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Enabling Inclusivity: E-Rickshaws And Enhanced Access To Public Transport For All

Mitull Batraa
Mitull Batraa Feb 13 2024 - 5 min read
Enabling Inclusivity: E-Rickshaws And Enhanced Access To Public Transport For All
While electric auto-rickshaws contribute to reduced emissions, their adoption can also decrease operating costs, thereby enhancing driver income and reducing travel expenditure for urban residents.

India is working towards making cities more prosperous and eco-friendlier. One big step is the switch to electric vehicles, especially electric auto-rickshaws. The electrification of auto-rickshaws promises a myriad of benefits, ranging from reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to improved livelihoods for drivers and enhanced access to safe, affordable mobility for all.

Government Initiatives

To facilitate this transition, the government is actively providing financial incentives, subsidies, and tax breaks to both auto-rickshaw manufacturers and buyers. Clear regulations and standards for electric auto-rickshaws, covering aspects such as safety, emissions, and performance, have been established to ensure the sustainable growth of this sector

Addressing Environmental Challenges

The transport sector has been a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and urban air pollution in India. Recognizing this, the government has committed to achieving a 30 per cent market share of Electric Vehicles (EVs) among new vehicle sales by 2030. The focus is particularly on two- and three-wheelers, which are projected to capture 80 per cent of the market share among new vehicle registrations by 2030.

Auto-rickshaws as Catalysts for Change

Auto-rickshaws play a crucial role in shared mobility in Indian cities, constituting 5-25 per cent of all motorized trips. Electrifying these vehicles presents both environmental and socioeconomic advantages, especially considering their significance in providing affordable transportation to lower-income groups. While electric auto-rickshaws contribute to reduced emissions, their adoption can also decrease operating costs, thereby enhancing driver income and reducing travel expenditure for urban residents.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the positive total cost of ownership benefits and lower operating costs compared to their internal combustion engine counterparts, electric auto-rickshaws face barriers to widespread adoption. High upfront costs, stringent regulations, lack of charging infrastructure, and limited access to financing hinder their acceptance by fleet operators and individual owner-drivers. Overcoming these obstacles is crucial for an accelerated transition to electric auto-rickshaws.

Key Considerations for Accelerated Transition

To ensure an integrated and accelerated transition to electric auto-rickshaws, various stakeholders must collaborate. Manufacturers need to provide quality products that meet the requirements of auto-rickshaw drivers, including adequate range and compatibility for fast charging. Public and private sector entities, including local bodies, transport authorities, fleet operators, and financing institutions, should work together to create a comprehensive roadmap for the transition, supported by effective policies, regulations, and implementation strategies.

Demand and Supply Side Policies

Both demand and supply side policies and regulations play a crucial role in promoting electric auto adoption. Purchase and operating incentives, along with regulatory measures like permit provisions, improve the ease of procurement and cost-competitiveness of electric auto-rickshaws. Cities and states can learn from ongoing initiatives across India and formulate policies to support the entire ecosystem, from manufacturers to drivers.

Building a Charging Infrastructure Network

An accessible charging infrastructure network is essential for the efficient operation of electric auto-rickshaws. Cities must plan for public charging networks integrated with vehicular parking facilities, maximizing accessibility and ensuring affordable charging services. Location planning should consider major auto-rickshaw hubs and operating routes. Deploying a mix of slow chargers for overnight charging, fast chargers for opportunity charging, and battery swapping stations can cater to diverse charging needs.

Affordable Financing Options

Affordable financing options are crucial for an equitable transition to electric auto-rickshaws. While auto-rickshaw ownership offers better savings and higher incomes for drivers, lack of access to formal and affordable credit often hampers vehicle ownership. State governments, non-banking financial companies, and fintech companies can play a role in ensuring access to affordable financing through measures like interest rate subvention, credit guarantee, and community engagement.

Innovative Procurement Models

Exploring alternate procurement or service provision models, such as demand aggregation, vehicle leasing, or battery-as-a-service, can reduce upfront costs for drivers and promote access to affordable financing. Green financing schemes and climate financing schemes can be developed and leveraged to supplement upfront financing and monetize carbon emissions reduction, contributing to the overall success of the transition.

Conclusion

An inclusive and equitable transition to electric auto-rickshaws requires a multi-pronged strategy with effective on-ground implementation. By addressing barriers such as high upfront costs, stringent regulations, and lack of charging infrastructure and financing, India can pave the way for a sustainable urban future. The electrification of auto-rickshaws not only benefits the environment but also enhances the livelihoods of drivers and improves access to safe, affordable mobility for all. Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, India can ensure that electric auto-rickshaws become a cornerstone in its journey towards a cleaner, more inclusive transportation system.

(The author is a Co-founder and CEO of Udaan E-Vehicles. Views expressed here are personal.)

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