In the Indian context, high volume transportation systems often prioritise the major route networks unconsciously neglecting the first/last mile connectivity and low frequency routes. However, the significance of e-rickshaws in bridging this gap cannot be undermined. These have emerged as crucial means of transportation, providing vital first/last mile connectivity in metropolitan cities, while in smaller urban areas, they serve as mass transportation options. In addition to offering affordable mobility solutions, e-rickshaws contribute to environmentally friendly livelihoods directly and as indirectly. Despite being frontrunners in the adoption of e-mobility in Indian cities, contributing to almost 46% of number of registered EVs, e-rickshaws are often perceived as a nuisance due to policy inadequacies, informal charging infrastructure, and gap in enforcement which has resulted in a large number of unregistered e-rickshaws operating in urban areas.
In this regard, ICLEI South Asia conducted an in-depth study focused on Delhi and Kochi. The study aimed to explore operational and financial models for e-rickshaws, addressing the bottlenecks and promoting key aspects such as safety, affordability, accessibility, adequacy, profitability, and reliability. The findings of these studies were highlighted during a webinar held on June 14, which witnessed participation from more than 14 cities including representatives from financial institutions, policymakers, OEMs, civil society, and other stakeholders.
During the webinar, experts engaged in discussions regarding the necessity for collaborative efforts among stakeholders including financial institutions, policy makers, OEMs, civil society and the government, with a focus on regulatory actions, financial business models, vehicle design improvements, and the adoption of sustainable technologies to transform the e-rickshaw ecosystem in India. along with the launch of reports related to the initiative of ‘Transforming the adoption of e-rickshaws in Indian cities’, which can be accessed through the following link: https://bit.ly/42L7Zok
Mr. Ashish Rao Ghorpade, Deputy Director of ICLEI South Asia, emphasised the findings of the research conducted in Delhi and Kochi. Dr. Sandeep Gandhi, Principal at SGArchitects, facilitated the discussion highlighting the challenges in vehicle design and specifications, financing options, and regulatory frameworks. He emphasised on the significance of e-rickshaws in shared mobility and their role in generating employment opportunities.
Dr. Himani Jain, Senior Programme Lead at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), mentioned the growing demand for last mile connectivity due to rapid urbanisation and the need for optimisation. She highlighted that, in 2015, the ratio of e-rickshaws to auto-rickshaws was 1:5 when e-rickshaw registration was introduced. However, this ratio has now shifted to 1:1, indicating a decline in registrations of traditional autos and an increase in e-rickshaw registrations. To further enhance and transform the e-rickshaw ecosystem, Dr. Jain emphasised the importance of prioritising behavioral changes, and retrofitting markets along with financing, vehicle design,. Mr. Rajendra Ravi, Founding Member & Programme Coordinator of the People’s Resource Centre, highlighted the lack of policy and infrastructure preparedness for e-rickshaws since their informal launch around 15 years ago. He called for attention to governance, manufacturing, infrastructure, and finance to integrate e-rickshaws into the mobility sector and address safety concerns.
Mr. Rohit Mehta, Managing Director of Akasa Finance, highlighted a significant 174% increase in the presence of three-wheelers in the market. This growth has garnered the attention of financing institutions, and more of them are expected to enter the market to meet the escalating demand for financing e-rickshaws. He discussed the role of non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and banks in providing financial aid to e-rickshaw operators. A holistic approach considering public transport, income levels, and issue identification was also highlighted.
Mr. Sashidhar Ravinuthala, COO of Zero21, highlighted the pivotal role of e-rickshaws in spearheading the electric vehicle (EV) revolution in India, particularly in North India where their prevalence is more prominent. He suggested design improvements for safer e-rickshaws, such as independent differentials, drum brakes, and integration of IoT for tracking and theft prevention. Replacing lead batteries with lithium-ion batteries would improve cost-effectiveness and longevity.
The insightful webinar touched upon the solutions and strategies for transforming the e-rickshaw ecosystem, considering financial aspects and regulations and the need for collaborative efforts from all the stakeholders, focusing on the vehicle design improvement, behavioral changes, and retrofit markets.
Access the full webinar recording here: Actions for Transformation of E-rickshaw Ecosystem in India – YouTube