PETALING JAYA, : A Monash University Malaysia lecturer is on a mission to turn road transport green by using solar energy to fuel electric buses.
Arshad Adam Salema, who is a lecturer at Monash University Malaysia’s School of Engineering, is currently working on a project to provide a sustainable solution for the electric bus transport system in Malaysia.
He is currently in talks with Prasarana Malaysia Berhad and Sunway Engineering to implement his solar power plant project for the electric bus transport system and develop a low carbon township in Bandar Sunway.
While electric buses can lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on the road, Arshad said that these buses still produce sizable levels of CO2 indirectly as many of them rely on electricity generated by power plants that use fossil fuel.
Without renewable energy sources, electric buses have the potential to continue choking up the air as Malaysian road transport accounts for 40 per cent of the total energy demand in the country.
“An electric bus in Malaysia consumes about 1.2 kWh/km electricity, which contributes to around 0.85 kgCO2/km.
“The bus generates almost the same amount of CO2 as a vehicle powered by a Euro VI diesel engine.
“Therefore, an electric bus powered by electricity is still not sustainable and we need to look for alternative sources of energy,” said Arshad.
Powering electric buses also incurs hefty electricity bills for bus depots as each vehicle takes around three hours to charge and usually increases the maximum demand charge by spiking the consumption of electric currents.
“We are paying RM0.365 per kWh for regular electricity. The maximum demand charge can go up as high as RM30.60 per kW,” said Arshad.
With these issues at hand, Arshad believes that solar energy can be a win-win solution for reducing carbon emissions and lowering the operation costs of the transport industry as a whole.
By fixing photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of bus depots to power the vehicles, Arshad estimates that the carbon emission of an electric bus can be reduced from 0.85 kgCO2/km to 0.17 kgCO2/km.
“In the long term, a 540 kWp solar power plant can offset about 11,243 tonnes of CO2 for a life span of 25 years,” said Arshad.
The project is in line with the United Nations General Assembly’ Sustainable Development Goals, namely affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production.
The eco-friendly initiative can also set examples for other bus depots and transportation systems in Malaysia and create a greener future for all.