E-RICKSHAWS TO FORAY INTO ‘SILICON VALLEY OF INDIA’ SOON

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Electric rickshaws could make its way into Bangalore roads soon, as the Transport Department of the state government (Karnataka Government) is considering to introduce the e-rickshaw for last mile connectivity.

Lack of last mile connectivity in Bangalore could well be a thing of the past with e-rickshaws being encouraged by the government to provide ferry services from metro stations or bus stops to a commuter’s final destination. The Transport Department is looking to the proposal of introducing Delhi’s ‘odd-even’ rule to decongest the city’s traffic issues is also considering the e-rickshaw.

The e-rickshaw is powered by a 2000 watt motor and go at a top speed of 25km/h. A license is required to operate the vehicle. “We want to keep Bangalore pollution-free. The facility will be piloted first in other districts. Based on the results, it will be rolled out in Bangalore, step by step,” Transport Commissioner Rame Gowda said.

“We are concerned about its performance vis-a-vis other vehicles in Bangalore’s traffic. Also, we want to gauge public feedback for this in other districts,” said Additional Commissioner for Transport (Administration) L Hemanth Kumar. The cost of these e-rickshaw ranges between Rs. 95,000 to 1.25 lakh each. “We have sent a proposal to the government seeking its nod to issue licences allowing operations of e-rickshaws,” Kumar said.

The e-rickshaw has been running in the national capital New Delhi for some time now. They had gone off the road in 2014 after the Delhi High Court banned them for safety concerns. However, they made their way back after the Rajya Sabha passed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill last year, and considered the e-rickshaw as a commercial vehicle.

Urban expert Ashwin Mahesh feels otherwise, – “In most countries, last-mile connectivity is achieved by walking. Authorities instead should improve footpaths on the lines of TenderSURE (a recent roads re-laying project incorporating wider footpaths). And BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) already runs feeder services from metro stations, coupled with Big10 (buses) from major junctions for last-mile connectivity.”

President of Adarsha Auto and Taxi Drivers Union – which represents more than 20,000 auto drivers – M Manjunath said, “We are like siblings. We do not have a problem. The government should also look at banning two-stroke autos, which pollute a lot,” he said.
The one-time motor vehicle tax is paid during the registration of new electric vehicles and it comes up to four per cent of the cost of the vehicle.

The state government is mulling over exempting e-rickshaws from lifetime motor-vehicle tax with an eye on encouraging e-rickshaws to provide the last mile connectivity to ferry passengers from a fixed point (like a bus stand or a metro station) to their doorsteps on a share or hire basis. Exempting electric-rickshaw from the one-time motor-vehicle tax is also being considered, keeping in view the central government’s National Electric Mobility Plan 2020, released by the ministry of heavy industries.

Rame Gowda said, “The application in this regard has been forwarded to the ministry and once the decision is taken it will be implemented through various regional transport offices (RTO). Currently, we are waiting for the final nod from the government.” MN Srihari, traffic advisor to the state government, said, “This is a very good initiative, but the state government should implement this in a phased manner. There is another issue with e-rickshaws. They need frequent charging, which should be addressed.”

However, a city-based battery manufacturing company has come up with a solution to the problem of frequent charging of e-rickshaws. The company has made a set of four batteries meant for e-rickshaws. These batteries are portable and maintenance-free and an e-rickshaw can travel up to 80 km on a single charge.

Biju Bruno, managing director of a battery manufacturing company, said, “Currently, we have tied up with many e-rickshaw manufacturers in the country and we have successfully entered the market in the national capital and eastern India where the e-rickshaws are being used at a large scale. The cost of one unit of these batteries comes to around Rs. 28,000 and use of these batteries will bring down the cost of operations of an e-rickshaw.”

Battery manufacturers feel the state government’s initiative to promote e-rickshaws will itself give a positive thrust to battery manufacturers in the state. Bruno said that with the government’s initiative, the state will become a flourishing market for e-rickshaws within a year.

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