Several cities block electric rickshaw registrations

Mumbai: Amid the current slowdown, one of the few segments in the automotive industry that is growing is electric three-wheelers.

However, much to the dismay of manufacturers, cities like Kolkata, Lucknow, Kanpur and Dehradun have stopped registering e-rickshaws, the stripped-down electric three-wheelers that are driving the growth.

This, at a time when this is the fastest-growing electric vehicle segment in the country. Industry experts ET spoke to said North and East India were big markets for electric three-wheelers. What has stopped their registration in some of the markets is the thinking among government officials that these vehicles are slow in movement and cause unnecessary traffic snarls, they said. This has resulted in permissions being granted to run such vehicles on tertiary routes and outside of city limits.

“The e-rickshaws have got all the necessary approvals to run but the individual states won’t register,” said Ayush Lohia, the chief executive of Lohia Auto Industries that manufactures e-rickshaws.

On an average, the key two markets sell about 15,000 units a month and the price of the rickshaws range from Rs 1.3 lakh to 1.5 lakh. While the issue of registration is there in certain specific markets in the North and East, in Maharashtra too even if registration is allowed, implementation is an issue, said Sulajja Firodia, the CEO of Kinetic Green Energy & Power Solutions.

There is a proliferation of illegal, poor-quality unregistered vehicles allowed to ply in these markets. What’s needed is to promote certified and compliant e-rickshaws, she said.

An electric-vehicle revolution is gaining the ground in India with the country being home to about 1.5 million battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws — bigger than the total number of electric passenger cars sold in China since 2011.

The battery-powered rickshaw has been replacing cyclic-rickshaw on sales, growing at an average rate of 20% annually since 2015. However, sales have come from the unorganised sector, prompting the organised players to reinvent their strategies.

“E-rickshaws are a backbone in various cities. It makes sense as the last-mile connectivity, especially for small towns as a low-cost option,” said SUN Mobility cofounder and vice-chairman Chetan Maini.

The restriction on registration in some states is because of the several unauthorised vehicles plying, and the poor quality of the assembled kits.

The leaders in electric mobility, Mahindra Electric, though is unfazed. The company said cities with a ban continue to register e-rickshaws but only to run on tertiary routes and outside of city limits. “We expect to sell over 15,000 electric three-wheelers in India during the current financial year with cities like Raipur, Indore and Bhopal seeing a substantial rise in demand for electric rickshaws,” Mahindra Electric CEO Mahesh Babu said.

E-rickshaw sales in India have increased 23% year-to-date in FY20 at 1,29,097 units, compared to 1,05,184 units in FY19. As per data from the government’s Vaahan website, sales rose over 55% on-year in February at 13,249 units, prompting a number of organised players to jump on to the segment.

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