Sunday, April 2, 2017

At Re 1 for 17km, cheapest bus in India fuelled by cow dung biogas launched in Kolkata

The bus was decked up at Ultadanga in the northern fringes of Kolkata on Thursday evening.(HT Photo)

The revered cow has a new utility, as biogas produced from its dung will fuel the cheapest mode of transport for people in the country.

A Kolkata-based company has designed a bus that will run on biogas produced from cow dung.

The first bus will be flagged off on Friday and will run between Ultadanga in the north and Garia in the south in Kolkata.

At just Re 1 for the 17.5 km stretch, the bus will be the cheapest mode of transport for a passenger in the country.

(The lowest fare in a Kolkata bus is Rs 6, which goes up to Rs 12 for 17 km, and that of a Delhi bus that run on CNG is Rs 5 for 4 km and upwards.)

Phoenix India Research and Development Group, which has produced the biogas from cow dung, has tied up with heavy vehicle major Ashok Leyland to manufacture the 54-seater bus at a cost of Rs 13 lakh approximately.

As many as 15 more buses will be launched on different routes in the city this year. All will have the same fare structure.
The biogas that will be used to drive the bus is produced at a plant in Bengal’s Birbhum district. (HT Photo)

Biogas is produced from animal and plant waste and principally consists of methane. It is a non-toxic colourless flammable gas that can be used as fuel for vehicles, cooking and generating electricity. It is also a clean source of fuel and environment-friendly.

“We are producing biogas principally from cow dung in our plant in Birbhum district. The fuel is transported to Kolkata in tankers,” said Jyoti Prakash Das, chairman and managing director of Phoenix India Research and Development Group, the company which is launching the service.

Explaining the economics, he said, “The biogas we produce costs Rs 20 a kg. The bus can run 5 km on one kg now.”

Das, who has a PhD in Botany and has been working on biogas for the past eight years, said they are planning to source a technology from Germany that “will enable the vehicle to run 20 km on the same amount of fuel. The tank can hold 80 kg gas, and therefore, the vehicle can run 1,600 km on a full tank. That’s why the fare is so cheap.”

The salary of drivers and conductors will be given from advertisements that will be put up on the body of the bus.

The company has got the permission to set up 100 fuel pumps. The first pump will come up at Ultadanga.

The fuel will also increase the commercial life of the vehicle.

“A Union ministry notification states that commercial vehicles which are more than 15 years old and are already banned, can continue to ply on roads, if the owners switch the diesel-engines of the vehicles to bio-fuel engines. It means, all the 12 new biogas buses we are manufacturing can run on roads forever,” said Das.

Phoenix has set up a biogas plant in Dubrajpur of Birbhum district, about 204 km north of Kolkata. Right now it can produce 1,000 kg of gas.

The importance of cow, a holy animal of the Hindus, has increased after BJP assumed power at the Centre in 2014, and more so, in Uttar Pradesh on March 18 this year.

Hindu organisations associated with BJP have been promoting several utilities of the animal, including the healing power of its urine, besides enforcing cow slaughter ban, which has affected the meat industry in UP and other north Indian states.

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