Electric or e-rickshaws have been becoming popular these days. These are also known as toto in different regions of the world. This rise in popularity is also because they are cheap in terms of the cost and human effort as compared to its counterparts like the auto-rickshaws and manually pulled rickshaws. Since 2008 they are considered as the alternative to petrol/diesel/CNG rickshaws. These are generally three wheelers which are pulled by an electric motor whose power ranges from 650 to 1400 watts.
These are mostly manufactured in India and China, and only a few other countries are involved in manufacturing these vehicles. These serve as a low-emitter complimentary transport for low-income countries, which suffer the most due to lack of transportation facilities if they are introduced in a structured manner.
With E-Rickshaws, India is ahead of China in terms of the Electric-Vehicle revolution. It is an indisputable fact that India is home to nearly 1.5 million battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws – a fleet bigger than the total number of electric passenger vehicles sold in China since 2011.
Apart from that the drivers also discovered that e-rickshaws are quieter, faster, cleaner, and cheaper to maintain than a traditional auto-rickshaw. They are also less tiring than cycle rickshaws which require all-day peddling. Hence, with more rides in a day, the E-Rickshaws are proving to be more lucrative.
Although the electric motor vehicles were not considered a viable mode of transportation in the 1900s, as research progressed in 1920-1960, it highlighted the environmental issues related to pollution and diminishing natural resources. This reawakened the issue, and new environmentally friendly means of transportation were again high in demand. With time the technologies that support a reliable battery and the need for a more significant number of batteries elevated the prices of the manufacturing of an electric vehicle. The first breakthrough came when Robert Davidson from Scotland developed the first electric car. The actual sale of electric cars started in the 1890s in Europe and America. These electric cars were so popular that in the late 1890s, the United States had core electric automobiles than automobiles with internal combustion engines.
Design and Construction
The E-rickshaws have a main tubular Chassis which is made up of M.S. (Mild Steel). They consist of 3 wheels with the rear wheels having a differential mechanism. The DC motor which is mostly manufactured in India and China is brushless. Apart from this, there is a different battery sold in India and Bangladesh with 48V and 60V respectively. The design of the body of Chinese variants is mostly made up of fragile iron or aluminium sheets. In India, these are made in fibre as it provides strength and durability and hence requires less maintenance.
There are different versions of this e-rickshaw ranging from load carriers, passenger vehicles without a roof to full body having a windshield for the driver’s comfort. The whole system is provided with a controller unit. The basis of selling these products is the voltage supplied, current output and also the number of MOSFETs, i.e. Metal Oxide Field Effect Transistors. The battery is mainly made up of lead-acid having a life of 6 to 12 months. However, low discharge batteries are seldom used for the design of electric vehicles. The main problem associated with the design has been the weight of the electric car.
Types of electric rickshaws
These types of e-rickshaws are mainly used for utilizing their load carrying capacity. They differ in upper bodies, the capacity of load, the power of the motor, controller and some structural changes. The motor power is increased to carry loads of 500 to 1000 kg.
They are solar-powered electric rickshaws: These solar-powered rickshaws are provided with one or more electric motors that are powered employing a solar panel which is mounted on the top of the electric rickshaws. This panel also can work even while the electric rickshaw is in motion.The solar panels can directly power the motor without the need for any battery, but in reality, this design is not adopted owing to the intended purpose of them. These solar panels are not used more frequently due to their ineffectiveness.
In reality, Solar Rickshaws are synonymous with battery/electric rickshaws which require the charging of its batteries employing solar power before its use. This is done by removing the batteries which need charging and exchanging them with already charged batteries. These batteries can also be charged in-situ after parking the vehicle, but this will reduce the overall effectiveness due to reduced daytime usage.
These batteries which are used for replacement and on-site charging are the same as those used for non-solar usage.
Technical specifications of an E-rickshaw are –
- Special Purpose battery-operated vehicle: This special purpose battery needs to be taken out of the vehicle, charged and then replaced by another fully charged battery to save the daytime costs.
- Mono motor: This may either consist of a mono motor or more than one motors to convert the electrical energy from the battery to mechanical energy which is used to power the vehicle.
- Speed 20 to 30 kmph: This low speed is due to the use of a small battery and engine mechanism which is advantageous in reducing the overall capital cost and increased efficiency.
- Controller: This unit is the heart of the E-Rickshaw. It receives the input from the throttle and the controller decides the speed that needs to be provided to the motor.
- Charger with the charging of 6 to 8 hrs: E-Rickshaw battery lasts for 6 to 8 hours, once charged properly.
- Steering Handlebar: This unit is used to control the movement of the E-Rickshaw.
- Suspension: The front is telescopic, and the rear is loaf spring. This system is a combination of tyres, shock absorbers, springs and linkages that allow relative motion between the vehicle and the wheels.
- Drum type of braking system: This system uses friction to help in slowing the vehicle.
- Alloys wheels: Alloy Wheels make your E-Rickshaw look stylish and trendy.
- Seating capacity: The E-Rickshaw has a seating capacity of 5 people, one driver and 4 passengers.
- Meter: E-Rickshaw has a digital/Analog speed meter with an LED.
- Fiber type roof- CRC unit is independent and does not need any computer system to handle the operations. Chassis is the basic framed structure on which the vehicle’s superstructure is supported.
More than anything, these vehicles have played a significant role in enhancing the last mile connectivity and reducing pollution simultaneously. However, there are some concerns which are stopping its growth in the market:
- Lack of proper charging facilities, parking facilities as well as harassment by
- Lack of E-Rickshaw stands
- Use of old Batteries instead of new ones to save money.
- Lack of financial assistance by the banks
- Unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles.
Also, in India, the major shortcoming is of public awareness and inadequate technologies which can hinder the growth of the electric vehicle market, despite the country’s efforts to meet international commitments.