Electric Tuk-Tuks Power EV Revolution In India

by Jo Borras

Published on 3 December 2018

Electric Tuk-Tuks Power EV Revolution In India

When you think of the countries that are driving the EV revolution, you might think of China, or Norway, or — being the birthplace of Tesla and all — even the United States. One country you probably don’t think about, however, is India. You should think of India, though, because there are more than 1.5 million electric tuk-tuks on India’s roads right now.

Longtime readers of Gas 2 already know that I love me a good tuk-tuk. Based on Vespa’s three-wheeled Ape cargo scooter, India’s tuk-tuks can be converted into solar-powered food trucks or continent-crossing adventure-mobiles, and that’s why they work in India: they’re cheap, adaptable, and durable. Those three qualities make the little trikes interesting, but they also make tuk-tuks the go-to vehicle for India’s massive rickshaw taxi industry.

It’s those rickshaw taxi services, whose profits are put at risk as fuel prices rise and fall, who have been driving the EV revolution in the Asian country. Last year, for example, a company called SmartE (an Uber-style ride-hailing service) deployed more than 1,000 electric tricycles in the cities of Gurgaon and Faridabad, offering services from key train stations. In all, more than 11,000 new electric tuk-tuks are being put into service on Indian roads each month — and that’s a statistic that got Bloomberg’s attention.

Bloomberg writes that, “about 1.5 million battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws – a fleet bigger than the total number of electric passenger cars sold in China since 2011.” Which is cool, but the most interesting part of the story is that this EV “revolution” is happening without government subsidy or direction. “Drivers of the ubiquitous three-wheelers weaving through crowded, smoggy streets discovered that e-rickshaws are quieter, faster, cleaner and cheaper to maintain than a traditional auto rickshaw. They also are less strenuous than cycle rickshaws, which require all-day peddling. So with more rides possible in a day, the e-rickshaws are proving more lucrative.”

So, maybe that whole “free market” thing has some merits, now and again. I mean, I’m not particularly convinced, but maybe you guys are more libertarian than I am. Let me know what you think of the whole e-tuk-tuk thing happening in Indian in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

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