How about a green cab ride? Bengaluru-based Lithium Urban Technologies has launched an exclusive fleet of electric vehicles for city rides,while seeking to reduce carbon footprint considerably.

What started off as a pick-up-and-drop service for corporates with 10 cabs will have 100 cars in two months. Project Lithium is currently limited to corporates.

Company founder Sanjay Krishnan said: "Macroeconomics of the cab industry and clean fuel can go hand in hand. If I transport 1,000 people a day, then I clock 10 million km a year. This saves me 2.5 to 3 tonnes of carbon footprint per person per year. This cuts fuel costs by a huge margin."

Quoting a McKinsey report, he said urbanites set aside 20% of their expenditure for office commuting.

The idea of starting a cab service came from few or no transportation options in Bengaluru. "But then, Meru happened. Now, it's Ola. We were thinking of a different idea while simultaneously talking about sustainability. Pollution is not just a worry. Fuel is 50% of the variable cost of transportation; consumption will have to go up by nine times if India were to step up from a middle-income nation to a high-income one," he added.

The venture had to restrict itself to corporate service because of lack of infrastructure to charge the vehicles. "Demand for transportation is high and concentrated when it comes to workspaces. Also, companies are well organized in helping us with charging ports for our vehicles," he said.

An investment of about Rs 30 crore has been made in Lithium Urban Technologies.

Bumps on the way

However, fleet size remains an issue with this venture. Krishnan admits that it'll continue to be a concern till public infrastructure is strengthened for the service to be extended to all citizens. "At present, we have booked 200 Mahindra Revas. Other companies we are trying to buy from are Nissan, Renault and BYD (a Chinese automobile company). The first two manufacture the vehicles IN Europe. This means customs duty to import them will increase our cost.

Another problem is lack of charging points across the city. Even if I were to put up these points at some places, would Bescom provide power?" asks Krishnan.

Screening on

Unlike Ola or Uber, Lithium Urban Technologies owns all the vehicles and the drivers are paid monthly salaries. It has recruited 40 drivers and hiring is being taken up massively. "In this sector, you can get cars faster than drivers. We are also doing a lot of background verifications, including visiting drivers' homes and checking their antecedents. We are giving them certified self-defence courses too," he added.

Safety first

The cab service is cloud operated, which means all parameters related to the vehicle, trips and customers are monitored by the company on a cloud network. This ensures safety to a credible extent because the driver has no connection with the car, its operation, charging, maintenance, rides, booking, etc.

(This news story is from The Times of India)