September 9 is celebrated as World Electric Vehicle (EV) Day since 2020. It is a global movement, driving change, together. It is a day of celebration of e-mobility and a day to shift the transition to sustainable transport with consumer, business and policy outcomes.
The Future is Electric
The Government of India, with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, is pushing for the quick deployment of EV’s in the nation. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) Schemes I and II have also been launched in order to facilitate the production and purchase of EV’s in India by providing subsidies. As many as 12 Indian states have come up with their EV Policies to formulate a roadmap to the quick electrification of their fleets.
On September 8, 2021, Assam released a draft EV policy and is soon set to roll out the final EV policy.
Urban transport includes various different modes of transportation, the most common ones in the public domain being the buses, Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS) including metros, and local trains and Intermediate Public Transport (IPT) such as the auto-rickshaws and cabs including Ola, Uber, Rapido and PeIndia. While the most popular ones in India are the private vehicles, the most basic ones would include walking and the very humble, bicycles.
While the focus of the EV policy is mostly on the transition from the conventional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles to EV’s for it would be beneficial for all if attention is given to small vehicles like bicycles.
We all understand that bicycles have tremendous individual health benefits and thus are quite popular amongst fitness enthusiasts. However, they are also beneficial for our environment’s health as they do not cause any tailpipe emissions and very interestingly, the nation’s economic health.
Along with the electrification of ICE Vehicles, bicycles too, are shifting to the electric mode as they address a large number of issues cyclists face, such as low speed, terrain etc.
Electric cycles or e-bicycles or e-bikes have a rechargeable battery (detachable or non-detachable) attached to its frame that provides electric power to run the cycle. Let us know about its history and other specifications.
E-bikes were recently merely viewed only as modes of joy rides for many. However, this segment of cycles has the potential to be a game-changer in the pattern of urban mobility.
The adventure sports segment is also seeing some traction with some manufacturers coming up with electric mountain bikes. However, since this segment is quite new and exciting, we can delve into it separately in the future.
As of now let’s talk about the history, definition, classifications and advantages.
- The first E-bicycle was invented in the 1890s in USA
- In India the first E-bicycles appeared in 1993
Legal Definition of E-bicycles in India
- One or more electric motor with power less than 250W
- Maximum speed of 25 km/hr
EV’s, which comply with the above requirements, are not categorized as motor vehicles. Hence the transport rules are not applicable for them (Insurance, taxes, helmet, driving license, pollution certificate etc.)
Classification of E-bicycles
Advantages of E-Bicycles
- Problems faced or cited by people like weather conditions, sloped terrains, excessive perspiration, long distances, poor fitness, illness, injury and lack of confidence all melt away when e-bikes are considered.
- Older people, disabled people, the less fit, overweight or those recovering from injury and illness can all ride an e-bicycle. They are very inclusive.
- Regular cyclists expend less energy and can go further with electric support.
- Most electric bikes have a range of around 30 kilometres, so there is ample opportunity to get around without any range anxiety. It’s easy to remove the battery pack and then plug it into the wall; like charging a phone or laptop battery.
- Unlike a vehicle, when the battery charge runs out, e-bikes can still be used like a conventional bicycle by pedalling.
- There are several brands of e-bicycles available in India- both online and offline at various prices. Some of them are Hero Lectro, Lightspeed, Elektron, Felidae, E-Motorad etc.
- Many companies have created electric delivery cycles which are in high demand by many logistics companies across India.
- On the business front, a lot of start-ups and established cycle manufacturers are seeing huge potential for growth. Innovations by such players are making batteries more efficient and cycles lighter. Ahija, in Guwahati, is one the examples of a business renting out e-bikes for commute or recreation.
Some well-known brands in India with electric Cycles are
Meraki by Outdoor 91
The Road Ahead
E-bikes could bring about a significant change in the urban transportation scenario. While it does compete with public transport, it also significantly competes with private vehicles and could pave the way for a big modal shift towards cycling. It can be used for commute, recreation and fitness while addressing the issues of low speed and discomfort among many others. Thus, e-bikes should be a big leap in the field of active mobility and there should be an adequate focus on them.
These may very much be compared to Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) and can go hand in hand to improve the urban transport scenario of cities. The focus on e-mobility is a positive sign and we hope that the focus remains more on public transport, active mobility and NMT facilities, rather than just on private vehicles.
We hope that this World EV Day, on September 9, 2021, the readers of this article would consider taking a positive perspective on e-bikes and may even go on to purchase one if at all one is planning to get a new motor vehicle to use for intra-city commutes. This would be a very good choice and in the best interest of one’s individual health, environmental health and the nation’s economic health. At the same time, we urge the readers to spread the word about e-bikes as a small step towards tackling the issue of air pollution and help India abide by its promises made in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
The article has been written by Arshel Akhter, Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati and Co-Founder of Pedal for a Change, and Rituraj Sarma, Bicycle Ambassador and Transport planner.
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