KOCHI: At a time when the government has mooted a draft policy pushing electric vehicles in the state, the first batch of e-autorickshaws launched within Infopark campus had to be withdrawn after its operator suffered huge financial loss. The five e-vehicles were pressed to service two months ago.
According to the operator, Lifeway Solar Devices, the autos that began conducting service two months ago proved to be a huge loss, despite having many takers. “This was already running at a huge loss. The minimum rate fixed by the Infopark authorities was Rs 10 per km. Though there were many takers for the service, it was not profitable to conduct the service at this rate. The driver had to be paid Rs 15,000 a month and we were struggling to meet even this expense,” says Georgekutty Kariyanappally, chairman of Lifeway Solar Devices.
The services were started on an experimental basis and the autos plied between Infopark buildings. The aim was to encourage a carbon-free public transport system and Kochi’s roads were favourable for this.
Electric autos run without permits as the maximum speed is 25 km per hour. “We had requested the authorities to revise the rates, but they say it can’t be done. Unless they make it at least Rs 15 per km, we cannot think of resuming the service,” adds Georgekutty.
Besides, e-vehicles also face issues related to maintenance. The Lithium Ferro phosphate batteries used in these vehicles are pricey and can easily get damaged, if over or undercharged. Only three people can be transported simultaneously and overcrowding can affect its efficiency. According to Georgekutty, government aid like subsidies for lithium batteries are necessary if the service has to continue.
Uncertain fate for KMRL’s e-autos?
The Kochi Metro Rail is all set to roll out electric autos in a month. But, unlike the autos that plied in Infopark, the Metro authorities have fixed the minimum charge as Rs 21. However, KMRL managing director A P M Mohammed Hanish seems to be confident.“ The operator Kinetic India Talks has held talks with the District Coordination Committee of Autorickshaw Drivers’ Unions and fixed the minimum rate at Rs 21. The drivers have agreed to this. Since we have planned a share-auto system, three passengers can be accommodated and each has to give Rs 7,” he added.
As many as 19 e-rickshaws have arrived in Kochi for the service. The autos will be launched in a month. “The plan was to launch it on August 15, but the floods delayed it,” he adds. The service will be launched at six stations in the initial phase.
Draft policy on electric vehicles
The policy aims to reduce the number of vehicles on the road with the introduction of a modern shared-transport system like air-conditioned e-buses and e-autorickshaws. It is a part of NITI Ayog, Jhunjhunwala Commission which aims to move towards an all-electric fleet by 2030.
According to the policy, the government plans to ensure a robust infrastructure for electric vehicles, that includes an adequate power availability, a network of charging points and a favourable power tariff.