If things go to plan, ride-hailing company Ola could emerge as one of the largest electric vehicle (EV) fleet operators in the world by next year. After all, in the next 12 months it hopes to add a whopping 10,000 e-rickshaws and electric auto-rickshaws in its service under its 'Mission: Electric' programme launched today.
The company announced that it will be working with driver-partners, cities, vehicle manufacturers, and battery companies to make sustainable technologies cost-effective and viable in daily mobility. That's not all. The Bengaluru-based company is also aiming to get one million electric vehicles on its platform by 2021 to boost the electric vehicle ecosystem in the country.
From cycle rickshaws to 'shuttles' and last-mile transport, three-wheelers continue to be a dominant form of daily transit for many across the country as well as "a source of livelihood for millions of people every day". Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal also pointed out that it represents an immediate opportunity to improve outcomes for all stakeholders while reducing pollution.
Last May, SoftBank-backed Ola had launched its first EV project in Nagpur. The project includes electric cabs, electric auto rickshaws, electric buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery swapping experiments. Building on this effort, Ola believes that electrification can improve outcomes for drivers, customers, and its business model. "After more than 4 million 'electric' kilometres travelled and many lessons learned, we are significantly expanding our commitment to electrify mobility in India..we look forward to working with state governments and other partners to introduce accessible, affordable, and sustainable mobility solutions at scale," Aggarwal added.
According to the company, the pilot project provided significant insights into effectively managing vehicles, batteries, and operations. However, The Business Standard cited insiders claiming that the experiment has failed due to the high cost of electric vehicles, lack of charging infrastructure and the driving range of vehicles being lower than anticipated. This explains the focus on electric three-wheelers in the near term.
While Ola said it will further expand its EV fleet to three other Indian cities, it has not disclosed the names yet. The company claims to be in discussion with "several state governments to create an appropriate policy environment to deploy electric three-wheelers" as well as "OEM partners and EV innovators globally to bring vehicles on the road in a planned and phased manner". One thing is for sure: As India's largest private vehicle fleet operator, Ola could represent a natural catalyst for EV technology in the country. Now, if only the infrastructure required for such plans would not be quite as slow to play catch-up.
With PTI inputs