Transportation - Vehicles

Electric Buses Pose Challenges For Transport Business

A Vientiane bus company is struggling with the use of battery-powered minibuses, with batteries taking too long to charge and not providing enough power to run the company’s fleet.

Vientiane Capital State Bus Enterprise Managing Director, Mr Khamphoun Temerath, spoke to Vientiane Times yesterday about the condition of the company’s 13 battery-powered buses, which have been in use for four years.

The company imported the minibuses from China in 2009 to help reduce fuel costs. The buses cost about US$10,000 each. “There is inefficiency because it is takes too long to charge the batteries, and they can only supply power for a short amount of time,” he said.

Mr Khamphoun said each minibus had 12 batteries, which can be only be charged all at the same time. He said each charge took five to six hours, and the charge can only support the bus to run for about 70-80 km.

Half of the fleet is currently out of service because of faulty batteries, and even the working buses need their batteries replaced, according to Mr Khamphoun.

He said there was no domestic supplier who could provide the batteries, making it difficult to find replacements for the faulty items.

A feasibility study on low-emission transport conducted under sponsorship from the Japanese government suggested Laos was an ideal country to utilise electric vehicles (EVs), as it produces clean electricity from hydropower.

According to the study, conducted last year by ALMEC Corporation, if 40 percent of vehicles in Laos were replaced with EVs, the Lao PDR could save about US$180 million by 2020 on fuel.

If 80 percent of vehicles were EVs, the country could save US$938 million by 2030.

The Lao government is also encouraging people to use public transport in cities to support a clean environment and ease traffic congestion.

In response to queries on hybrid vehicles, Mr Khamphoun said electricity was not appropriate for public transport, but may be efficient for two or three wheel vehicles.

Laos had a total of 1,288,700 vehicles registered to the Department of Transport last year, including 8,588 tricycles, 1,005,047 motorbikes, 238,073 light four-wheel vehicles and 36,992 trucks.

published with the permission of Vientiane Times