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Sunday, May 17, 2015

With CNG scarce, electronic rickshaws offer a ride out for Pakistan's commuters

With CNG scarce, electronic rickshaws offer a ride out for Pakistan's commuters By Web Desk Published: May 14, 2015 127 SHARES Share Tweet Email PHOTO COURTESY: ZAR MOTORS PHOTO COURTESY: ZAR MOTORS LAHORE: As the queues for compressed natural gas (CNG) grow longer at the end of every closure, one company has come up with a solution out of the deepening energy crisis for public transport, an electric rickshaw. Rickshaws offer one of the cheaper and convenient means of public transport in the Pakistan which by and large lacks mass transit systems. But often the rickshaws are old and produce noise over 100 decibels-near levels produced by a jet when it is taking off. Some of these rickshaws, especially the two-stroke versions emit thick black smoke from their exhausts. However, Zar Motors, a Japanese company, has now proposed a solution to not only the fuel problem for rickshaws, but also its sound and air pollution emissions. Its ‘E-Trike’, an electric-powered rickshaws can travel over 95 kilometers on a full seven-hour charge. A shorter two-hour charge can take commuters to half the distance. Moreover, a roof mounted solar panel can keep charging batteries during day time commutes. Read: Conventional Pakistani rickshaws get make-over, wifi After successful introductions in Mexico, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia, the outfit plans to begin domestic assembling and sale of the vehicles in Pakistan. The cab has a driver’s seat and can carry three passengers, while an extension is also possible. The rickshaw is street legal and comes with two headlights, cup holders, digital instrument cluster and a metallic paint job, all of these differentiating it from its petrol or gas-powered predecessors. Read: Poster child: Catch your LG candidate on the back of a rickshaw It also has a cargo variant which can carry up to 1,650 lbs. PHOTO COURTESY: ZAR MOTORS However, those looking to move around the city quickly would need to take a step back as the E-trike can only go as fast as 40 km per hour, around half of what normal rickshaws can do. “These rickshaws are really slow. When you are riding it, even old bangers would drive past you. You are like the turtle in a race,” said Ghufran, a Lahore-based student who uses public transport to commute. But the draw of not having to stay in a CNG queue for hours can be a hard sell given that the E-trike retails for $3,300, nearly 65% more than a normal combustion rickshaw which costs around $2,000. This has discouraged buyers already cautious of investing in relatively untested vehicles. “Being able to save on fuel is great. But the price difference is substantial. I also don’t know if the overall running cost would include spare parts,” argued Haji Iqbal, an older rickshaw driver in Lahore. Read: Women take the wheel as Pink Rickshaw service kicks off in Lahore But the company is hoping it can convince drivers over the amount they would save in frequently fluctuating fuel costs. “The higher initial cost is covered within 14 months through the lower running cost of this rickshaw”, said Awais Qureshi, CEO of Zar Motors. “That is a very small time period, and people can afford it.” A mechanical engineer believes that a more robust product would be needed to convince people. “Looking at the specifications, one the vehicle is too slow. Secondly, the electric-powered engine will not produce the sort of power required to carry around the load on some of the steep roads in the country. It is nice to see environment-friendly vehicles, but we need work done too,” said Anisur Rahman. “We have tested the rickshaws,” countered Qureshi, “They will rival the old design and rest assured they will not roll back when climbing a steep road.”

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