Panel to push Prajin to buy electric buses

Panel to push Prajin to buy electric buses

Study says costs over long term far cheaper

Transport Minister Prajin Juntong will be asked to push ahead with the purchase of expensive electric buses which a recent study says will save money in the long run.

If the move goes ahead, it will end the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's (BMTA) attempts to buy new city buses running on compressed natural gas.

Electric buses have become the favoured option after a State Enterprise Policy Committee order to review the BMTA plan to buy natural gas for vehicles (NGV)-fuelled buses. Rising gas prices prompted the panel to seek the review.

“We concluded electric buses would be most suitable because they use clean energy and can be maintained more easily,” said Phongchai Kasemthawisak after chairing a working panel study on alternative fuel.

The panel will forward its proposal to ACM Prajin next week.

If the minster supports it and then gets cabinet approval, the way will be clear for the BMTA to complete its drawn-out attempts to purchase a new fleet of 3,183 buses to replace its ageing vehicles.

The agency intended to buy only NGV buses, but under the new proposal it needs to change its plan by only acquiring 489 gas-fuelled buses and going electric for the other 2,694 buses.

"It's true electric buses are more expensive," Mr Phongchai said. "But it'll be worth the investment in the long run."

The panel comparing the prices of buses powered by diesel, NGV and electricity found an electric bus costs up to 15 million baht, or 5 million baht and 4.5 million baht more than diesel and NGV platforms respectively.

But in terms of maintenance and fuel costs over a period of 20 years, an electric bus will have a total cost of only 30 million baht, compared with 43 million and 34 million for each diesel and NGV-fuelled bus respectively.

The group based its calculation on the price of NGV at 16 baht a kilogramme, but, in the future, that price could surge to 30 baht/kg, Mr Phongchai said.

If the government is still worried about cost effectiveness, it could introduce a pilot scheme using 500 electric buses for six or 12 months and compare them with buses running on NGV fuel, he said.

How long it takes to pay for the electric buses will depend on fares to be charged. But officials are not considering this issue at the moment.

BMTA labour union chairman Wirapong Wongwaen welcomed the proposal to buy electric buses, but he warned against possible corruption in their acquisition and expressed concern about the impact on passengers if fares are increased.

He also wants the Transport Ministry to speed the purchase of the 489 NGV buses.

ACM Prajin said yesterday he expects the BMTA to receive the buses before July.

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