Accelerating the uptake of EV two-wheelers in India

Can the last mile delivery sector help accelerate the uptake of electrified two-wheelers in India? What is the current state of the market for innovative solutions? Are they applicable to the use case of delivery drivers in Indian cities, like those who work for Swiggy, a food ordering and delivery service similar to Deliveroo here in the UK?

These are some of the questions that a pilot project, launched by ESC in partnership with Urban Morph and Swiggy as part of the Innovating for Clean Air Extension Project, looked to answer over the course of five months.

Food delivery companies such as Swiggy have significantly contributed to the growth of e-commerce in India. The most common mode of transportation for deliveries are fossil fuel based two and three wheel vehicles, referred to in the UK as mopeds but as scooters in India. This project aimed to assess the state of the EV two-wheeler innovator space in India and get electrified vehicles into the hands of Swiggy delivery drivers to trial and test, gather data and analyse the vehicles suitability to decarbonise delivery fleets.

The project was kicked off with an open call for interested firms. The call received 13 applications from innovators in the two-wheel EV space, across both eBikes (electrified bicycles) and eScooters eager to take part in a real-world trial with Swiggy delivery executives in Bengaluru.

Assessing the applications and following discussions with the innovators it was clear that due to the challenges early-stage innovators were facing with supply chain issues, COVID-19 affecting manufacturing operations and the general readiness of vehicles, a two-pronged approach would be needed to get the best out of the pilot project timeframe:

  • Real-world EV delivery trial – The first branch would move forward with an eBike innovator, EDrives, being trialled by a Swiggy delivery driver and collecting data around the vehicle’s use
  • Innovator interviews and discussions – The second branch of the project engaged innovators unable to provide a vehicle in the time frame to gather information around the challenges they have faced, actions that could accelerate their entry to the market and ideas for future work with ESC and Swiggy to achieve that.

Key findings

After discussions with the innovators common findings were:

  • Innovators are very eager to partner with delivery companies like Swiggy to trial, test and launch vehicles.
  • Innovators are keen to learn more about the specific use cases and requirements of these fleets, with many able to create bespoke solutions if the need is large enough.
  • Financing and leasing options will be key to accelerate uptake among the drivers to reduce the upfront capital burden involved with making the switch to an electrified vehicle.
  • A clear point of information for the certification process would help reduce the complex nature of bringing a new solution to market.

Analysing the data gathered over the course of the two-week trial period with the eBike and the interview conducted with the delivery driver the key findings were:

  • The delivery driver had an overall good experience with the eBike over the two weeks
  • The cost associated with charging the vehicle was lower than the equivalent fuel use of the petrol vehicle over the two-week period
  • Some modifications to his working patterns were required to accommodate the charging of the eBike batteries
  • Alternative charging patterns were not explored during these two weeks but further solutions could trialled to optimise charging during operations
  • The eBike provided an advantage over the traditional petrol two-wheeler when delivering to large pedestrianised residential developments
  • There was significant interest from other delivery drivers in the vehicle who were keen to get a chance to trial it as well

Overall, there is great potential for EVs to move in the last mile delivery sector. There is enthusiasm from both the innovators themselves to provide bespoke solutions to meet the needs of the use cases. There is also interest from delivery drivers who see the potential in EVs if some of the issues around initial costs and charging regimes can be resolved to suit their needs.

Innovating for Clean Air

Led by Energy Systems Catapult and funded by UKRI, this project aimed to address the interrelated challenges of EV uptake and reducing air pollution in India.

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