Soon, you may travel in an e-rickshaw in the city as the transport department on Friday initiated the process for introducing these new-age vehicles in four cities – Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik.
As per a Central government advisory on June 9, the transport department has now asked the regional transport authorities (RTAs) in these cities to conduct a feasibility study and identify routes for e-rickshaws within a month. Mumbai may see these battery-operated three-wheelers plying on circular routes close to stations in the eastern and western suburbs, and near the tourist spots and commercial hubs, the sources stated.
When contacted, state transport commissioner Sonia Sethi confirmed that her department had initiated the process for e-ricks. “The Centre recently amended the Motor Vehicles Act to make provisions for introducing (legalizing) e-rickshaws on city roads. The advisory states that the government has also identified agencies (such as ARAI) which will give type approvals for the e-rickshaws while the local RTO will register vehicles and issue permits,” she said.
The role of the regional authorities will be to conduct a feasibility survey and identify passenger-friendly routes. Sources said that the final report on the survey/ routes are expected within a month.
“The e-rickshaw permits will be given only to those who will own the vehicle and drive it too,” Sethi emphasised. The objective will be to empower the unemployed and those from economically weaker sections of society. In Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, the MMRTA headed by additional chief secretary (transport) Gautam Chatterjee will play a key role in implementing the scheme.
It is learnt that the Centre has capped the speed limit at 25 kmph. A commercial driving licence will be mandatory for the owner/driver. The e-ricks have been classifed under the category of “special purpose battery operated vehicles”. The new rules allow such vehicles to carry four passengers and 40kg luggage.
Local autorickshaw unions are, however, opposed to the entry of e-rickshaws in Mumbai. Auto union leader Shashank Rao said that these “slow speed” autos were not meant for urban areas. Besides it will occupy road space, lead to snarls and hamper the movement and business of the CNG-driven autorickshaws. Another union leader Thampy Kurien had, in the past, registered his protest against e-rickshaws and there are indications of an agitation on the issue.
Those opposing the e-rickshaws said the vehicles were not suitable for plying on major roads due to their limited speed and were ” highly fragile, unstable and vulnerable to accidents”. With repeated recharging, an e-rickshaw battery lasts only 6-7 months. The discarded batteries may be dumped in parks, landfills and even streets, sources stated.