Innovative First And Last Mile Solutions – Electric Auto’s An Alternative

1. Introduction

Indian cities are facing challenges of increasing number of private vehicles and congestion on roads. The share of public transport has been continuously decreasing in many of major cities, for example, in city of Kochi, in last fifteen years, the share of public transport has decreased from 82% in year 2000 to 49% in year 2015. 

In-spite of increasing awareness about public transport in our country, the modal share for public transport has not been improved much. Out of many reasons, one prime reason could be inefficient first and last mile connectivity to major public transport networks of city metro system and city bus system. Largely, the first and last mile services along main public transport networks are mostly run by un-organized sector leading to trip delays, waiting anxieties and discomfort amongst passengers.


2. What is first mile, last mile in passenger transportation

The first mile & last mile are the term generally used in public transportation, wherein they describe the movement of passengers from starting point of trip to transportation hub or from transportation hub to destination. It refers to the problem which public transport users often experience it is the distance travelled between transit hub/stop and his/her home or the last destination.

Due to diverse temperature conditions in Indian cities and low pedestrian infrastructure availability on arterial, sub-arterial and collector, the walkability index of Indian cities varies from 300 mts to 500 mts. This leads to the importance of deployment of first mile and last mile connectivity modes to enhance ridership into public transport systems of the city. 


3. Electric Three Wheelers as solution to first and last mile problem in Public Transit

  • 3.1 Background

Since the start of this century, India’s crude oil imports have risen exponentially reaching a record high of 4.3mb/d in 2016. The demand for oil grew by 5.1% in 2016, higher than the world’s largest net importers, the US (0.7%) and China (2.9%), making India the world’s third largest crude oil consumer. Country’s crude oil deficits stood at US$52 billion in 2017 and accounted for almost 50% of the total trade deficit of US$109 billion. 

India ranks as the third largest carbon emitting country in the world accounting for 6% of the global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion3. According to the WHO Global Air Pollution Database (2018), 14 out of the 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India.

  • 3.2 Current EV policy structure 

India’s current Electric Vehicle policy structure involved in policy planning

Department of Heavy Industries was earlier the only ministry dealing with auto industry related policies and then this ministry had come up with FAME 1 i.e. Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in year 2015. This scheme was launched to fast track the goals of National Electric Mobility Mission 2020. This paper will address the first and last mile issues within the city also list out the good practices happening in our country with reference to electric autos detailing out the learnings. The scheme has 4 focus areas i.e.  Technology Development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure. Now recently, the government has launched FAME 2 on first half of 2019. The initial phase 1 of FAME India scheme was initially approved for two years with an outlay of 895 crores. After the review of phase 1 of FAME scheme, Department of Heavy Industries came with FAME India phase II scheme with approval of Union budget of total 10000 INR Crores for three years uptill year 2021-22. The new phase II is proposed to be implemented trough verticals such as demand incentives, network of charging stations and administrative. Under FAME II scheme, following categories of vehicles shall be eligible for demand incentives: buses, four – wheelers, three wheelers including registered e-rickshaws, two-wheelers

  • 3.3 Benefits of electric three vehicles as first and last mile solutions 

The electric three wheelers benefit the cities in the following ways:

  • Zero street-level emissions of air pollutants (PM2.5, NOx, VOC) contributes to cleaner air. 
  • CO2 emission savings of 30-50% compared to diesel three-wheelers on a life-cycle basis.
  • Silent operation of Electric Three Wheelers gives relief compared to noisy diesel autos.  
  • Suitable to cater shorter trips of city as well as feeder to metro and city bus services.
  • Low cost of operation can lead to affordable rates for commuters, particularly on shared basis. 
  • Use of E-Three Wheelers can augment income of auto drivers if they switch from Diesel to Electric Three-Wheeler.  
  • Contributes to energy security of the country, as it requires no imported fuel
  • Autos are suitable for narrow streets of cities. 
  • Relevant in sensitive environmental and for tourist comfort of few cities.

Clarity related to wrong perceptions about an electric three-wheeler compared to CNG/ Diesel Autos

Impression Remark 
Requires long charging time Electric Vehicles do have a downtime during charging unlike conventional fuel vehicles. Therefore, its charging time requirement needs to be managed through advanced planning like overnight charging during night and top-up during lean hours in the day.  Also, with use of battery swapping techniques, the ambiguities related to charging can be widely addressed.  

E Vehicle requires following time for one full single charge: 

  • E Auto: (7-8 kwh Li-ion battery; range 120-130 km): 3-4 hours 
  • E Rickshaw:(3-4 kwh Li-ion battery; range 70-80 km): 2-3 hours 
Charging Stations / Points are not available Central and State Governments are encouraging setting up of Charging Stations and many should come up. Across India, many state electric regulators as well as urban development departments are coming up with charging units at different location across cities and states 
Range is limited to 70-80 km This range is for a 4 kwh battery Electric Rickshaw. Higher range Electric Autos with range upto 130 km are also available.  Range can also be extended through top up. 
Battery needs to be replaced frequently which can be costly Lead Acid batteries used earlier had this limitation. Lithium Ion batteries have warranty of 3 years and if carefully used, it can last longer. More importantly, there is more profit in Electric autos due to low operations cost (around Rs. 0.5/km for fuel and maintenance) and hence higher income using E Auto will allow funds for battery replacement. 
Cost of E Three-Wheeler is higherInvestment cost of E Auto is somewhat higher but many subsidies are available which makes E Auto affordable. Moreover, total cost of ownership (TCO) is much lower due to lower fuel and operational costs. 
Electric Three-Wheeler Speed is low, and they slow down under load Speed of only Electric Rickshaw is limited to 25 km/hour to make it affordable. Electric Auto speeds are higher. Speeds comparable to normal auto are easily reachable if the vehicle is not loaded beyond approved capacity of 3 or 4.  

Comparisons between different e-auto models based upon certain specifications 

Top Speed45 KM /hr45 Km/hr
Charging Time (0 to 100%)3.5 hours6 hours
Driving Range 130 km120 km
Maintenance cost 10 paisa/ km 10 paisa / km
Battery type48 V lithium ion48 V lithium ion
Seating D + 3/4 Seater D + 3/4 Seater
Warranty including battery 24 months 24 months 
Running cost50 paisa / km50 paisa / km
Weight 350 kg400 kg
Swappable battery options YesYes 
Display typeLCD displayDigital instrument display
Battery size3.69 KW – 7.47 KW4.3 KW
  • 3.4 Good practices –: on-going electric autos projects as first and last mile solutions across India 

Electric Auto Project in Kochi as solution to first and last mile issues in Public Transport  


  • About Project:

Under unique model, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited Implemented E-auto project in Kochi in February 2019. Under this project, the society was formed called as Ernakulam Auto Rickshaw Drivers Co-operative Society, it is a body consisting of all the six all the six trade unions in the city – CITU, AITUC, INTUC, TUCI, STU and BMS and the whole e-auto project is operated by this society, the society officially came into existence on  17th February, 2019. Under this project, Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions is in charge of providing 16 e-autos to six metro stations – Aluva, Kalamassery, Edapally, Kaloor, MG Road and Maharajas College station. Under phase 1 of the project, these e-autos are currently operational on two metro stations i.e. MG road and Maharajas College station as feeder service to main metro network. All these e-autos have customized design and are powered by lithium-ion batteries and having D+4-seater capacity.

Kochi Municipal Corporation has proposal to upscale within Kochi Corporation limits, to start with three areas have been identified and 100 more such e-autos will be added up into these areas.

Under similar initiative i.e. to provide last-mile connectivity to metro commuters, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has extended the facility of e-autos as first and last mile solution to total 29 metro stations of Delhi, the total fleet of 1000 e-autos are now operational in Delhi-NCR. These e-autos are now facilitating over more than one lakh passengers to reach their destination station daily, thus increasing the metro system capacity.

  • Is there any Govt Policy support available for E Autos:

Central Government support: under Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME -II) scheme, an outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years up-to 2022 under FAME 2 scheme. The centre has sanctioned ₹8,596 crore for demand incentives and another ₹1,000 crore for setting up charging stations. Scheme covers electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes. Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme.  Fiscal support would be offered depending on the size of the battery with an incentive of ₹10,000 per kilowatt (kW) for two-, three- and four-wheelers. A budget of 2,500 crore has been earmarked for assisting 500,000 3-W with a maximum outlay of Rs 50,000 per vehicle. FAME 2 incentives will be passed on to OEMs directly.

State Government Support: Under state electric vehicle policy, the state e-mobility policy offers an incentive of ₹30,000 or 25 per cent of EVs in the first year to purchase of three wheelers. It has mapped out Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode as zones for EV autorickshaws initially.


The Namma Auto Project: First and Last mile solutions


Image Credit : Namma Auto

  • Project Background:

The project is an environment friendly solution to address problems faced by India’s auto-rickshaw drivers and contribute towards sustainable mobility solution by switching to a sustainable auto-rickshaw system urban Indian lifestyle can be made sustainable and poverty can be reduced. The starting point for a more sustainable auto-rickshaw system is to influence the customers choices toward this sustainable solution while addressing and dealing with the main challenges faced by the drivers. The project is funded by the European Commission under the Switch Asia Programme on promoting sustainable consumption and production. The project is implemented by a consortium of partners i.e. ACRA foundation-Italy, WHAD- Bangalore, TERI- Delhi, Enviu Foundation- Netherlands. The project is currently being implemented in two cities of India i.e. Bangalore and Chennai.

  • Project Features:

Namma Auto is a specific project aimed towards promoting the shift to environmental-friendly solutions for last-mile connectivity in large metro cities. For this, the project helps provide efficient transport solutions, through the city’s large network of auto-rickshaw drivers while also improving their livelihood. With auto-rickshaws being a landmark feature in every city in India, the Namma Auto project intends to scale up its operations to provide auto-rickshaw transport, through greener technologies. The project is currently running in the cities of Bangalore and Chennai, which combined have over 150,000 auto-rickshaws plying the streets of the city every day. With the help of these large numbers, Namma Auto project hopes to set an example for efficient urban public transport systems in the two cities. Apart from this, the project also intends to further make auto-rickshaws the most user-friendly, efficient and cost-effective mode of transport.

  • Key Challenges: Towards sustainable Auto Rickshaw System:
  1. Customer Dissatisfaction: Due to misbehaviour, overcharging for rides, denying taking up short sector / particular direction rides, refusing to run by meter etc is weaning away customers to other modes of transport.
  2. Unorganised Sector Low Bargaining Power: Collective Strength to adjust to the dynamics of mobility/ transport system and technology changes is missing.
  3. Occupational Health and Safety Hazards: Auto Drivers have high exposure to noise, dirt, dust and pollution — leading to physical health as well as high stress levels. This causes behavioural issues and lifestyle challenges with them.
  • Target Groups for the Namma Auto Project:

The primary target groups are auto-rickshaw drivers and their close families involved in the Project. urban passengers, students, professionals, women, elder people, tourist groups and local authorities. 

The secondary Target groups: People living in target cities, Auto-rickshaw manufacturers, service provider companies etc.

  • Outcomes of Namma Auto Project:

Empowerment to Auto-driver community through following:

  • Financial intermediation and support to manage savings and investment.
  • Capacity building and training facilitation to ensure better service
  • Facilitate loans to buy clean technology autos
  • Organize drivers into a federative structure for collective strength
  • Provide additional avenues for income from their auto rickshaws

Triggering positive shift among users through following:

  • Information and Education about the implications transport choices
  • Facilitate customer feedback to service providers
  • Offer a platform to actively engage in this process through campaigns

Friendly regulatory framework

  • Involve key stakeholders to identify policy gaps and address them
  • Promote discussion on sustainable auto transport matters at various forums at state and national level

References :


Author Name: Mr. Shirish Mahendru

Designation: Technical Expert- SMART-SUT programme

Company Name: GIZ GmBH

Location: Delhi- India