India awards mobility firms $362 million in e-bus contracts

By Sarita Chaganti Singh

(Reuters) - Ashok Leyland's Switch Mobility, JBM Auto and PMI Electro Mobility are the winners in a 30 billion Indian rupee ($362.40 million) tender run by state-run Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL), two sources said.

Switch Mobility emerged as the lowest bidder to supply 2,600 electric buses in three states, JBM Auto for 1,781 e-buses in three states, and PMI Electro quoted the lowest figure to supply 2,080 electric buses in two states, the sources said.

The companies did not immediately respond to queries sent by Reuters.

A senior CESL official, who did not want to be named, said the exact quantities being awarded to the three companies would be known by Friday.

CESL, which aggregates demand from states for electric buses, issued the tender on Sept. 21 last year as it sought to supply 6,465 e-buses for six states.

The tender was part of India's plans to deploy 50,000 e-buses in tranches over the next four-to-five years at an estimated cost of one trillion rupees ($12 billion).

The prices discovered in the latest tenders are 25%-30% higher for different categories than the last bids opened in April last year.

"The prices are higher as the companies have factored in payment risks from state transport departments and also due to lack of subsidy from the government this time," an industry official said.

Tata Motors, which won a major chunk of the last contracts, did not participate in the latest bidding, citing concerns over the poor financial condition of state transport undertakings.

Reuters on Dec. 17 reported that Indian banks are reluctant to lend to e-bus makers for supplying state transport operators.

($1 = 82.8180 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Sarita Chaganti Singh, Editing by Louise Heavens and Barbara Lewis)