Indian cities are struggling to keep the air breathable for inhabitants, due in part to emissions from diesel buses. While the case for electric buses, and more generally, zero emission buses, has always been clear from an urban air pollution perspective, the economic case depended strongly on their environmental benefits. However, the situation seems different today.
We illustrate that when the benefits of recent dramatic declines in Lithium battery prices are fully realized, the total cost of ownership of urban (intra-city) electric buses is lower than that for diesel buses in India even without subsidies. Factoring in the air quality benefits, projected reductions in the cost of batteries and solar electricity, it becomes evident that transitioning to an all-electric bus fleet presents an enormous opportunity for India to reduce urban air pollution while improving the finances of urban bus transit agencies. The policy ecosystem that delivered substantial price reductions and large-scale rapid deployment of solar PV and LEDs is a model to achieve similar outcomes for battery electric buses. Well-designed high volume auctions and clear long term ambitious targets could achieve rapid electrification with little net public subsidy in the long-run.