The controversial e-rickshaw takes off amid safety concerns

The controversial e-rickshaw takes off amid safety concerns

To suggest that Jitendra Thukral is a happy man would be an understatement. He is elated. It is great that this has happened, says Thukral, owner of Thukral Electric Bikes, a company which assembles e-rickshaws and is based out of Adarsh Nagar in New Delhi. People used to call us illegal but now we are legal. It is good. No problem.

Thukral has good reason to feel vindicated. And he is not alone. It is good. Demand will go up, says Pawan Tyagi, owner of Swastik Enterprises, another firm which claims to assemble and manufacture e-rickshaws based in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. Ask Tyagi how business has been of late and pat comes the reply. Theres zero business because of lack of buyers. His problem of not finding enough buyers is set to change.

Late last week, the central government, thanks to an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, cleared battery-operated vehicles, e-rickshaw and e-cart, in the three-wheeler category to ply on roads. The notification suggests a few qualifications. The e-rickshaw, for instance, will not carry more than four passengers excluding the driver. It will not carry more than 40kg of luggage. The power of the electric motor should not be more than 2,000 watts. The driver will have to get a licence to drive the vehicle. The maximum speed of the vehicle should not be more than 25 km per hour. The vehicle itself will have to go through a safety test of sorts.

According to the notification, before 30 November, all registered e-rickshaw associations will have to submit the name of companies and models of e-rickshaws to their respective state transport authorities. Out of these, one sample of every e-rickshaw model will be subject to tests specified by the central government under Rule 126 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. Once this sample is tested, specifications will be laid out for each model, which in turn will serve as the benchmark for registering the various models of e-rickshaws. That much is clear. The rest is ambiguous. The notification fails to specify the tests which will be carried out. Will it be a type approval, perhaps? Will it spell out specifications for all the various parts that go into the making of an e-rickshaw, such as tyres, the weight of the chassis and battery power? The notification has been through several iterations since it first came. We are still studying it, said Rashmi Urdhwareshe, deputy director at Automotive Research Association of India (Arai), the governments testing body that issues road-worthiness certificates to automobiles. This is a matter of concern.

As things stand today, e-rickshaws are either imported or assembled. In assembly, there is hardly any process which is followed. How the e-rickshaw is put together, mostly by small and obscure firms in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, can at best be called jugaad, an Indian term that means functional and improvised innovation. Not to be mistaken for the good jugaad, or frugal manufacturing, which corporate India gets a constant pat on the back for.

At these small firms in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the process of putting together an e-rickshaw is devoid of any check on the quality or safety of components used. For instance, heres what Tyagi of Swastik Enterprises has to say on the entire process: Earlier we used to get all the parts from China. Now most of them are locally available. So we assemble it here. And how is the assembly done? It is easy. One should just be able to understand the wiring and see if the alignment is okay. Theres a body, tyres, seats, the main wiring and a box where you have to place the four batteries in a series.

Source: Live Mint

Smart Grid Bulletin May 2018

View all SMART GRID Bulletins click here

22 June 2018