Rickshaws are a part of life across much of Asia for tourists and locals alike. However, the gasoline-powered versions of these three-wheeled vehicles are rarely environmentally friendly, creating smog and noise-pollution. Japanese company Terra Motors has developed a new, electric rickshaw it hopes will improve environmental degradation and also save on fuel costs for drivers.

An electric rickshaw may sound like a delightful toy, something to ferry Google’s staff about with. However, given the terribly deleterious effects gasoline-powered rickshaws have upon the environment, coupled with their necessity as a quick and cheap form of transport for people and goods across much of the developing world, such a vehicle could be a boon for hundreds of millions of residents of crowded and polluted cities.

In India, as elsewhere across Asia, rickshaws are thought to be be responsible for up to 20 percent of all trips. "Current transport trends in Indian cities are leading to growing sustainability challenges, such as deteriorating air quality and rising road fatalities," according to a recent report from the World Resources Institute. "These trends point to the urgent need to promote more sustainable urban transport."

Terra Motors' new R6 electric rickshaw, designed for the Indian market, could form part of that push towards sustainable urban transport. According to the company, the vehicle has fuel costs a thirteenth of what a gas-powered vehicle does (at the current gasoline pricing in India). It can carry six people for up to 100 kilometers (62 mi) on a full charge with a top speed of 30 km/h (18.6 mph), which should be adequate for many urban environments. Its lead acid battery can recover to 80 percent after two hours and a full charge takes around seven hours. Adding to its suitability for the likes of Delhi’s narrow roads, it has a turning circle of 3.2 meters (10 ft) and also features rain covers that can be pulled down during inclement weather.

While the low running costs of an electric rickshaw may drive down price costs for passengers, the purchase price may be one of the biggest issues, and no price for the R6 has yet been confirmed.

Terra Motors has previously unveiled another electric rickshaw built for the Philippines, which we covered in 2013. There pollution worries from the ubiquitous transport is serious enough for the government to have committed, in 2013, to having 100,000 electric rickshaws on the roads, beginning with 3,000 next year. However, the project, which was largely financed by the Asian Development Bank, hit snags last year according to the Philippine Star, as the unit prices quoted jumped significantly.

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