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E-rickshaws good for Pune neighbourhoods, but service is poor

E-rickshaws have residents rocking, but service providers and drivers are claiming a short fuse on economic viability and long-term sustainability

pune Updated: Sep 28, 2017 17:08 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
E-rickshaws,good for Pune,neighbourhoods
The e-rickshaw service currently operates in Aundh, though residents have complained that off late, the e-ricks are not showing up on call.(HT PHOTO)

The tremendous popularity of e-rickshaws in the Aundh area for neighbourhood commuting by senior citizens and others needs to be looked at closely for introduction of similar services in other neighbourhoods of Pune.

Moving at a relatively slow speed through the inner lanes of Aundh, picking up passengers on the way and charging as little as ₹10 per ride, the e-ricks became immensely popular with a number of citizens in the neighbourhood.

Five e-rickshaws were introduced in Aundh as a service to citizens by BJP corporators Archana Musale two and half years ago. Two more were added after this service became extremely popular.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, the corporator’s husband, Advocate Madhukar Musale, who is also active in politics, says, “I first saw the use of e-rickshaws on my visit to Delhi. They were used in most of the areas in Old Delhi or near the station and I was quite amazed that it cost very little to travel.”

Hence, Musale decided to buy 5 e rickshaws which cost him ₹1.5 lakh each, including transportation to Pune from Delhi.

“There was a huge demand from local citizens, especially senior citizens and women, who had complained against the regular autorickshaws drivers who were rude, refused short- distance travel and charged exorbitant rates of almost ₹50 as compared to ₹18 per kilometre according to RTO rules. Residents complained often during society meetings and many had requested a solution.

“The e-rickshaws are pollution free as they run on battery, they are cost effective and it could help residents in local areas. I bought three rickshaws initially. There was a huge response from residents and so I added two more. It helped people travel within the locality,” Musale says.

Masule has 7,000 registered members with the Madhukar Musale social group, where every commuter has to sign up for free. One can then travel in his e-rickshaws for ₹10 anywhere in Aundh, from Baner Phata to Medi Point Hospital, to Aloma County, Vidhate Vaste, Bremen Chowk, Rajiv Gandhi bridge.

“We have provided the driver’s mobile number to call for an e-rickshaw, which seats 6 persons, and it will come to pick them up even in their society. One can also flag an e-rick while on the road, from 7 am to 9 pm. In between, e-rickshaws have to stop service for charging at points in the Vedas Centre,” he says.

Although the service began well, now, only three e-ricks are operational due to servicing problems.

“It takes almost six hours of battery charging to get them fully functional. Besides, there are certain drawbacks with them for they are made in China and maintenance is a very costly affair, ” he says.

It costs him ₹35,000 per month to keep an e-rickshaw on the road. For maintenance, spare parts have to be brought from Delhi and trained mechanics are not available in Pune.

Another aspirant during elections, Nana Walke also started this service with 10 e-rickshaws in 2016, but had to stop his service as the RTO and PMC demanded that he needed permission to ply them on the roads at the time. These e-rickshaws also made a brief appearance in areas like Balewadi, Kothrud,Pashan and Bavdhan.

However, even those runs have ended with the service being withdrawn.

Auto drivers not switched on despite dedicated routes

Various types of e-rickshaws are available, but drivers are still not all convinced. (HT PHOTO)

At a time when commuters are demanding e-rickshaws be plied, there is almost no response that has come from autorickshaw drivers and owners to move to e-rickshaws in the city.

When contacted, deputy regional transport officer, Vinod Sagare said, “There has, so far, been no registration of e-rickshaws with the RTO. The dealers have been given the permission to sell e-rickshaws, but from the autorickshaw drivers and owners there has been no response.” Sagare further stated that a separate licence would be required for drivers who would drive an e-rickshaw.

“The process of getting a permanent licence will take one month time and hence, the demand for e-rickshaw licences can only be analysed after a month,” he added.

Regional transport officer Babasaheb Ajari told Hindustan Times that to promote e-rickshaws an exhibition by the dealers would be held at the RTO soon.

When contacted, Baba Kamble of the Autorickshaw Chalak Malak Sanghatana said that plying of e-rickshaws is not very financially viable and hence, not many autorickshaw drivers are interested in plying e-rickshaws.

“Routes for plying e-rickshaws are not in the heart of the city. Also, the speed of e-rickshaws is very slow. Due to this, plying of e-rickshaws also causes traffic congestion and hence, it is not a comfortable option for autorickshaw drivers,” he added.

8-hour charge = e-rick @ 25km/hr for 85 km

E-rickshaws or battery operated rickshaws have been gaining popularity in many cities over auto and cycle-rickshaws, as it is proving more affordable for commuters over shorter distances.

In Pune, too, e-rickshaws were introduced for smaller distances and they became a hit among commuters of the areas they serviced.

Speaking about the e-rickshaw, officials from Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO) said that e-rickshaws can travel with speeds of around 25km/hour and so cannot be operated on roads where vehicular traffic is at a higher speed. “These rickshaws can be plied on certain designated stretches of roads and a few routes have already been suggested,” and RTO statement said.

Speaking about the features of e-rickshaws, Nitin Kapoor from Saera Electric Auto, a dealer in e-rickshaws, says, “The government has approved four-seater e-rickshaws for city roads. These e-rickshaws cost around ₹1 lakh and are battery operated.”

Kapoor adds that for charging, the battery requires eight hours.

“Once the battery is charged, then the e-rickshaw can travel upto 85 km,” he claims.

Kapoor says that if the battery is kept in a good condition it lasts for a year, after which, it has to be replaced.

First Published: Sep 28, 2017 17:06 IST