Aimed at cutting the huge crude oil import bill, the government is mulling converting diesel guzzling state-run buses across the country into battery-operated vehicles, union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said here on Tuesday.Addressing the 115th Annual General Meeting of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce here, he also said the central government was targeting two percent contribution by the roads and highways sector to the national GDP growth and creating about 50 lakh jobs, within the next two years."Currently, ten lithium ion battery-operated buses are being built in Pune and on a pilot basis they will be operated for three-four months."If the pilot project is successful, the entire fleet of 1,50,000 state run buses which now run on diesel will be converted into battery operated. Besides being pollution free, this will also help in reducing the huge Rs.8 lakh crore that we spend on crude import," said Gadkari.
The minister said there have been "positive" talks with German development bank KfW on providing loan for the project of converting the entire fleet of state-run buses.He informed that the lithium ion batteries that cost around Rs.55 lakh in the west, have now been developed by the ISRO in collaboration with Automative Research Association of India at around Rs.5 lakh."Our target is to ensure that the sector contributes at least two percent to the GDP growth and create about 50 lakh jobs, in the next few years," said Gadkari, claiming that under the BJP led government, road infrastructure was making rapid progress.Lamenting "years of neglect" towards agriculture, he batted for bio fuels including ethanol and said the use of the non-conventional fuel will help in changing crop patterns that will boost agriculture.