Electric cabs find niche in Delhi’s green mobility push
In the past few years, several electric cab services—such as BluSmart, Plug Mobility, Evera, and eeeTaxi—have been launched in Delhi/ NCR.
It is 4pm on a rainy Friday, and Reena Chauhan, dressed in sky-blue shirt and navy blue trousers, is waiting for a passenger in Connaught Place. In a few minutes, her passenger, a woman in her fifties, arrives. Chauhan gets out of the driver’s seat, greets her, and opens the door of her vehicle—an electric Tata Tigor—with a warm smile, and is soon on her way to East Of Kailash. Chauhan is a driver with BluSmart Mobility, an all-electric ride-hailing company, which she joined a year ago.
In the past few years, several electric cab services—such as BluSmart, Plug Mobility, Evera, and eeeTaxi—have been launched in Delhi/ NCR. BluSmart, the largest of them, provides electric cars through its mobile application in Gurugram, south and central Delhi; Evera, which presently provides on-demand services to corporates and airport transfer through MakeMyTrip, is all set to launch its own ride-hailing App next month. Plug Mobility, which started its operation two months back, caters to both companies and individuals through its Web App.
Currently, BluSmart, has over 2,250 electric vehicles in its fleet, making it the largest electric taxi operator not just in Delhi, but in the country. “ We do about 15,000 trips a day in Delhi/ NCR. By the end of October, we will have a fleet of over 4,000 electric cars, and 25,000 cars by the end of 2023,” says Anmol Jaggi, co-founder and CEO of the company, whose ride-hailing services are currently available in south Delhi, Gurugram, and central Delhi. The company provides scheduled airport drops from other parts of Delhi/ NCR.
These companies, which deploy cars such Tata Tigor, Mahindra e-Verito, Mahindra e2o Plus, BYD-M3, BYD E6 , and MG-ZS, have adopted an asset-light model, with vehicles leased from manufacturers, leasing companies and financial houses. BluSmart sub-leases the vehicles to drivers on a six-hourly basis. “Our model has freed them from hefty EMI payments, high fuel, and maintenance cost, and given customers hassle-free, clean and on-time services, with zero-ride denial and zero-surge, whether rain or traffic,” says Jaggi. “Most of our clients are in the 25- 35 age group and 35% of them are women.”
Evera, which is all set to expand its current fleet of 168—mostly Tata Tigor —to 750 by the end of this year, hires drivers on a salary basis. “The idea is to control the customer experience, which is not possible when drivers own the vehicles and work as partners. Our drivers get extensive training in soft skills as well as the technical aspects of driving an electric vehicle (EV),” says Nimish Trivedi, co-founder and CEO of Evera. Like most other electric cab operators, his company leases its vehicles from leasing companies. During the pandemic, Delhi government tied up with Evera to transport non-critical Covid patients to healthcare facilities across the national capital.
Most of these electric cab operators are building their charging hubs across Delhi-NCR. BluSmart has over 15 hubs, including one at New Delhi railway station.
It is 2pm and there are about 30 cars on fast chargers on the 6th floor of Eros multilevel parking in Nehru Place, which serves as one of BluSmart hubs. It has 108 slow and 31 fast-charging guns. This is where hundreds of drivers come every day to pick up, charge and leave their vehicles in the evening. “I do about 200 kilometres every day, says Puneet Mehta, a driver who earns about ₹38,000 per month doing two shifts of six hours each. Evera has its hubs in Okhla and Rajokri near the airport.
Last year, BluSmart tied with Jio-BP, a fuels and mobility joint venture between Reliance Industries and United Kingdom’s BP, to set up a commercial EV charging network in cities. Similarly, Plug Mobility, an initiative of Carzonrent, one of India’s largest car rental companies, has tied with Fortum, which helps set up charging infrastructure, to create 3,200 charging points across the country. Rajiv Vij, a rental car industry veteran and managing director, Plug Mobility, has ambitious plans to induct 5,000 electric vehicles under the Plug Mobility initiative in the next one year, replacing his entire existing Carzonrent fleet with electric vehicles.
“I am convinced that electric is the future of mobility,” says Vij, adding his confidence comes from the rapid changes in the electric mobility ecosystem in India in the past couple of years. “ Now you have almost all major car makers producing EVs. New EV cars can do 500km on a single charge. That is a real game changer,” he says. Currently, Plug Mobility has about 400 electric vehicles that can be booked through its web app. “ We did a four-month pilot before we launched our operations two months ago. Our Android and iOS App will be launched soon,” says Vij.
Trivedi says the price of EVs should come down further for faster EV adoption. “There is a need for EV manufacturers and cab operators to work closely together to achieve this.”
Jaggi says electric cab companies will be driving EV adoption in the country. “Our passengers often talk to our drivers about various aspects of the electric vehicles they are travelling in, which I feel help remove misgivings they have and encourages them to opt for a personal EV,” he says.
Meanwhile, it is 8pm and Reena Chauhan, one of BluSmart’s 3,000 drivers in Delhi-NCR, is at Nehru Place to clock out after the end of her shift. “Quite a lot of drivers here have worked with other cab hailing services, but with rising petrol prices, our incomes were falling constantly. This weekend I got a lot of compliments for my clean car and no surge pricing even during three days of rain,” says Chauhan.
Rajesh Kumar, a software engineer in Gurugram, who often uses electric cabs, says while their ride experience is much better than that of other ride-hailing companies , the electric cab operators have a long way to go. “While there is no surge pricing , kilometre-based flat fares of these electric cabs are almost the same as those of others. And most electric cab companies operate like a scheduled cab services rather than app-based cab-hailing services because of fleet constraints. I hope this will change in coming months as their fleet increases,” says Kumar.