Earlier in September, sitting at an Electromobility conference in Gothenburg, we listened to the future of mobility. Product would no longer, necessarily, be the market driver and policy would not be required before innovations were unleashed. Tesla and Uber were put forward as examples of this disruptive mobility innovation. Integrated, accessible, user interfaces would be the new face of the revolution, and electricity would connect the dots for millenials buying in an attention economy, and living in smartcities.
Fast-forward a month, to the Tenth Nobel Memorial Week in Delhi. It was a great week, full of focused discussions around the issues facing India today, including energy access and energy security. It is clear that electromobility is India’s ambition. The Minister for Power, Coal, Renewable Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal, has said that he hopes India would be a 100 per cent e-vehicle nation by 2030. But questions have been raised about cost, R&D on battery technology, durability, and the aging grid infrastructure.
This might have been the last word, if Gurgaon and Saket had not been on my agenda. Here a different is story playing out. E-three wheelers / rickshaws were providing last mile connectivity to the city’s excellent metro system. Rates were set, and routes were fixed. There appeared to be no concerns about cost or technology. There is no final count, but it is estimated that there are at least 150,000 e-rickshaws in the National Capital Region, including Sweden’s Clean Motion Zbee.
The Delhi High Court banned e-rickshaws in 2014, arguing that without a clear regulatory framework, the vehicles were too dangerous to be on the roads. Although this served to reduce the number of e-rickshaws, it by no means eliminated them or dampened their popularity. The ban was lifted in 2015, in response to the role of the e-rickshaw in reducing vehicular pollution and improving connectivity. It became an example of Make-in-India manufacturing as well as skill India employment capacity building and creation. Today India’s Ola Cabs has introduced 5000 e-three wheelers on its online platform. It seems India and Sweden are not so far apart in understanding how fast the market can move policy and force technology innovation.