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Friday, 8 December 2017

E rickshaw the ubiquitous vehicle: grass route technology is improving lives of people

E-rickshaw in traffic

View from an e-rickshaw

The roads in Indian cities and towns have a variety of vehicles transporting people. From cars to the cycle rickshaw.

A relatively new entrant to this mix is the e-rickshaw. They are to be seen everywhere, providing last mile connectivity. They come in ingenious designs and shapes and sizes and are painted in lively colors.

This is a wave of technology which is reachable for a common person. A wave of technology which allows clean transport and a means of earning a daily wage. They are not using path breaking technology. But are using everyday technology. But most importantly they are using technology which is cost effective and affordable. This is the reason for the numbers of these e-rickshaws growing steadily.

The batteries used are normal lead-acid batteries and can be easily charged. They are used only within a town so a charging point is never too far. So everything is falling into place.

On a recent visit to Jaipur we found the e-rickshaw everywhere. In the walled pink city area you could just hop into an e-rickshaw and reach your destination. For short distances of up-to 2 to 3 kilometers the ride cost only 20 Indian Rupees (31 Cents).

You get in and the driver flips a switch and turns the accelerator grip and the e-rickshaw takes off. The maximum speed is around 20 kilometers per hour. This is enough in congested areas and at these speeds the vehicle is quite stable. The width is enough to seat four passengers facing each other with two passengers on each seat. Along with the driver this lively little machine carries 5 persons, sometimes more!

Some drivers own their e-rickshaws while others hire them from e-rickshaw owners and after paying the hiring charges are able to make money for themselves. The driver we took a ride with sounded happy when he told us “I prefer this to a job, it gives me freedom of working hours and I am able to earn the same as what a job would give me”. The freedom made him happy.

The frame of these e-rickshaws are made from hollow metal pipes and sheets. Some carry the brand of the e-rickshaw manufacturer. Others have brands of both the fabricator and the automotive components integrator. 

The vehicle is three wheeled. The front wheel has coil springs to soften the ride. The rear wheels use a differential and axle casing which is attached to the e-rickshaw chassis frame through leaf springs. The wheels have pneumatic tyres which along with the suspension springs help to make the ride smooth. This arrangement works well enough as the e-rickshaw has a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour and  at these speeds the ride is comfortable.

The electric motor is mounted directly on the rear axle casing and gives drive to the differential through a bevel gear. This motor is powered by batteries which are mounted under the passenger seats. It takes 3 to 4 hours to charge the batteries and the e-rickshaw is good for about 80 kilometers of running. A typical ride being only 2 kilometers, the e-rickshaw driver can expect to have 30 to 40 paying passenger rides, giving him an earning of 600 to 800  Indian Rupees (USD 9 to 13 a day) in a day.

A set of mechanical brakes complete the vehicle.

A simple vehicle, the technology for which is available easily and is easy to learn. This vehicle has now reached most towns in India. An economical solution which is finding favor with the drivers and passengers and is a clean energy vehicle.

A wonderful unfolding story of life being enriched on Indian roads, by simple technology.

This bottom up sustainable solution for transportation in the last mile has taken root and is growing. Contributing to cleaner air in an affordable, economical, practical and useful manner.

PS: also see my blog post 
My take on the future of EVs
Electric Vehicles in India: we are at a cusp of change


  1. A well put insight into the most unassuming ride available on the streets of India! Next time I take a ride in one of those lively coloured e-rickshaws I'll be knowing much better. :)

    1. I really liked your calling it the "most unassuming ride available on the streets of India". Thanks for that perfect description .


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