Last mile connectivity and eco-friendly battery operation have fueled the use of battery bicycles in major Indian cities. Wallet-friendly costs help too. Dedicated lanes, more charging stations and some political and financial support could soon give this industry a boost.
Commuters in Bangalore get off the subway, use their micromobility app, lock electric bikes at the stations and drive to work. You drive in, park your bikes at the parking stations in the offices and can start your day. Unlock another bike to go out for lunch, then another for the final ride home on buses or subways. Once you arrive near your home, another ride on the electric bike can bring you home inexpensively and without sweating.
Did you know that 65 percent of Indian commuters use public transport to travel 3-6 km to get home or to the office from their transportation hub? This lack of connectivity for the first and last mile continues to be a deterrent to using public transport in cities. While four-wheeled solutions like Uber and Ola have been used extensively, Indian cities are quickly running out of street space and urban pollution problems are now indispensable. Economic affordability issues with shared taxi services are also pushing consumers to scalable public transportation solutions such as subways and buses.
Micromobility bikes, which allow consumers to cover that last mile of bus or subway stations, have been approved in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Some private actors such as real estate developers or civil welfare associations have even created bicycle parking spaces for micromobility in order to offer residents comfort.
“There is room for improvement, however,” said Amit Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Yulu, in a “Mobility as a Service” podcast with the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). The widespread use of micromobility still has deterrents such as the lack of dedicated lanes, which gives the user an increased feeling of security. As Smart City missions draw attention to dedicated bike lanes, Gupta expects these services to experience 10 times more adoption. Sales of e-bikes are already increasing in bike cities like Amsterdam, Paris and London. When you consider that downtown riding is mostly slow due to traffic jams, the steady 25km / h speed these bikes offer may not be all that bad.
Today, with increasing usage, the challenge is to create more charging stations.
In order to keep costs in check, a life cycle value is also taken from the batteries. After being used on electric bicycles, which use up 80 percent of their service life, these batteries are then used in inverters for cell towers and stationary towers. You have enough life to use them for another 3-4 years.
Many of these used batteries are currently being used to light up rural homes. This can result in powering these homes becoming an emission-free activity. These batteries can be charged with renewable electricity from solar energy in this rural setting. The problem is that there is not enough funding to build your own networks. “If the price makes solar energy cheaper than conventional energy, there will be more and more renewable energies,” predicts Gupta. He believes that the day is not far off when public charging stations will be supplied with solar roofs.
Another emerging industry is the battery guzzlers who extract rare metals from these dead batteries. “There is a whole economy out there that is tech-ready but just needs to scale to be self-sustaining,” says Gupta.
Ultimately, it’s a mix of convenience, rapid technology upscaling, and generous political support that can make micromobility possible. The amenities are there to make it a success. Only a few small adjustments are required.
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The views expressed above are the author’s own.