India, electric rickshaws increasingly seen as a way to cut air pollution

(Original article: CNN Business) Motorbikes and three-wheel rickshaws are ubiquitous in the country, and India’s government announced last year that only electric two and three-wheel vehicles would be allowed by 2025.
Bangalore-based startup Altigreen is among the companies looking to fill this space, as it prepares to hit the market with its debut three wheeler. Altigreen, founded in 2012, started out retrofitting diesel and petrol cars with electric motors to convert them to hybrids.
The company will launch its first — as yet unnamed — fully electric vehicle “within the next quarter,” according to CEO Amitabh Saran. A partner company is producing the car’s external framework, while Altigreen supplies the internal components including motor, transmission, display system, and telematics that supply data on driving performance to the user’s smartphone.
The startup is confident its model is among the fastest, with a top speed of 53 kilometers per hour (33 miles per hour), and offers faster charging, which is a key consideration for Altigreen’s target market. The company is “focused on the bottom end of the market,” says Saran, for customers driving passengers and cargo.
Rather than needing a charging station, Altigreen’s three-wheeler can be charged through any ordinary AC power socket in three to four hours, the CEO says. The vehicle has a higher initial price than non-electric rivals at around 350,000 rupees ($4,700) but Saran is confident it will deliver savings to drivers and fleet managers such as logistics companies.
“It is justified on pure economics,” he says. “Today a three-wheel driver spends 350-400 rupees ($4.70-$5.40) per day on diesel to cover 100 kilometers.” “To do the same with our electric operation will be about 90 cents — a huge saving for someone who potentially earns $8-9 a day.”
India’s government has taken steps to incentivize the purchase of electric vehicles by cutting taxes and offering subsidies. Electric vehicles could mitigate the health impact of air pollution, although these vehicles would draw power from a grid largely reliant on coal, which is itself a polluter.
Other companies are also offering electric rickshaws, including Delhi-based Gayam Motor Works of Hyderabad has developed swappable batteries for its vehicles to avoid charging delays. Ride-hailing giant Ola has announced plans to put 1 million electric vehicles on India’s streets, including 10,000 electric rickshaws.
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