In the second article of this series based on the analysis of EV dashboard data, we explore how growth in the 3-wheeler shared mobility market is by far one of the fastest across all EV segments in India

In the previous article, we presented the EV Dashboard and its usefulness in disaggregating EV adoption across states. Our analysis showed that the top six states accounted for nearly 60% of all EV sales in 2023. In this article, we take a closer look at the three wheeler category, given the fact that it is the second highest sales segment after two wheelers and of its importance in furthering shared mobility in India.

Data especially from the leading EV state, Uttar Pradesh (UP) shows that three-wheelers contributed to 85% of all EV sales for that state in 2023. In the first nine months of the year, UP sold nearly 1.6 lakh three wheelers compared to 25,000 two wheelers. In fact, the state registered a 27% growth between Q2 to Q3 of the annual year 2023. Clearly, growth in the 3-wheeler shared mobility market is by far one of the fastest across all EV segments in India.

A deeper look into the 3W sales in Uttar Pradesh indicate that nearly 98% of all vehicles are in the slow speed segment category. Out of this, a major fraction is used for shared mobility (see figure below). This means that the EVs sold in Uttar Pradesh are catering to small distance, last-mile, shared and inexpensive rides - a classic example of a good public transport policy.

However, not all states follow UP’s trajectory. The figure below shows the percentage of all three wheeler sales that are shared. And interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, states such as Assam, Bihar, Delhi and Rajasthan are witnessing greater use of low-speed 3W for shared mobility. States such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa and Kerala have significantly lower deployment of low speed three wheelers for last mile connectivity, despite being leading states in EV penetration and/or sales.  This can be explained due to the historic presence of rickshaws in states such as UP, Assam and Bihar, while these have been almost absent in the southern states and in Gujarat.

Policy Implications

Data indicates that the seven significant states (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala) might consider loosening some of the restrictions around low-speed vehicles in its cities, but also its towns and villages. While the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2015 specifically included e-rickshaws as a recognized form of transport, various state governments and local authorities are yet to formally recognize them .

Some of the concerns raised around e-rickshaw deployment range from their slow speed to violations of traffic rules. The objection of speed might be overstated, given that most cities and towns in India are already clogged with traffic, making most roads into ‘slow-ways’. The objection of traffic violation is also rather weak, given that traffic rules adherence in India is an endemic problem. However, there have been genuine problems on illegal charging of e-rickshaws which could create safety concerns.

All this points to the need for a comprehensive regulation on e-rickshaw in India. There is an urgent need for clear jurisdiction of e-rickshaws i.e. where can they ply? Where can they charge? What should be the operator training requirements? Additionally, specific urban infrastructure needs to be set up to ensure adequate bays at metro stations and bus stands, and importantly, access to safe charging infrastructure. Formalization of this sector will not only make last mile connectivity much easier but will also create jobs, especially among the poorest for whom auto rickshaws and taxis are out of reach.

Akhilesh Magal is the founder and director of Climate Dot Foundation