Now that we have finally stepped into 2020, the year in which EVs are likely to become a frequent sight on Indian roads, it’s a good time to look back at India’s original electric vehicle that launched in 2010 — the e-rickshaws, fondly known as e-ricks. Soon after its launch, the battery-powered three-wheeler became a favourite in the capital city. Today, they ply the roads in northern India, and in a few cities in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Maharashtra. India is currently home to 1.5 million e-ricks — a fleet bigger than the total number of electric cars sold in China since 2011.
E-ricks have indisputably cut down carbon emission on road — net savings (or reduction) was 40 million tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2018, according to an annual publication from International Energy Agency (IEA). However, there are better alternatives. Governments across the globe, along with major auto companies such as Tesla, KIA and Ford, are pushing lithium-powered EVs as a greener alternative. Meanwhile, our humble e-ricks are still charged from household electricity — which comes to us from coal and natural gas-based thermal power plants. So, they are not the cleanest commute available. Charging points connected to solar plants or vehicles run on lithium ion batteries could improve the three-wheeler’s record. Still, the role of these local e-ricks in getting us used to more responsible travel cannot be ignored.