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Maharashtra first in India to get taxis that need to be charged, not refuelled

MUMBAI CITY NEWS: Maharashtra government clears decks for eco-friendly vehicles ahead of launch by taxi aggregator

mumbai Updated: May 20, 2017 09:48 IST
Kailash Korde
MUMBAI CITY NEWS
HT has learnt that a major app-based taxi aggregator plans to launch a fleet of battery-operated taxis in Nagpur, the hometown of union transport minister Nitin Gadakari, on May 26, the third anniversary of the Narendra Modi government(HT Photo)

The Maharashtra government has cleared the decks for India’s first eco-friendly taxis, powered by batteries.

HT has learnt that a major app-based taxi aggregator plans to launch a fleet of battery-operated taxis in Nagpur, the hometown of union transport minister Nitin Gadakari, on May 26, the third anniversary of the Narendra Modi government. Sources in other taxi aggregator firms, however, claimed that electric taxis were not yet financially viable, considering their high price and long charging hours.

The state transport authority (STA) this week cleared the introduction of zero-emission, battery-operated vehicles that will be used as eco-friendly taxis. The authority, which is chaired by state’s transport secretary, asked the government-appointed Khatua panel, which is formulating a fare structure for conventional and app-based taxis, to also decide the fare structure for e-taxis.

A proposal to allow electric taxis in the state has been under consideration for the past three years. It first came up for discussion before the STA on January 18, 2014. But ahead of the launch in Nagpur, the STA cleared the proposal without holding a meeting, for which it is required to give at least seven days’ prior notice to all members.

According to the STA’s resolution, only hard-top, battery-operated vehicles can be registered as e-taxis. They must have a seating capacity of five to six and enough space for luggage. An RTO source said only two battery-operated cars – Mahindra e-Verito and Mahindra e2O Plus – are currently on the market.

Also, under the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules 2017, they must have power equivalent to – at minimum – that of a 980cc petrol or diesel engine. A senior official in the transport department said that battery-operated vehicles could also be registered as black-and-yellow cabs.

Under Section 74 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, taxis in Maharashtra must have a minimum engine capacity of 980cc and run on CNG. This rule was a major hurdle in the launch of e-taxis.

To fix the minimum power of the battery-operated vehicles, the STA had approached the Automatic Research Association of India (ARAI) in Pune. With its feedback, the STA clarified on May 9, 2015, that e-taxis should have power equivalent to 980cc.

“Under the STA resolution, manufactures will now have to produce certificates from type-approval agencies such as ARAI and CIRT that show their vehicles have power equivalent to 980cc or 1400cc,” said a senior official in the transport department.

Under the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules 2017, 70% of every taxi operator’s fleet must comprise vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 1,400cc, and only 30% can exceed this limit. In its resolution, STA also said that battery-operated vehicles with power equivalent to a 1400cc engine or more would be included in the 30%.

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