JBM Auto expanded its electric universe. Prateek Pardeshi goes through the new products and the ecosystem backing them.

A multimodal transport stem can’t do without people movers. With the tourism sector opening up and the need to do intracity and intercity travel through buses and coaches, there is significant headroom for new offerings to capture the market. JBM at Auto Expo 2023 – The Motor Show impressed with its state-of-the-art products to meet the requirements of different sub-segments. Building on the buzz created around the one E9 bus in 2022, the company introduced four new products at the Motor Show. The new products part of the Electric Universe (E-Verse) are claimed to alleviate range anxiety and make EVs more impactful as per Nishant Arya, Vice Chairman at the JBM Group.
The company brought in the new Galaxy, a long-haul coach built on a monocoque chassis which the OEM has high expectations from. It also showcased the staff and school bus applications based on the E9 platform. To support its new range of products, JBM also brought in the supporting ecosystem led by the first rapid charger with a capacity of 500 kW. The charger is claimed to fully charge in 45-50 minutes, comparable to the charging time of our smart phones. The JBM electric buses build on the learnings of deployment in over 12 Indian states where the JBM Ecofuel charger series is known to have been installed to support seamless city bus operations. Using it the JBM Ecobolt batteries on board the bus are charged.

Intercity application
The 12.4m Galaxy coach with a capacity to seat (recliners) 45 passengers in a 2×2 layout is the first product from JBM to have a high-strength corrosion resistance monocoque structure and bus body built in compliance with AIS 052. The wide body (2590 mm) and 6350 mm wheelbase bus make it roomier and give it a strong on-road presence. Claimed to have built and designed the coach in-house, it has several firsts to its credit. For starters, the coach design has been revisited with its DNA traced to match the ECO-LIFE E9, a nine-metre bus showcased last year. The design focused on enhancing aerodynamics with LED mounted on ORVMs, piano-black finish and chrome inserts on the hood among additions adding to its premium appeal. On the starboard side, there is a provision for storage under the floor bed. The additional gain of space given that it’s an EV opens up the rear-engine compartment had it been an ICE coach. The roof extension at the rear, at first resembling a spoiler, is used intelligently to mount the reverse camera. The rear windshield houses the LED Passenger Information System (PIS). The taillight is in trapezoidal shape and it quite resembles the LED brake light akin to the Eicher intercity range. Three reverse parking sensors aid the driver. The Galaxy is claimed to have a 1000 km range on a single charge powered by an advanced Li-ion battery pack that supports the regenerative charge. The coach is offered disc brakes with EBS and scores high on safety inclusions with ADAS, ECAS, EBS, and EVSC coupled with Hill-hold assist. Operators and passengers could take to a liking with calve support, vehicle tracking, reading lamp, and coach kneeling for easy ingress.

School and Staff segments
JBM waited patiently for the school and staff bus segments to generate demand. Based on the ECO-LIFE (E9 and E12) platform. The 37 and 45 seater options for the nine-metre variant and 63-seater in the 12m variant gives operators a choice as per their requirements. The bus code compliance translates to standard inclusions for added safety. Arya explained, “We have equipped the bus with fire detection systems, and all the material used for bodybuilding is fire retardant. We also ensure best-in-class performance from our batteries.”

Manufacturers used to display their engines in their pavilions to gain a better understanding. Likewise, JBM for its E-Verse displayed aggregates Ecobolt BMS, a high-power battery pack, advanced telematics sensors, and actuators. JBM Green Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd. manufactures the BMS. The company also displayed two EV chargers, one a 360 kW ultra-fast DC charger and the other a 240 kW super-fast DC charger.

Future prospects
JBM is banking on its R&D team of approximately 500 plus employees in India and Europe that drive its product and integrated strategy. Since its inception in 2014, JBM is claimed to have constantly refreshed its range to align with the market needs. A 24×7 afters ales network has helped it assure a high uptime to operators, said Arya. The new product range that includes the intercity coach is aimed at penetrating deeper into the competitive segment. Arya revealed that the company is also working on an alternative drivetrain that will be unveiled soon. As of current, private fleet accounts for over 50 per cent of the OEM sales with STUs accounting for ~23 per cent. The company is also expected to grow its exports.


Up scaling the Electric Bus And Coach Offerings

JBM wants to meet the requirements of its customers. In an industry talk session, Nishant Arya, Vice Chairman at the JBM Group shared with Prateek Pardeshi the road map to upscale the business.

Q. What makes the JBM fleet of buses and coaches stand out?
A. We are showcasing the JBM E-Verse, which comprises of JBM E-mobility ecosystem platform. Here we have launched four new products that have India’s first indigenously developed electric coach. In terms of customer comfort, we have the best legroom on offer, luxurious interiors, and best-in-class and next-generation batteries on offer. Most recently we have also launched a 500 kW ultra-fast charging the first in the history of India. Through the Eco-life city bus, we are catering to intracity requirements. The e-BizLife caters to staff applications. The school bus application is ultra-safe, comfortable and affordable too. As part of the ecosystem, we have displayed Li-ion batteries and our BMS systems with high-performance chargers.

Q. How does your fleet customer stand to benefit?
A. This year we have added an indisputable luxury element where we have addressed utilities and the need for a low TCO. We want to ensure every single customer should enhance his profitability backed by our 24×7 after sales network.

Q. How does the order book for buses and coaches look like?
A. Currently, we have more than 50 per cent market share in a non-STU segment which is meant for the private segment. More than 23 per cent in the STU market. Going forward, in my opinion, at a base consideration of ~ 80-90 thousand buses per annum, in a steady state excluding the Covid-period, we expect electric to account for over 50 per cent by FY27.

Q. Has the school bus segment reached the pre-Covid levels?
A. Yes the market has recovered. We launched the school bus on day one of the Auto Expo 2023 – The Motor Show, and we could align our launch timing where it is becoming imperative for educational institutions to buy such kind of bus. Moreover, we have equipped the bus with fire detection systems, and all the material used for bodybuilding is fire retardant where we also ensure best-in-class performance from our batteries. The seats are luxurious and comfortable, reducing fatigue too.

Q. Are you looking at alternative drivetrains apart from BEVs?
A. So we have been producing CNG products for the last eight years, and we are definitely working on other alternate drivetrains about which you will hear on from us soon.

Q. What are the growth drivers?
A. We have a strong order book and delivery plans for more than 5000 buses in the next Financial Year (FY23-24). If the government pilots trial lending and mandates the transition, we have the facility to scale up and are also in discussions for exports and currently evaluating the demand in emerging markets.

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