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Do registration-exempt low speed EVs present a safety risk?

As per regulation, low speed electric two-wheelers are categorised as Non-motorised vehicles (NMV). These vehicles are RTO exempted, and do not require registration, license, a helmet or insurance.

Before the electric vehicles, NMV classification applied to the vehicles that are not self-propelled e.g. bicycles, hand drawn carts, rickshaws, animal carts etc. In a bid to promote the nascent electric vehicles industry in India, the government has allowed electric 2Ws with upto 250 Watt motor and max speed 25km/h to be exempt from registration. Official MoRTH Notification

There are a number of such low speed electric two wheelers available from OEMs like Okinawa, PureEV, Evolet, Essel Energy, Jitendra EV tech – to name a few. In addition, popular micro-mobility services like Yulu and Zypp Electric provide two wheelers categorised as NMVs in urban areas for last-mile connectivity. Yulu alone clocks more than 35,000 rides every day.

Related Read: Safety Testing Standards for Electric Vehicles

There are two aspects to this we want to highlight:

1. Road Safety

Below points associated with NMV category electric 2Ws present significant road safety concerns:

– Majority of users do not use helmets while riding these vehicles. Despite OEM efforts on this front (e.g. PureEV provides a free helmet with their low-speed scooter), a mandate is required to push the riders to wear the helmet for their own safety.

– Light electric 2Ws being used by many companies for commercial purposes like home deliveries remain unregulated.

– Despite company recommendations of age and single-rider policy, micro-mobility solutions are often used by under-age riders for fun rides as covered by a recent HT report

Two wheeler users are a vulnerable category when it comes to road crashes. Here are a few data points from 2018 (refer MoRTH report):

– Two-wheeler users (including scooters, motorcycles, mopeds) constituted the largest number of road accident deaths (55,336) in 2018 with a share of 36.5% (of total persons killed categorised by type of road-user). The absence of helmets in case of NMVs further heightens the risk of fatality/ injury.

– Bicycles users accounted for 3,673 accident deaths in the same period.

– Pedestrians & fixed objects, plus low speed vehicles including trolly, tempo/tractor, e-rickshaw, bicycle, cycle rickshaw, hand or animal drawn carts, were the impacting vehicles in case of more than 73,000 accidents pan-India that resulted in more than 32,000 deaths and 64,000 injuries in the year 2018. Though the comparison of low-speed 2Ws with low-speed vehicles of different form factors is not ideal; as an impacting vehicle, bicycles alone accounted for 3,811 accidents in 2018 leading to 1,822 deaths. With electric cycles and scooters way faster than regular bicycles, the risk of injuries increases further.

2. Insurance

Most of these electric NMVs are not insured.

FAME II subsidy does not apply for these vehicles. (Advanced battery chemistry, min top speed of 40 km/h, min range of 80 km and other riders are required to qualify). There is no monetary incentive to get insurance which is otherwise required to apply for subsidy on FAME portal.

Though a few OEMs have tie-ups with insurance companies to facilitate insurance  for their low speed scooters, the decision is at the buyer’s discretion. Speaking to EVreporter, an official from a leading general insurance company said that most of the customers choose to go without the insurance. 

This begs the question, “Who will be responsible for covering the legal and medical costs in the absence of third party insurance of these vehicles, in case of an accident?”

As penetration of electric two wheelers seems set to increase over next few years, we are eager to know your views on this subject. 

Do you feel that unregistered low speed EVs present a safety concern? Should there be tighter norms for these vehicles?

Let us know in the comments section.

Last updated: 09 Mar 2020

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5 thoughts on “Do registration-exempt low speed EVs present a safety risk?

  • I have seen many pedalled tricycles being motorised using some relevant electric kits. They are running freely on road and the sellers claim that as their speed is less than 25kmph, it doesn’t needs any kind of registration, license or insurance. These throttled motorised pedalled cycles are widely being used for cargo applications. In which category in Motor Vehicles they fall? Isn’t there any regulations for them? How safe it is to have such vehicles on road?

    The articles published here are very informative and helpful. Really appreciating work by evreporter.com

    • I don’t think legislation is required for less than 25 kmph ….next there would be helmets for pedestrians and joggers ….I am sure more than 1000 joggers die everyday …what next Hemet at house to prevent house hold injury or injury from angry wives …
      Any article should explore both sides of the coin and hence this is poorly written

  • Most of the low speed scooters are sold by removing or disconnecting speed governor. So almost all low speed e scooters exceed speed of 35+ kmph . I have test rided one which almost crossed 42kmph with pillion. So how legal is it to sell or own such vehicle??? And what if someone modifies such unregistered vehicle with aftermarket kit which can go 60 to 70 kmph? Are police are allowed to stop such vehicles and check?

    • How can a 250 w motor go at 60 kmph … illogical …even if we consider motor and other parts replacement one would think that a direct purchase of a larger model would be much more cost effective ..All scooter can reach 40 kmph in slopes … bicycle as well …which means we should require legislation rto insurance for bicycle ..imagine the problems it would cause for really poor

  • On these lines, even brisk walkers need to wear helmet Kudos to such articles which boosts already bloated rto rules regarding customizations, mufflers, paints, horn, led lights etc. Until now there is no rule on how to properly sit on scooters and how ladies should wear sarees while riding on scooters etc. Amazing India. It is time, govt spends towards fixing potholes and curb side open drainage, stray dogs etc and make streets safe in the first place.

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