Advanced Structures India Pvt Ltd is an independent automotive product development company based out of Bangalore, India with operations in India, China and US. Below is blog entry from our engineers about Evolution of Rickshaws in India and Asia in general. We can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org for business enquiries and email@example.com for open positions.
The rickshaw derives its name from the Japanese word “jinrikisha”, literally translating to human-powered rickshaw. Over the past century, the rickshaw has seen various transformations, from hand-pulled to cycle rickshaws to motor-assisted rickshaws; however, these transformations have been unable to replace the human effort required in operating the rickshaw while maintaining an eco-friendly environment. In case of total passenger transportation, almost 75-80% of the load is shared by road transport sector. In India, the road share of passenger mobility has increased from 35% to 85% in the last 6 decades. This sector consists of both motorized (powered by internal combustion engines or by electric motors) and non-motorized modes (cycle& hand pulled rickshaws).
E rickshaw provides LMC (Last Mile Connectivity) to the people and has an enormous potential to reduce the carbon foot-print. Battery operated electric three-wheelers or E rickshaws have recently emerged in the public road transport sector in India. These vehicles have gained much popularity owing to the comfortable and economic mode of transport they provide to the fellow commuters.
1. Hand Pulled Rickshaw
Figure 1: Hand Pulled Rickshaw
Hand pulled by the driver who draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two people. In recent times the use of hand pulled rickshaw is discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of rickshaw workers.
2. Cycle Rickshaw
Figure 2: Cycle Rickshaw
As opposed to rickshaws pulled by a person on foot, cycle rickshaws are human-powered by pedalling, they are a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers on a for hire basis. With a maximum passenger capacity of two passengers these rickshaw had an average speed of 5-8 km/hr.
3. Auto-rickshaws (LPG / CNG / Diesel based)
Figure 3: Auto-Rickshaw
The human effort was completely eradicated in Auto-rickshaws. They are Available in three variants- LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and Diesel; these operate in major urban areas, townships and suburbs. These auto rickshaws have specific routes of operation recognized by the union bodies and the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) of the region. With a carrying capacity of three passengers these vehicles are provided with proper registration from the RTAs and are required to pay road taxes. The drivers of these vehicles require proper license for driving. These vehicles have a maximum speed of 60 km/h and the fuel tank capacity varies from 15 litres to 20 litres depending on the vehicle model.
4. Battery operated electric rickshaws or E rickshaws
Owing to the pollution caused by the auto-rickshaw, first attempt to design electric rickshaws was done by NIMBKAR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE in late 1990s. E rickshaws have become operational in the public transport sector and are equipped with brushless DC motors for vehicle propulsion, powered by conventional lead-acid batteries. E rickshaws have become one of the preferred modes of transport between short distances and are operating in major urban and suburban areas.
Electric rickshaws are becoming popular in some cities (For Example: Delhi) since 2008 as an alternative to auto rickshaw and human pulled rickshaw because of their low fuel cost, and less human effort compared to pulled rickshaws. They are being widely accepted as an alternative to petrol/diesel/CNG auto rickshaws. These 3 wheeled vehicles are pulled by an electric motor ranging from 650-1400 Watts. Battery-run rickshaws could be a low-emitter complementary transport for the low-income people, who suffer most from a lack of transport facility, if introduced in a systematic manner according to experts.
Figure 4: E Rickshaw Current Design
According to CMVR, following are the technical specification of E rickshaw:
The E rickshaw travelling and charging patterns revealed that the sole battery charging option for the vehicle owners remained the household sockets. Thus the E rickshaws could not be considered as a zero emission vehicle as the charging relates to the CO2 emission at the thermal power stations. Coal-fired thermal power stations in India have been reported to emit 1.281 kg of CO2 per unit of electricity generated. Again CO2 emission considering full combustion of LPG (propane base) has been 1.53 kg/litre. Considering combustion of diesel for the two types of three-wheelers the CO2 emission rate has been considered at 2.71 kg/litre. The results in figures show that the E rickshaw has been efficient than that of the other motorized versions of three-wheelers.
Figure 5: Comparison between E Rickshaw and auto-rickshaw
Figure 6: Specific CO2 emission of motorized three-wheeled vehicles
Current E Rickshaws
Current rickshaws have a M.S (Mild Steel) tubular Chassis; consist of 3 wheels with a differential mechanism at rear wheels. The motor is brushless DC motor manufactured mostly in India and China. The electrical system used is 48V. The superstructure is made of steel and aluminium. The battery used is mostly lead acid battery with life of 6–12 months. There is a huge scope for design up gradation in three wheeled E rickshaw as not much research has been done in this field. Most of the parts are imported from China and assembled in India.
Following are the challenges of the current design:
- Designs are unstable and have uneven weight distribution. The tendency of a structure to roll while cornering increases if the weight distribution is not proper. Approximately 7% of the E rickshaw respondents reported a possible toppling of their rickshaws during a turn.
- Electrical issues in rainy season especially motor as the water enters in it.
- Congested seating of passengers as the design does not include the ergonomics study of passengers and the driver.
- Brake Pedal and Parking Brake lever are difficult to access and use.
- Rickshaw Height is more than required; this leads to increase in the Centre of Gravity which increases the tendency to roll.
- No support on the sides which makes it very dangerous for the children/Old age passengers in dynamic condition.
- Various market problems reported, in structure design and integration there are regular catastrophic failures.
- The entry/ exits are not ergonomically designed which leads to problems while boarding and disembarking.
- No proper provision for battery charger within the vehicle. This makes driver’s charging activity tiresome and time consuming.
Future E Rickshaws: (Need of the hour!!)
Figure 7: E Rickshaw Future Design
‘Make in India’ initiative started by ‘Government of India’ has encouraged the dealers to manufacture the components in India itself thereby reducing the cost drastically and provides a wide domain for design improvement. To counter the challenges of the current E rickshaw many design improvements have been proposed for the future E rickshaws.
Following are the design changes that can be implemented to counter the above problems:
The weight distribution can be optimised by suitably positioning all the weight contributing components. (For Example: All the four batteries (120kg approx.) should be mounted in the middle). Evenly distributed weight improves the ride and handling of the vehicle. Also keeping the roof material as soft fabric will reduce weight at the top thereby reducing the CG.
Figure 8: Battery and Charger position
The integrations of the chassis and the superstructure should such that modification required in the chassis is least. Any modification (Cutting/Drilling/Slotting) might adversely affect the strength of the chassis.
The structure should be compact from outside so that it acquires less traffic space but should have spacious interiors for non-claustrophobic feeling. This can be achieved by optimizing the superstructure members as per the loading conditions.
The seating space, position and entry/exit should be designed considering 95, 50 & 05 percentile Indian male/female so that the seating positions are not congested and it accommodates 95 % of Indian population.
Figure 9: Seating Position and Entry/Exit
The most comfortable seat in the vehicle should be driver’s seat as he will be the one driving the rickshaw and will spend most of his/her time in it. Driver’s comfort is very important for passenger safety.
The following factors should be considered while designing the driver’s compartment:-
- The position of the hand brake and brake pedal should be such that it should not hinder the movement of the driver and should be easily accessible from the driver’s position.
- Rear view mirror should be accessible to the driver with minimal movement.
- The design of the steering handle should be such that the driver should have sufficient space for movement in its extreme positions.
- The battery power switch should be given in the driver’s compartment for driver’s accessibility.
The vehicle can be converted into a luggage carrier by unfolding the rear seat. This will enable the transport of low density bulk materials (E.g.: shoes) to short distances (E.g.: movement of goods within a factory)
Figure 10: Provision for Luggage Carrier
- Provision for battery charger should be given within the vehicle for instant hassle free charging.
- Provision of hand rest should be given in passenger’s compartment for safety of the children and senior citizen.
- Vehicle should have Better Electrical layout with colour coding for easy manufacture and repair.
- Provision for front wind shield and foldable raxine cover on sides for protection against wind and rain.