MoU signed before inviting tender to build e-buses

Alex Naef, Susan Von Sury and K.R. Jyothilal are seen in this photo published on Hess AG website

Kozhikode: The state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Swiss company for preparing a detailed project report (DPR) on e-Mobility, a project estimated at Rs. 4500 crores, before inviting tenders.   The government signed an understanding with Hess AG, a renowned name in building electric buses, in 2019 June. 

The signing ceremony of MoU has also been published on the website of the company,  in which Transport Secretary K.R. Jyothilal also appears. The understanding was signed at ‘Evolve’, an Electric Mobility Expo held in Kochi last year, between Kerala Automobiles Ltd. and Hess to build electric buses. The project is to build e-buses partnering with a private firm in Kottayam, which builds chassis for heavy vehicles.

However, the fact that Price Water Coopers (PwC) was commissioned later to prepare DPR for the e-Mobility scheme has raised eyebrows. Minister AK Sasindran himself confirmed that the order regarding DPR was issued by the Transport Secretary in November 2019.  It is puzzling that the PwC has not so far laid down the DPR. The firm was asked to prepare DPR within a month.

The project envisioned building 10 lakh electric buses within a span of three years. Two lakh two wheelers, 50,000 autos, 1,000 goods vehicles, 3,000 buses and 100 boats were announced by the Chief Minister to build in e-platform. The government decided to promote electric vehicles deploying the crores of rupees allowed by the central government.  Hess AG CEO Alex Naef was among others who signed the understanding.

The company was attracted to Kerala by Susan Von Sury, a female legislator in Switzerland who has family roots in Thiruvambady, Kozhikode.