For the past year or so, the Malaysian administrative center of Putrajaya has quietly been making history. Its roads had been hosting the world’s first demonstration of full-sized (12-metre-long) double-decker electric-powered buses, which is plying its main routes using secondary batteries with long service life and super rapid charging ability.
The two double-decker EV buses were introduced in June 2016 as a second phase of a collaboration between Putrajaya and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The collaboration is designed as a showcase of a smart community concept using EV buses, which NEDO is sponsoring.
NEDO and the Malaysian government inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June 2015 to showcase the operation of a fleet of 10 full-sized EV buses on Putrajaya roads for two years beginning 2015.
According to its website, NEDO aims to use the project to upgrade Putrajaya’s urban transportation system into an intelligent system. The buses are operated by Pengangkutan Awam Putrajaya Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd (also known as Nadi Putra), a local network operator and involves four Japanese companies: Toshiba Corporation, PUES Corporation, HASETEC Corporation, and Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd
It is not NEDO’s only initiative in the program. It is also working with the Philippines in a similar demonstration project for electric tricycles and an EV ecosystem since October 2016, an initiative which the Japanese government recently followed up on by sponsoring 81 green vehicles for the Philippine government’s use.
Why This Matters
Double-decker EV buses, which are obviously more efficient given the extra passenger capacity per driver and road space, had been considered difficult to design due to weight issues. NEDO had successfully designed them to perform at par with equivalent diesel vehicles.
This is a space to watch. If successful, NEDO’s unprecedented double-decker EV buses may someday be a common sight on Malaysian roads, according to Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in November 2015.
“Nadi Putra buses currently uses fuel. We want to see the effectiveness if they run on electric. If it is competitive and we receive positive feedback, we will change the existing buses to electric buses,” said Tengku Adnan.
The Bigger Picture
The potential adoption of NEDO EV buses would fit into the Malaysian government’s larger plan of promoting land public transportation in urban areas. Recall that it aims to extend easy access (around 400 metres distance) to a reliable land public transport (LPT) service to 80% of urban dwellers by year 2030.
While the lynchpin of this national agenda is developing new transport-oriented developments (residential complexes designed to be in close proximity to LPTs), authorities has shown that realigning existing bus routes to cover more residential areas is an obvious low-hanging fruit to pick.
A combination of route reconfiguration as well as replacing existing fossil fuel buses with electric alternatives would kill two birds with one stone, as Malaysia had also pledged a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 following the Paris climate deal.
Malaysia’s transportation sector accounts for 35% of total energy consumed nationwide and releases approximately 50 million tonnes of CO2, second only to power generation. It has already signalled the long-term desire to replace fossil fuel public transportation vehicles with electric versions with the upcoming EV taxi fleet in Langkawi by year-end, which Motion Digest reported earlier this month.