They are slow, but steady, compared to auto rickshaws, do not consume fuel, hence eco-friendly. Introduced in 2014 only for operation between Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake, battery-operated rickshaws, better known as e-rickshaws, are slowly taking over the city roads. Be it the two bus stands in Sector 17 and 43, tourist hotspots, Panjab University or other colleges and schools, the dainty and non-polluting e-rickshaw is on its way to become a commuter’s favourite ride.
The Union Territory administration is also giving this eco-friendly and noiseless vehicle a boost by planning to install solar-operated battery charging points at several places in the city. Besides, Chandigarh Municipal Corporation provides 4 per cent subsidy on purchase of an e-trike.
Their popularity too seems to be on rise. Although only 310 such e-trikes have been registered with State Transport Authority (STA) since August 2017 when a notification regulating these emission-free vehicles was issued under the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, in Chandigarh, their presence on the roads seems much more robust.
Secretary, STA, Rajeev Tiwari says, “Indeed, the number of e-rickshaws plying on city roads is much higher than the registered ones. There are two reasons. First, e-rickshaws registered with Panchkula and Mohali are also operating in Chandigarh. Second, people sometimes don’t go for registration as they want to sell these further.”
The STA policy has started a separate registration series – CH01TE – for these e-rickshaws.
As per notification, e-trikes are not allowed on cycle tracks, Madhya Marg and Dakshin Marg besides V-1 roads from Sector 29 roundabout to Zirakpur barrier and from transport roundabout to Sector 47 and Manimajra.
But these light-weight rickshaws can be seen happily plying on these forbidden stretches as well, which may explain the challans slapped on 94 e-rickshaws.
Open & pollution-free
Elaborating on the popularity of these trikes, Amar Singh, who drives one, says people like these because they are noiseless, pollution-free and open. “It is the first choice for those who want to see Chandigarh from close quarters.’’
Assistant Professor Suman Mor of the department of environment studies, Panjab University, said e-rickshaws are viable solution for all kind of pollution – air or noise. “If all diesel and petrol-operated auto rickshaws are replaced with the battery-operated rickshaws, it will be good for Chandigarh’s environment.”
Chandigarh’s air quality is getting more and more toxic with every passing day. Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee recorded the highest AQI of 302 at Sector 39 on December 18, which is almost three times higher than the normal figure. Environmentalists attribute it to the high density of vehicular population. The union territory has over 12 lakh registered vehicles. At 878 vehicles per 1,000 persons, it has the highest vehicular density in the country. These days too the air quality is ‘moderate’, leading to a debate on the need to curb the use of vehicles in the city. e-rickshaws are a welcome addition, which are also pocket-friendly for both the drivers and passengers. ‘’I pay a rent of Rs 250 a day for the e-rickshaw and earn at least Rs 650,” says Singh.
R K Tandon, a Manimajra-based manufacturer and dealer of these trikes, says they cost anywhere between Rs 1.20 lakh and Rs 1.35 lakh. “The mileage of an e-rickshaw depends on the quality of battery it uses. Usually, a good battery lasts for 60 km to 70 km. And it takes take six to seven hours to fully charge it. ’’
As far as passengers are concerned, a college girl says she feels much safer and less cramped. “Only four people are allowed and though it has a roof, it is not covered from all sides like an auto rickshaw.’’