KARACHI: Smooth operation of electric buses, launched in the metropolis in January this year, has become a serious challenge for its management as the half of the total 40-bus fleet is gathering dust for past several weeks after one of the two power stations faced capacity issues and failed to charge all high-tech public transport carriers.

Realising the complexity of the challenge, the authorities have decided to rebuild a new power station at the Mehran Depot near the Jinnah International Airport, closing down the one in Malir Cantonment.

In this connection the process has been started to install machinery and acquire the required power supply system.

A source privy to the current challenges said that the electric buses were plying three different routes. “Two power stations for total 40 buses are in Bahria Town and Malir Cantt. The one in Bahria Town is working fine and 20 electric buses dedicated for its route are operational. However, the one in Malir Cantt is constantly facing serious power supply and voltage fluctuation issues. It hardly charges five [electric] buses a day. Some 15 electric buses on two other routes are lying parked in the depot.”

Govt to build new power station as some 15 e-buses gathering dust

Sources said that on two routes of electric buses — Tank Chowk near Jinnah Avenue to Clock Tower at Seaview and Malir Cantt Check Post 5 to M.A. Jinnah Road — only five electric buses are being run while the gap is being filled by red diesel buses of Sindh Peoples Bus Service.

Launched amid much fanfare earlier this year, the electric buses faced several hiccups mainly due to issues related to charging of their batteries.

In April, the service of electric buses on two routes was stopped and it remained suspended for over two months after the charger being used for recharging the batteries had ‘started malfunctioning’. Finally the service resumed in July following the import of a new charging system from China.

“The latest issue is also related to the charging of the batteries but it’s little different one [compared to last one],” said the source.

“The power station of these buses in Malir Cantt doesn’t get the required power supply to charge all 20 buses. There are two types of chargers — 160kV and 180kV. With a little than required supply or power, they are unable to charge the required number of buses.”

For a permanent solution, the management has marked an area in Mehran Depot near the airport where a new power station is being set up and for that purpose the K-Electric has already been requested to install a system solely dedicated for charging the electric buses, the sources added.

“All due formalities have almost been completed. The KE has been requested to set up a 500kV power station at Mehran Depot. The new station is expected to be operational within next few weeks, which will fix this problem for once and for all,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023

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