The earth’s rapidly depleting reserves of fossil fuels and the effect of climate change and pollution on quality of life have forced several countries to rethink their consumption of energy and fuel. According to a 2018 Greenpeace report, the global car industry’s carbon footprint was equivalent to 9% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the study, the growing demand for heavier vehicles like SUVs was driving up fuel consumption and hence pollution. Such worrying numbers have forced the government to look for more sustainable transport options. The concern subsequently led to the launch of e-scooters and electric vehicles.
At the same time, another category of eco-friendly vehicles which is becoming increasingly popular among auto giants is the quadricycle. The vehicle looks like a car, except it is actually a cycle with four wheels and an engine at its rear. In 2018, the Indian government approved a proposal which allowed quadricycles to ply on the country’s roads. They were included as a ‘non-transport’ vehicles under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. They were earlier permitted only for commercial use, but the government later allowed quadricycles to be used for personal use as well.
How are they different from regular cars
A typical quadricycle may look like a car, but it is anything but a car. It is the size of a three-wheeler, but has four wheels. It also weighs considerably lesser than a regular car. Its engine is similar to that of a three-wheeler. It is often seen as an affordable yet safe option for last-mile connectivity. These vehicles also have limited capacity to carry weight because of a smaller chassis than cars. According to government rules, the maximum kerb weight of a quadricycle in India cannot exceed 475kg for a passenger vehicle and 550kg for a goods vehicle.
Mahindra’s Atom: A leader in the segment
One of the vehicles in this sector which has been garnering a lot of attention is the Mahindra Electric’s Atom. The auto major recently released a teaser of the electric vehicle, which is expected to hit markets sometime next year. The car was earlier showcased in the Auto Expo 2020 in February earlier this year. The four-seater vehicle’s launch had to be delayed because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. According to reports, the electric vehicle is likely to be powered by a 15kW motor and a lithium-ion battery. Reports suggest that one can expect a top speed of 60 km/hr from the vehicle.
Mahindra Electric has claimed that the electric quadricycle has been designed for commercial use and offering last-mile connectivity in urban areas. A taller and sturdy frame will give passengers a feeling of maximum comfort, the company added. While the auto major has not talked much about the range, news reports suggest that it is likely to be in the vicinity of 75 kilometre. The car boasts of some smart features, which include a touchscreen for passengers to track their journey.
A high-end connectivity system is also one of the features which are expected to be included in the package. Thanks to the connectivity system, passengers will also be able to make bookings and payments from the comfort of their car. The system will keep them posted about schedules of flights, trains and buses, apart from alerting them about the nearest places to board. Even as there is little confirmation about a battery-swapping feature from the company, reports suggest that the car can be recharged in four hours. It will also come with a safe enclosure. The Atom will be assembled at the company’s plant in Bengaluru. The facility will manufacture all low-voltage car models of Mahindra Electric.
Apart from Mahindra Electric’s Atom, there are several other auto companies that have launched quadricycles in the past few years. For starters, there is Bajaj Auto India’s ‘Qute’, which is priced around Rs 2 lakh. The car complies with European standards and guidelines for quadricycles. The vehicle is as spacious as a regular car and gives you a mileage of around 36 kilometre for every litre of fuel. It gives you a range of 70km/hr. It comes with an eight-litre tank for petrol and a five-speed manual transmission.
The quadricycle segment might still be in a nascent stage but is registering impressive growth. Piaggio Vehicles has been eyeing a share of the segment, especially as its earlier quadricycle models have performed well in markets like Europe. CityQElectric, a Scandinavian startup, has also announced its plan to enter the Indian quadricycle segment with its ‘eBike’. The firm plans to launch to variants of the vehicle, one for passenger use and the other for commercial use. The vehicle is expected to sport pedals, but not a chain drive to power the eBike’s wheels. Riders can expect the vehicle to come with differing riding modes like cruise control, reverse, and heavy cargo. Users will also be able to lock and unlock the vehicle through an app on their smartphones.