Horse carts may be on their way out, but if the Maharashtra state transport department wishes, island city commuters could get eco-friendly autorickshaws that run on electric motors, instead.
The three-wheelers, which run at a speed of 25kmph, are fast emerging as an eco-friendly substitute to vehicles run on petrol, diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG). Consequently, in its advisory issued on June 9, the Centre has included the Greater Mumbai region, which so far banned the three-wheeler, on the list of cities that are allowed to introduce the facility. This effectively means the regional transport authority can register and issue permits for the vehicles.
The state transport department has sent the advisory to the regional transport authority and state transport authority for further analysis. “No decision has been taken yet on the cities or areas where the electric autorickshaws (e-rickshaws) will be introduced. The authorities will speak to all stakeholders to zero in on the feasible routes and also study the technicalities involved. It is too early to comment on whether the facility will be introduced in Greater Mumbai or not,” said state transport commissioner Sonia Sethi.
While the transport experts have welcomed the move, they have raised concerns over passenger safety, as in its current form, the e-rickshaw is open from all sides. “Currently, e-rickshaws can replace horse carts for tourists in the island city. But to ensure safety of regular passengers on congested city roads, we would need an enclosed four-wheeler e-rickshaw,” said Jagdeep Desai, transport expert.
“The e-rickshaw will certainly reduce the noise pollution, but it has to be enclosed,” said Ashok Datar, member of Mumbai Transport Forum.
Currently, around one lakh three-wheelers operate in the eastern and western suburbs in the city. Apart from Greater Mumbai, introduction of e-rickshaws has been permitted in Nagpur, Nashik, Pune and Mumbai.
Auto unions, however, are against the plan, as it would mean high operation and maintenance cost, setting up of more recharging stations, and raise questions over the safety of drivers and passengers. “For CNG vehicles, our operation cost is Rs2.13 a km, which will go up to Rs7.07 in case of e-rickshaws. Also, the open three-wheelers will pose a threat to the life of drivers as well as passengers. We are against the introduction of the facility in Mumbai,” said Thampy Kurien, general secretary, Mumbai Rickshawmen’s Union.
ABOUT ELECTRIC RICKSHAWS
* The electric autorickshaws or e-rickshaws are pulled by an electric motor with a power of 650- 1400 Watts
* They are emerging as an eco-friendly substitute to petrol, diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) autorickshaws
* Speed of e-rickshaws: 25kmph
* On June 9, the Centre issued an advisory on the introduction of e-rickshaws to all states
* The advisory states e-rickshaws have been incorporated in the law of the land and an agency such as the Automotive Research Association of India can certify its design
* The regional transport offices can register and issue permits for these vehicles
Areas where it can be introduced
* Greater Mumbai