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.
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.
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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