Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Transport

LTA to expand trials of hybrid, electric buses

Bus rides could soon be greener.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be calling tenders to buy 50 hybrid buses and 60 electric buses this year, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng announced yesterday .

This will allow the LTA to expand its trials involving such green vehicles, and Mr Ng said there are plans to have three bus routes run fully by electric buses.

"A problem with pure-electric technology is that it is not fully proven yet for tropical climates, in part because vehicles operating here consume a lot of energy for air-conditioning," Mr Ng said during the debate on the Transport Ministry's budget in Parliament.

Since November, the LTA has been testing a fully electric K9 bus made by Chinese manufacturer BYD, with operator Go-Ahead Singapore. Mr Ng said: "The initial feedback has been encouraging. While more costly, many commuters enjoyed the quieter ride and the bus has been fairly reliable."

JURY STILL OUT

A problem with pure-electric technology is that it is not fully proven yet for tropical climates, in part because vehicles operating here consume a lot of energy for air-conditioning.

MR NG CHEE MENG, Second Minister for Transport, on using electric buses in Singapore.

The BYD K9 was first deployed on service 17 and put on service 119 late last month, to "ply a slightly longer route and test different operating conditions, with daily operation of up to nine hours and overnight charging", the LTA said.

Preliminary results suggest fuel cost savings of up to 30 per cent compared with conventional diesel buses.

The LTA also shared that two bus trials with a Volvo hybrid bus were conducted with SBS Transit in 2015 and last year. Volvo reported there were fuel savings of up to 40 per cent on an expressway test and significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, compared with a normal diesel bus, LTA added.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, said that, currently, costs can be a barrier to converting the over 5,400 public buses to hybrids and electric models.

"(But) by 2025, the cost of batteries may fall by at least 50 per cent," Prof Mhaisalkar estimated, and this will bring down the prices of electric vehicles. The lower operating and maintenance costs of e-buses should also encourage their take-up. Still, more tests will need to be done. "Batteries tend to perform better in colder climates than hotter ones," he added.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday that the tender for the third bus package will be awarded next month .

The tender for the Seletar package, which opened last June, had attracted very competitive bids, said Mr Khaw, with lower prices on average compared with the two previous tenders. "This is good for taxpayers," he added.

Mr Khaw added that a tender for the fourth package in Bukit Merah will be called later this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'LTA to expand trials of hybrid, electric buses'. Print Edition | Subscribe