The diesel-operated autorickshaws, which have often been signalled out for causing the maximum amount of air pollution among all vehicles plying within the holy city limits, may well make way for the non-polluting battery-operated e-autos.
The move for bringing in the e-autos has already been set in motion by deputy commissioner (DC) Varun Roojam and commissioner of police (CP) Jatinder Singh Aulakh. The move commenced after deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday asked the DC and the CP to take immediate steps to check vehicular pollution in the city. The deputy CM in particular signalled out the autorickshaws plying in the city as the main source of pollution and asked the two officials to find environment-friendly vehicles to replace the existing diesel operated autos.
Acting on the instructions of the deputy CM, the DC and the CP, on Saturday, set into motion the plan for bringing in the e-autos in the city. The two officials contacted the local dealer of Kinetic, a reputed company manufacturing two-wheelers and environment-friendly autorickshaws.
“The dealer will make contact with officials of the company and will get back to us on Monday. We have sought four or five e-autos from the company, which we will ply on trial basis in the city by the end of this month and even demonstrate these to the existing autorickshaw drivers,” Aulakh told HT.
Other than the CP and the DC, ADCP (traffic) Dhruman Nimble were given a briefing on e-auto and its features by the local dealer. “This battery operated e-auto causes zero pollution and with a fully charged battery it can cover a distance of around 100 km. Like all other battery-operated vehicles, the battery of the auto can be recharged,” the dealer said.
Though on official records of the administration, there are around 9,600 registered autorickshaws, including all categories, plying in the city, the police officials say the number was much higher. “This number could be beyond the 15,000 mark. While some of the autos are operating on LPG used in kitchens for cooking purposes, there are others which use diesel as fuel. However, the maximum pollution is caused by those in which kerosene is mixed in diesel as this is a cheap fuel,” they informed.
Low cost, employment generation factor
Aulkah pointed out that a brand new e-auto would cost around Rs 1.55 lakh while the diesel operated ones cost around Rs 2.10 lakh. “This cost difference will help in popularising the e-autos,” he said.
“We will talk with the company officials to arrange for low interest loans from banks for buyers of e-autos. We have come to know that in some states, the governments there have provided some form of subsidies to those interested in purchasing the environment-friendly vehicles,” he added.
Aulakh and the DCP (traffic) had a brief chat with a couple of autorickshaw drivers and members of some auto unions. According to the police commissioner, the response of the drivers and union members was quite positive.
“If trial runs are successful, then we will begin replacing the existing autos with the battery operated ones in a phased manner,” Aulakh added.
Pointing out that around half of the autos currently plying in the city were rented out by owners to the drivers, Aulakh was hopeful that the e-auto project would help break the monopoly of those who give out the vehicles on rent on a daily or monthly basis.
“We will ensure that bank loans are given only to those who will be driving the e-autos themselves and not to anyone else. This will help in generating employment, as a majority of the present auto drivers are not financially well off and ply rented vehicles,” the police commissioner said.