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Deep dive on behavioral issues for E-Rickshaw adoption in India - A case example of NOIDA, U.P

The Issue!

The rapid increase in motorization and high concentration of vehicles in cities come at social costs such as air pollution, accidents, climatic impacts, etc. According to CPCB, around 30-50% of pollution caused is due to road transport in India. India was one of 196 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, which seeks to restrict global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, ideally 1.50 degrees Celsius, relative to preindustrial levels. The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change called for intervention in the pursuit of electric mobility. Following this in 2013, the National Electric Vehicle Mission 2030 of India was launched which aims for 30 percent of vehicles in India to be electric vehicles by 2030.

To tackle the issue of pollution caused by Internal Combustion Engine (referred to as ICE) vehicles there is a need to switch to the shared mode of transport (public transport) which are cleaner options of transportation. Electric vehicles are a clean and sustainable alternative mode of travel. The upfront cost of an EV is greater than that of an ICE vehicle, but unlike private cars, which are idle 95 percent of the time, the payback cycle for service vehicles / shared mobility is much shorter because of the high vehicle usage.

Basics on EV and Shared Mobility!

Electric vehicle's power source is from a battery or any other source of energy such as solar or electric generators. Electric vehicles (EVs) are propelled by one or more electric motors or traction motors (Akshita Ghate, 2019). These vehicles work by charging the battery or battery swapping or maybe both depending on the range and use of the vehicle. EV does not have any tailpipe emission which makes it a clean mobility alternative to ICE vehicles. The aim of the use of EVs is to improve air quality, reduce carbon emission and reduce fuel consumption in the long run which will, in turn, helps India to achieve its nationally determined contributions.

While, shared mobility may refer to any means of transportation that is shared by users on an as-needed basis, such as motorcycles, four-wheelers, or public transit. In this article, passenger shared mobility is considered with three-wheelers such as Auto Rickshaws, E-Rickshaws, and four-wheelers such as cabs/taxis that hire IPT service. Shared mobility improves fleet utilization by encouraging more people to ride in the same vehicle/vehicle kilometer. Shared mobility has a range of possible advantages, the majority of which derive from increased reliability from increased asset usage and enhanced communication.

Let's talk through a case example!

Uttar Pradesh was one of the first few states to launch a state EV scheme, and it also has the country's largest motor vehicle customer base, so the state's electric vehicle industry is expected to boom (Uttar Pradesh Electric Vehicle Manufacturing and Mobility Policy, 2019). To do the study in detail, the city of Noida is selected. Noida (North Okhla Industrial development authority) is located in the western region of Uttar Pradesh. It lies in the national capital region of Delhi which makes it an important economic hub that attracts people from surrounding regions.

City Boundary and Land Use of NOIDA
NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh

Shared Mobility is available at every metro station, at junctions of major roads, and commercial areas, landmarks, and activity hotspots. Shared Mobility options that are currently available in Noida are Auto Rickshaws, E-Rickshaw, Cycle rickshaw, and hired IPT which is an app-based cab or taxi service. The most common shared mobility available in Noida is Auto Rickshaws, E-rickshaws, and Cycle rickshaws.

When the distribution of usage of different kinds of modes within a certain trip length is observed it is seen that for the distance 1-3 Km cycle rickshaw is also preferred. The highest percentage within 3 km is of E rickshaw but as the distance increases the use of electrified shared mobility decreases this is mainly due to low speed hence more travel time of the trip which acts as impedance and an unsatisfactory factor while choosing a mode for travel.

Source: Author's Survey
Distribution percentage of total shared mobility trips based on a choice of mode and distance traveled

NOIDA's Shared Mobility Outlook

Around 83.3% of the shared mobility operators own the vehicle they drive. The Average cost of maintenance of shared mobility depends on the fuel or the charging cost along with parking costs at some location or bribes to the police. Because CNG Auto Rickshaw drivers pay Rs 200 per day on fuel, the cost of maintenance is rather high when compared to the charging cost for E Rickshaw, which varies between Rs 50 - Rs 70 (one charge per day basis). If the operating hours are considered to be the same, the average cost of maintenance for an auto-rickshaw exceeds that of an E-rickshaw.

Source: Author's Survey
Cost of Maintenance Comparison

The interviews with the e-rickshaw operator revealed their issues and opinions on the operation of e-rickshaw or electrified shared mobility. The operators chose E-Rickshaw not only because it is a more environmentally friendly mode, but because it is less expensive than auto-rickshaw. E-Rickshaw operators earn less than other shared mobility operators due to lesser working hours and less preference by the uses due to slow speed. The operators at late evening hours cannot operate because of battery discharge after a full day of operating (5-6hr).

The core issue!!

Electrified shared mobility operators have many positive aspects of operating an electric vehicle such as low running costs, zero tailpipe emission, etc. Range Anxiety, on the other hand, has a negative impact on EV operator behavior. (Dario Pevec, 2020)

Range Anxiety

Range Anxiety is the fear, that an EV operator will not have enough battery capacity to meet their intended destination due to the vehicle's reduced battery. The perception of range anxiety may influence potential buyers' decisions to buy an internal combustion engine vehicle rather than an electric vehicle. Range anxiety can have a detrimental impact on the emotions and behaviors of drivers.

In order to quantify range anxiety and get a detailed perspective of operator behavior, an e-rickshaw operator was tracked using Mytracks android app. The app provided the operator's GPS location at every 2-second interval. The operator started from his home with a fully changed vehicle which he charged at night at home. He traveled 74km starting from 8 am to 6 pm. The operator limited his travel within a 2-3km distance buffer around the origin. The movement of the operator was predominantly on the nearest main road from origin. For the analyses of the location data (GPS points) few assumptions were taken, since e-rickshaw is a shared service and mostly operates on full occupancy where operator charges 10 rupees per person when the speed of the vehicle was less than 3 meters per second it was assumed he is taking in a customer hence one-trip likewise till the next stop, one trip is counted. Vehicle charging is done only one time in a day that is at night.

Source: Author
Operator's tracked travel pattern

The analysis revealed that in the first hour of operation, that is with a fully charged vehicle the number of trips was maximum. There were two peaks observed in the whole day, from 8 am to 9 am and from 2 pm to 3 pm. The number of trips after 3 pm started to decrease, this was due to low battery and decrease in speed of the vehicle. The number of trips per hour decrease as the number of working hours increase, also, from the primary survey of operators it was found that a fully changed e-rickshaw battery has a travel capacity of 100 km but after 60km the speed decreases and the operator feels a need to change and get feeling of uncertainty of being left abandoned with a discharged battery. This is known as range anxiety and from analysis, it is observed after 3 pm i.e. after 60 km the no of trips has decreased. Due to range anxiety and lack of infrastructure, the operator limits his travel in a 2-3km buffer around the origin. Hence at a threshold distance of 60 km if the changing infrastructure is provided the operator can increase the range of travel in terms as of distance well as time.

Let's build the solutions!

The shared mobility users in the city predominantly use Auto-Rickshaws, even though E-Rickshaws are available at the same location. The user preference is guided by the travel time and cost. Cost of travel is the same in both Auto rickshaw and E-Rickshaw, the former has the benefit of faster speed and no range limitation. Most E-Rickshaw operators restrict their travel within 2-3 Km buffer which is a limitation due to range anxiety. Therefore, to encourage faster adoption of EV the issue of range anxiety should be alleviated which can be done by suitable infrastructure provision. Range anxiety is one of the major issues that an operator faces, this affects the services provided by the shared mobility operators in terms of the time of operation and area served. The main contributor to range anxiety is a lack of infrastructure. The time required for the charging of the battery or the vehicle per se is also a major contributor towards the lesser operating hours and hence fewer earnings for operators. The current technology in use by the E-rickshaw operator takes about 8-10 hours of charging. Even the fast-changing technology in the case of the lithium-ion battery takes 30-40 min of charging but that saves a lot of time. The limitation here is that the E-Rickshaw operators initially chose to operator E-Rickshaw instead of Auto-Rickshaw because of the financial shortcomings. The lithium-ion battery is a better battery technology but it is expensive.

In order to first solve the issue of range anxiety appropriate charging facilities have to be introduced into the existing transportation and power network. While an operator may think of switching to EV, he/she may not want to go through the hours of charging time and queuing at the charging spot. In the case of specifically shared mobility battery swapping is an attractive option, while charging takes 8-10 hours, battery swapping takes a maximum of 10 minutes. Battery swapping through Battery Leasing Agencies (BLA) will not only reduce the unnecessary waiting time it will also increase the operating hours, if the swapping stations are strategically located it will also increase the service areas of the operators and hence strengthening the shared mobility in the city.

Disclaimer: The views published in the article are of the author's creation, ACPN does not take any credit for the idea, research, and data.

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