Ho Chi Minh City seeks to develop electric bus system

Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Transport has proposed that the municipal People's Committee use electric vehicles for its bus rapid transit (BRT) system to emit less noise and reduce air pollution.
An electric bus on a trial run in Ho Chi Minh City. (Source: VNA)
An electric bus on a trial run in Ho Chi Minh City. (Source: VNA)

Developing electric vehicles is an inevitable trend to achieve environmental objectives under the city’s green traffic development project, according to the department.

Tran Quang Lam, director of the department, said the city plans to build six BRT routes with a total length of about 100km.

Funded by the World Bank (WB), the green traffic development project involves the construction of a 23km-long BRT main corridor. The corridor will run from An Lac Intersection in Binh Tan district to Rach Chiec bridge in Thu Duc city.

Over the past 10 years, the city has had buses that use compressed natural gas (CNG) accounting for about 20% of the total number of vehicles in operation.

To meet its sustainable growth targets by 2030, it would be necessary to implement appropriate vehicles for the BRT route as well as the city's public transportation system in general, he said.

The BRT No. 1 project initially planned to use CNG buses on the route.

The department has consulted scientists and WB experts to advise selecting vehicles for this project.

WB expert Shige Sakaki said electric buses have become a viable option as they have been used in many countries.

Besides reducing noise and toxic emissions compared to diesel buses, the operation and maintenance of electric buses are also cheaper.

However, developing electric buses still has some limitations such as high production costs, and a lack of charging station infrastructure and maintenance shops, according to the department.

The city has piloted two electric bus lines, using 12-seat mini buses, in districts 1 and 7 since 2017.

The first 29km-long electric bus route called D4 was launched in March, connecting the Vinhomes Grand Park Urban Area in Thu Duc city with the Sai Gon bus station in district 1.

The city has also allowed the use of electric vehicles with fewer than 15 seats in Can Gio district to take tourists to hotels and tourist sites.

In 2020, the city’s administration approved a 400 trillion VND (17.3 billion USD) project to improve access to public transportation and limit the use of personal vehicles over the next decade.

The focus will be on developing the bus network, including enhancing inter-provincial connectivity.

Under the project, public transportation would meet 15% of residents’ travel demand by 2025 and 25% by 2030.

By 2025, the city targets having the bus system connect new urban areas, industrial parks, satellite urban areas and passenger transport routes.

To improve bus services and increase ridership, the department is expected to open public bidding for bus routes.

As many as 50-60 new routes are expected to start by 2025, increasing to around 75 by 2030, and the number of buses would double in the next 10 years, he said.

Priority will be given to vehicles that use clean and environment-friendly fuels such as CNG, LPG and electricity.

The quality of human resources operating buses will be improved and the management and operation of public transport systems will be modernised.

By 2025, the bus network would be expanded from 126 routes with 2,100 buses to 260 routes with 3,000 buses.

Every year, the city provides subsidies of 1 trillion VND (43 million USD) to bus companies.

A new inter-provincial bus route connecting HCM City and the provinces of Long An and Tien Giang officially opened on August 10.

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(Source: VNA)