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One year after launching electric vehicle (EV) pilots in Nagpur, ride-hailing player Ola is fine tuning its strategy with a focus on electric rickshaws. The company plans to put 10,000 electric vehicles, which will primarily be electric rickshaws, on the road in the next 12 months and is in discussion with several state governments to create appropriate policy environment for electric three wheelers.

Ola attempted to create their own homegrown electrical vehicle equipment with Indian partners but failed to do so and is therefore looking towards European markets where electric vehicles have taken off, said sources within the company. The company will first plan to focus on electric rickshaws and mass transit over the next 12 to 24 months, and if that succeeds, will shift their focus to electric cars.

“The goal is to have an electric vehicle fleet in the next 4 to 6 years. Erickshaws is a strong focus area because it’s a profitable vertical for Ola and approximately 5 lakh rickshaw rides are clocked on a daily basis,” said an employee, speaking to ET on the condition of anonymity.

According to the company, the first launch of the electric fleet in Nagpur served as a learning opportunity, on optimising charging times, battery swapping and applications of electric vehicles for ride sharing, amongst other areas. The Nagpur project, launched in May 2017, included electric cabs, auto rickshaws, buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery swapping experiments.

“Three wheelers are a vital means of transportation and a source of livelihood for millions of people every day. It also represents an immediate opportunity to improve outcomes for all stakeholders while reducing pollution,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO of Ola.

Sources at the company claim they are in talks with EV innovators in Norway, Germany, amongst other such countries. “An attempt was made to create the technology and infrastructure in India but after that failed, the company has turned to European companies who already excel in this field and plans to manufacture the equipment required to run electric vehicles in India,” said the source mentioned above.

Another source claimed that Karnataka and Telangana state governments are keen on supporting Ola in setting up electric vehicle infrastructure for the e-rickshaws. “We are in active conversation with several state and municipal governments, deployment of electric vehicles requires the support of like-minded partners,” said an Ola spokesperson, declining to comment on the specific states.

Analysts estimate that infrastructural challenges will remain to be an issue. “Even if leading European companies partner with Ola for electric vehicle equipment or charging stations, state governments across India have to create or allot the space for the infrastructure to be set up. This can be extremely challenging in over crowded metros like Mumbai,” said Abdul Majeed, partner at PWC.

Source- The Economic Times