegant service quality.