E-rickshaws Everywhere –
If you take a walk around your neighborhood in Kolkata, chances are that you will see them. Spiffy, spacious, solid, smooth, smoke-free, and noise-free, the city’s roads are fast filling with battery-operated e-rickshaws or totos delivering clean and comfortable short-distance rides.
Bigger in dimensions than the open cycle rickshaw or even the conventional black and yellow auto rickshaw, they look safe, strong, and durable. They are packed with a host of safety and ‘smart’ or intelligent features, allowing progressive drivers ease of maneuvering a 3-wheeler unmatched in the narrow lanes and alleys of Kolkata localities. This article will delve into greater detail about the merits and challenges of e-rickshaws in Kolkata
Accelerated Growth –
Little wonder then that the transport sphere has been galvanized into action and that retail sales of e-rickshaws have zoomed up by +89% in one year with more than 30,400 e-rickshaws registered countrywide by February 2023.
In the East, Assam leads the market with 2523 e-rickshaws registered per million population. West Bengal seems to be playing catch up with up to 800 e-rickshaws registered per million population and Kolkata would be responsible for a significant proportion of these figures.
Pros & Cons – So, what are the merits and challenges of e-rickshaws in Kolkata? What are the upsides and downsides of riding these clean, green, planet-friendly machines?
First, the bad news – The Bengal EV Policy, launched in June 2021, covers over 16,000 Electric Vehicles registered including electric buses, TATA Nexon police patrol vehicles, and even a 300-strong e-rickshaw fleet.
The goal of this policy is to transition towards zero-emission transport but it requires a seamless ecosystem for effective implementation.
Consider, for example, the national transportation electrification target. There have also been remarkable gaps in fleet electrification, battery recycling, the creation of green zones, retrofitting and manufacturing incentives, and implementing subsidies.
Now, for the good news – However, as Climate Trends, a research-based consulting and capacity-building initiative has established through a nationwide report in February 2023, West Bengal is ahead in 10 of 21 parameters governing e-mobility success.
This includes EV penetration, charging infrastructure and investments, subsidy support for consumers, road tax and registration fees exemption, power tariff benefits, skill development, and employment generation incentives.
Some more considerations – On a civic note, e-rickshaw operators and their alleged style of speeding down narrow roads have remained a challenge for the police and the transport department in Howrah. Calcutta High Court, had, in fact banned their movement in Howrah and Hooghly way back in 2014.
Additionally, toto operators have grouped together in many pockets of the city in a menacing move mirroring the ‘auto raj’ providing protection to illegal operators and threatening the livelihoods of bus operators by ingressing into bus routes.
E-rickshaws in Kolkata are here to stay –
Regardless of the merits and challenges of e-rickshaws in Kolkata and the industry’s regulatory and legal scenario, e-rickshaws look all set to conquer Kolkata. In December 2022, the WB Government supported a 3-day expo and rally to accelerate the adoption and use of EVs.
Announcing plans to set up 1000 charging stations in Kolkata in the next 2 years with one charging station for every 3 sqkm area in the city and every 25 km on 4-lane highways, Mr. S Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secy, Power and NRES stated – “People are not able to buy EVs because of high cost and lack of charging infrastructure. To change the mindset and remove confusion in minds of people about EVs … various Government departments like power, transport, environment, KMC, technical education, and training & ICE have come to work together to improve the situation regarding EVs in the State. Oil companies have been given the mandate to set up the charging front-ends and the Government shall handle the backend like power, etc,”. Whats in it for you – If you are thinking of investing in one, the time has arrived. Starting in April, all passenger vehicles will be required to install onboard diagnostics devices (OBD) to monitor emission variations from standard levels. Since this could lead to an increase in vehicle prices, manufacturers will be rolling out discounts and offers shortly to clear their inventories. Explore Kolkata’s favorite e-rickshaw manufacturer Big Bull to learn more about their customized, advanced, high-tech e-rickshaw models at https://www.bigbullerickshaw.in/