National

State to promote low-speed electric buses for tourism, depopulating areas

JIJI

The government plans to promote low-speed electric buses for tourists and residents in areas with graying populations.

The Environment Ministry will make request ¥2 billion for its fiscal 2019 budget starting next April to subsidize purchases of such buses, which run at speeds under 20 kph and carry at least four passengers, the sources said.

The buses can turn in a small radius and use narrow roads, making them easier for elderly drivers to operate. They also include microbus-type vehicles that can carry more than a dozen people.

Since they can be recharged using household electricity, they also are expected to be useful in areas where gas stations have closed.

The environment and transport ministries want to promote the eco-friendly vehicles as an alternative to such public transportation as railroads and standard buses, which are vanishing in underpopulated areas with driver shortages.

The government expects about 100 low-speed electric buses to be introduced in fiscal 2019 under the new program.

Financial aid to cover two-thirds of the cost of a bus will be available to companies seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or convert from gasoline-powered vehicles.

Information technology will be used to show buses’ operating status online and display destinations on their commuter passes. The ministries will partially cover the cost of introducing such advanced technology and solicit new ideas from the public.