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How a Rickshaw Puller Impressed IIT Grad to Manufacture India’s 1st E-Rickshaw

In the summertime of 2010, Vijay Kapoor, an entrepreneur, was taking a experience on a cycle rickshaw within the bustling Chandni Chowk bazaar in New Delhi. Throughout this journey, Vijay seen the extreme effort it took for the rickshaw puller to navigate via the crowded lanes of Chandni Chowk, which wasn’t commensurate with the cash he was getting paid to ferry passengers.  
(Above picture of the primary Mayuri e-rickshaw mannequin)

Given his decades-long expertise as an entrepreneur promoting parts to an Indian car producer, he wished to develop a product which might make the lives of rickshaw pullers simpler. 

“Talking to those rickshaw pullers in Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazar, I acquired a way of the depressing situations they have been working underneath given the intense climate and the extreme bodily labour required. Seeing their situation, I believed we should always do one thing for them,” says the 73-year-old Vijay Kapoor, in a dialog with The Higher India

Round this era, Vijay had additionally travelled to China, the place he noticed a really crude mannequin of the loader. Taking again the motor utilized in that mannequin, he returned to India, and designed an e-rickshaw “making an allowance for the consolation of Indian passengers and drivers like the peak at which an individual has to get on the rickshaw (about 12 inches)”.

He designed all the mandatory parts of an e-rickshaw, together with the entrance glass “as per the necessities of Indian riders, particularly the rickshaw puller, who shouldn’t must expend all this effort, whereas additionally remaining eco-friendly and working at a low working price.” says Vijay. 

Later that yr, the IIT-Kanpur graduate based Saera Electrical Auto Personal Restricted (SEAPL), an e-mobility enterprise. In 2012, he manufactured the corporate’s first batch of Mayuri e-rickshaws. Some contemplate him the ‘Father of the E-Rickshaw’, however extra precisely what Vijay did was pioneer the large-scale manufacturing of e-rickshaws in India. 

Vijay Kapoor was the first to pioneer large scale manufacturing of the e-rickshaw in India.
Vijay Kapoor (Picture courtesy Autocar Skilled)

Previous is prologue 

Vital feats in engineering are achieved based mostly on developments previously. Whereas Vijay did pioneer the manufacturing of e-rickshaws, it was one other IIT-Kanpur alumni who constructed the primary one.

Dr Anil Kumar Rajvanshi is the person credited for having developed the electrical rickshaw in 2000 understanding of the Nimbkar Agricultural Analysis Institute (NARI) in Phaltan, Satara district of Maharashtra. He was awarded the Padma Shri earlier this yr.  

Regardless of some preliminary curiosity, nobody took the step of shopping for their design of e-rickshaws from NARI and commercialising it, he notes in his guide ‘Romance of Improvements’. It might take a few extra years earlier than an entrepreneur like Vijay took the subsequent step.  

Graduating from IIT-Kanpur in 1972, Vijay acquired into the enterprise of agriculture in Punjab. 

“Initially, we have been importing mix harvester machines from Germany and customized hiring them in Punjab. Because of the anti-Sikh riots and the following troubles in Punjab within the Eighties, I moved to Delhi the place I started manufacturing components for the mix harvester machines, which I then began to export. Throughout this era, I additionally got here into contact with suppliers to Maruti. I had many associates from IIT-Kanpur, who have been working there on the time,” remembers Vijay. 

He remembers studying rather a lot concerning the automotive enterprise. That have would play a pivotal function in his bid to fabricate and promote e-rickshaws in India. 

“In 2011, we began with a quite simple mannequin, which took us about one and a half years to develop. Initially, there was no infrastructure obtainable to make or function e-rickshaws. For instance, no one was able to make tires for e-rickshaws, so we needed to develop our personal. There have been no distributors in India making e-rickshaw batteries. We needed to impart some technical information to third-party distributors exhibiting them find out how to assemble a battery pack and charger. At this time, the infrastructure to fabricate an e-rickshaw is obtainable,” notes Vijay.

Inside the manufacturing plant which Vijay Kapoor set up to make his first e-rickshaw
Contained in the SEAPL manufacturing plant

Constructing an e-mobility ecosystem

Beginning out, the batteries obtainable on the time weren’t match to be used in e-rickshaws as a result of. By way of design, they have been fully completely different and never suited to make use of for e-rickshaws. 

“We began with 35 AH lead acid batteries, which gave us about 30-40 km on a single cost with a charging time of 8 hours. At this time, our e-rickshaws make use of 130 Amp lithium-ion batteries with a charging time of solely two hours, which supplies us a 100 km vary on a single cost. This enchancment in battery vary delivers a good revenue to erstwhile rickshaw pullers who’ve made the transition to electrical. Over time, we improved the battery design to swimsuit our functions. Our lithium-ion batteries at present give us a three-year guarantee, whereas the lead acid battery we first employed gave us solely 1-year,” he remembers. 

“Even for the axle, which we designed, we needed to set up excellent bearings to make sure very much less friction in order that the automobile offers us extra kilometres. The most important drawback for the Indian market was after we made an e-rickshaw for 2 folks, drivers have been seating 4 folks. After we made it for 4 folks, they have been seating six. We needed to recurrently redesign the principle chassis. With the chassis obtainable at present, these e-rickshaws can carry larger hundreds. There was no breakdown of the chassis in our e-rickshaws now within the final two years,” he provides.  

SEAPL even redesigned the tyres required for e-rickshaws, which at present have a shelf lifetime of 50-60K kms, whereas earlier it was solely 2 months as a result of completely different hundreds they have been carrying. 

The SAEPL e-rickshaws started with a 500W motor, whereas at present they’re utilizing 1200W motors. With a 500W motor, the rickshaw struggled to climb up slopes. Additionally, SAEPL was importing the motor from China. Getting the seller there to re-design it for Indian situations was a troublesome course of and the motor design went via 5 to six iterations earlier than the one we at present make use of.  

“One other key issue was that the e-rickshaw needs to be economical for the rickshaw puller. What they earn is essential to me. That’s why we went for a 4 and 6-seater e-rickshaw in order that they’ll make good cash. At this time, a few of those that function our e-rickshaws earn about Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 per day. Put on and tear could be very much less, whereas upkeep prices are minimal. They’ll simply put aside Rs 100 day-after-day to cowl these prices,” he claims

To promote their first e-rickshaw, nevertheless, took about 8 months.

“No person was prepared to purchase one. I used to take my granddaughters to high school in an e-rickshaw to promote it. After 8 months, there was an outdated woman who bought my e-rickshaw for her son however paid me solely half the cash. In a while, that woman would buy 6 extra e-rickshaws from me,” remembers Vijay.  

However one of many largest hurdles Vijay and SEAPL needed to overcome on the time was the shortage of guidelines and rules for these e-rickshaws on the highway.

“We can not run any automobile on our roads with out clearance from the RTO (Street Transport Workplace) and rigorous testing from businesses like ICAT (Worldwide Centre for Automotive Expertise). On the time, ICAT didn’t have any guidelines or rules for electrical Rickshaws ” he says. 

There was finally a committee fashioned by the Authorities of India underneath the chairmanship of Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, which selected all of the norms together with velocity, quantity of torque within the motors, and additional precautions required through the monsoon season to stop water from coming into the automobile, what load quantities can they safely carry, and so on. 

All these assessments are performed by businesses by ICAT, however the guidelines and rules are set by the federal government. “As trade stakeholders, we gave them our suggestions. A invoice to regularise e-rickshaws and supply for driving licences for battery-operated autos was launched in Lok Sabha in December 2014 and subsequently handed by each homes. These guidelines and rules have been then handed on to the respective RTOs and these cleared up all of the authorized issues. By the point these legal guidelines got here into pressure, I had already bought greater than 5,000 e-rickshaws. That was the most important authorized drawback for me. It was finally addressed with the passing of the Motor Autos Modification Invoice, 2014,” remembers Vijay.  

When these guidelines have been formally legalised, he elevated manufacturing. Initially, Vijay had a small plant in Gurugram, which was making 20 autos per day. He then shifted base to a bigger plant in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan, and at present they’re making about 170-200 e-rickshaws per day.

“Watching e-rickshaws on the highway at present offers me nice happiness. It was a dream which got here true. However earlier than us, a big car producer got here with electrical two-wheelers, which flopped. Anyone who purchased their electrical two-wheeler wasn’t finally utilizing it as a result of they couldn’t service it. After we bought e-rickshaws, we additionally confronted this drawback,” he says.

However after having labored for practically three many years within the car sector, he understood what was required. SEAPL primarily confused servicing and availability of components. 

“In whichever areas my e-rickshaws have been bought, we might practice a mechanic in find out how to service them and guarantee they have been by no means wanting spare components. It was due to the immediate service that we succeeded. Sadly, the bigger firms who had made the splash earlier didn’t take these parts into consideration once they manufactured electrical two-wheelers,” he says.

Current model of the Mayuri e-rickshaw.
Present mannequin of the Mayuri E-rickshaw

The EV ecosystem has come a great distance since then. Main markets in areas like Karol Bagh and Kashmere Gate have many outlets at present which have spare components for electrical autos. There are such a lot of gamers who’ve entered the enterprise in India, making components for e-rickshaws. 

At this time, SEAPL is within the fingers of his son Nitin Kapoor, and the Mayuri e-rickshaw ranks among the many highest-selling manufacturers on this class. Vijay, in the meantime, has moved into different areas like hydroponics and is at present engaged on a “new venture” regardless of his age. 

Extra Sources:

‘E-rickshaw makers get a brand new cost’ by Mayank Dhingra; Revealed on 17 Could 2017 courtesy Autocar Skilled

‘Historical past of Electrical Rickshaws at NARI’ (Chapter from the guide “Romance of Innovation”) by Anil Ok. Rajvanshi

‘The E-rickshaw story: Was the arrival of electrical mobility in India deliberate’ by Akshima Ghate, Dimpy Suneja; Revealed on 01 February 2018 courtesy The Power and Sources Institute

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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