Eyeing opportunities in the wake of disruption expected from electric vehicles, oil major Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited on Monday launched 'e-drive initiative' an electric three-wheeler mobility model.

Partnering with electric vehicle-maker Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions and IIT Madras for technology support, the public sector oil marketing giant brought on stream a supply of swappable lithium-ion batteries at its retail outlets in Kochi and Lucknow in the first phase for
electric three-wheelers.

According to the business model touted as unique, fleets of three-wheelers, also known as 'e-rickshaws,' are deployed in the two cities by Kinetic Green which also owns them and drivers pay rental for use of vehicles and a fee for energy provided by BPCL. There is, however, no maintenance cost.

Chairman and managing director, BPCL, D Rajkumar said rising air pollution, increasing disposable incomes and rapid urbanisation would drive future mobility in India.

"Electric vehicles would be having an increasing share of the urban transportation canvass in the years to come," he said adding: "We are happy to have collaborated with two strong partners, the IIT Madras for technological support and Kinetic Green as a mobility partner."

The operations in Kochi and Lucknow were inaugurated through video conferencing from here and a giant screen beamed e-rickshaws lining up to change batteries at BPCL outlets and the process of swapping was over in a matter of few minutes, similar to the time taken for filling petrol or diesel.

The three-wheelers are powered by two batteries and when the charge drains, it could be brought to the BPCL outlets where it would be replaced with fully charged ones.

CEO, Kinetic Green, Sulajja Firodia Motwani said the electric vehicle with swappable battery technology reduced upfront the cost of vehicle by 50 per cent. "Customers never have to worry about battery charging and replacement."

General Manager, BPCL, Rahul Tandon told reporters, "we are in active discussion with Kinetic to launch it in seven more cities in the next phase depending on licencing (for e-three wheelers)."

The cost of two batteries, needed to run a single e-rickshaw is Rs 60,000 to Rs 65,000 and it is borne by the BPCL, he said answering a question.

The usage fee for drivers is between Rs 350 and Rs 400 for a single swap of two batteries and the twin Li-ion batteries provide a range of 50-55 kms, he said.

On investments for this venture, he said: "It is too early and too small at this stage but we have huge plans of going forward."

Also, he said this was only a first initiative to be prepared for any change that may happen in the

Motwani said the rollout at Lucknow and Kochi was on a pilot basis. A fleet of 20 vehicles each in Kochi and Lucknow is in place and it would be expanded to 100 later and the investment for a single e-rickshaw is about Rs one lakh sans battery. "This is a new concept and we are promoting it."

In Kochi, while operations would only be at metro rail stations, at Lucknow it covers Metro and other urban areas as well, she told reporters.

"We have a special agreement with Kochi Metro and they want to promote electric three-wheelers for connectivity." E-rickshaws normally charge Rs 10 for commuters and the model will also address the last mile connectivity issue for users of Metrorail, she said.

Electric vehicles are expected to cause disruption in the present automobile and auto component ecosystem and in 2018 Indian Oil had partnered with Fortum India for electric vehicle-charging stations.

Last year, the Central government notified the second phase of the FAME India scheme with a Rs 10,000-crore outlay to encourage electric and hybrid vehicles.

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