The e-rickshaw industry has now established itself as the undisputed outlier of India’s auto sector. Amid the worst slowdown in vehicle sales, e-rickshaw sales have grown unabated.
E-rickshaws are low maintenance, have a lower cost to operate than their petrol and CNG counterparts. But more importantly, across North India, where deteriorating air quality levels have made urban areas inhospitable, the emission-less e-rickshaw is being hailed as the humble, homegrown agent of change to a cleaner, less fossil fuel dependent India.
While sales of other vehicles have all but stalled, India’s fleet of battery-operated three-wheelers has grown from 4000 in 2010 to more than 1.5 Mn in less than a decade. Every month 11K new electric rickshaws are produced, according to the consulting firm AT Kearney. Gushing endorsements from central and state policymakers have ensued government support. Just this month Prince Charles, the heir to the UK throne, went for a spin on one while on a state visit, while German chancellor Angela Merkel met with e-rickshaw drivers at a metro station in Delhi.
So is the e-rickshaw India’s best bet as a climate-friendly urban mobility solution?