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India’s Electric Rickshaw Revolution

 2 min read / 

Ola, the Indian ride-hailing app creator, announced this morning that it would be adding 10,000 electric rickshaws to its fleet over the coming year. This follows a trial in Nagpur, India’s 13th largest city, which was launched in May 2017, with over 200 electric vehicles. Electric cabs and buses, as well as rickshaws, were included in the Nagpur roll out. Three cities will be targetted to receive the new rickshaws, though it has not been revealed which cities these will be.

Infrastructure will be provided as part of the initiative, with drivers being given rooftop solar panels and charging stations. Nagpur drivers faced difficulties with long waits for charging stations and higher costs than traditional fossil fuel consuming vehicles. Ola learned from this experience and have begun installing charging stations at drivers’ homes so that depleted batteries can be swapped out for fully charged ones, reducing wait times at charging stations.

India wants to ensure that by 2030 all new vehicles will be electric, though it has failed to back up this ambition with any explicit policy or roadmap. Ola wants to have one million electric vehicles on India’s roads in three years time, a policy that lines up with Masayoshi Son, head of Softbank and one of Ola’s chief investors, and his desire to ‘gift’ India a million electric vehicles. Ola will partner with vehicle manufacturers and state institutions to help deliver its promise.

Electric rickshaws are seen as a good technology to develop the use of electric vehicles in India. They are used for short, urban journeys which lessens the impact of some of the drawbacks of electric cars. Charging times and high-voltage drivetrains are only some of the obstacles standing in the way of large-scale electric car adoption, which are not in effect with rickshaws. Electric rickshaws have already shown to be popular in India, with over 100,000 battery powered three wheelers being operated in Delhi.

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