The path to electrify India goes through viable battery-powered auto-rickshaw.

Ratan Tata tried to create the cheapest car on Earth and he did it. The Nano had the mission to replace motorcycles in India, making traffic safer. In 2018 alone, 299,091 people died there in vehicle accidents. But Indians did not want to be seen in something cheap and the car was a commercial disaster. Tata did not count on that. On the other hand, Piaggio’s take in electrifying India seems to have considered India’s peculiarities with the Ape E-City.

Gallery: Piaggio Creates The Ape E-City To Electrify India

The Ape is a popular auto-rickshaw – tuk-tuks are for Thailand – that serves the Indian population for decades. It goes where public transportation doesn’t. The problem is that they were extremely polluting machines, with two-stroke engines.

In 1998, the Supreme Court of India determined auto-rickshaws for New Delhi should use CNG or LPG as fuel. It initially caused the drivers of these vehicles to lose time and money on long lines to refuel. Affordability and lack of charging infrastructure are the main problems EVs face in India.

Making the Ape electric would require Piaggio to avoid that. Ape, by the way, is “bee” in Italian. As a hard-working vehicle, the Ape could not wait too much time to charge. This is why Piaggio decided to give it swappable batteries. They will require only a few minutes to be replaced in “automated service stations.”

Piaggio Creates The Ape E-City To Electrify India

It will be interesting to learn how many of these stations Piaggio will offer and in which Indian cities at first. New Delhi is certainly in this first group, due to pollution concerns. If this technology becomes popular enough, it may set the standard for battery swapping in one of the largest countries on Earth. It will certainly cost less than filling up a gas, CNG, LPG tank.

To give the Ape E-City even more appeal, the auto-rickshaw will have a price “in line with that of the gas-fuelled model,” according to Piaggio. Put on that equation the fact that electric vehicles do not require as much maintenance as a combustion-engined equivalent and you may have a winning business case for electric mobility.

Piaggio Creates The Ape E-City To Electrify India

We’ll follow the evolution of the Ape E-City in India with a lot of interest. Indian’s will probably ride it proudly. If only the Nano was an EV...

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PIAGGIO GROUP, THE ICONIC APE TURNS ELECTRIC: PRESENTATION TODAY IN NEW DELHI OF THE APE E-CITY WITH BATTERY-SWAP TECHNOLOGY FOR THE INDIAN MARKET

The full-electric version of the Piaggio three-wheeler meets the growing demand for innovative and sustainable last-mile travel solutions in India

Milan, 18 December 2019 – In New Delhi today, the Piaggio Group (PIA.MI) presented the new Ape E-City, the full-electric version of its iconic three-wheeler, which marks the Group’s entry on to the Indian electric commercial vehicle market.

The brand that has been revolutionising light commercial mobility for 70 years, Ape is making yet another advance in line with developments in individual and commercial mobility needs, offering innovative solutions that respect the environment.

Using battery-swap technology, which allows a flat battery to be replaced with a charged battery in just a few minutes at automated service stations, the Ape E-City is an effective response to the growing demand for commercial mobility solutions, especially for inter-city travel in India, and to the rising interest in alternative energy sources.

The Ape E-City is produced in the Piaggio Group’s Baramati facility, in the state of Maharashtra, and is available on the Indian market at a price in line with that of the gas-fuelled model.

Among those attending the presentation in New Delhi this morning were Diego Graffi, CEO of Piaggio PVPL (the Piaggio Group’s Indian subsidiary), India's Road Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, Italy’s Ambassador to India, Vincenzo De Luca, and Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog, the think tank set up by the Indian Government to promote sustainable development in the country.

For some months, the Indian Government has been implementing a policy to support electric mobility, especially for 2- and 3-wheel vehicles, through the roll-out of the FAME program (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles). FAME promotes the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles with incentives including a reduction from 12% to 5% in the Goods and Services Tax, a VAT equivalent, on these vehicles.

India’s electric vehicle market is worth approximately 71 million dollars (source: P&S Intelligence P.L.) but is expected to exceed 700 million dollars in 2025.

Over the years, the Ape has also fuelled the growth in the developing countries of a micro business network based on mobile shops (mainly selling street food, a trend that is also growing fast in Europe), or small hauliers using the Ape Cargo.

The Ape Calessino for passenger transport is widely used for taxi services to link suburbs with city centres, filling needs not covered by local public transport services.

At 30 September 2019 the Piaggio Group reported sales in India of 142,500 commercial vehicles, with a 5.6% increase in revenues. The PVPL subsidiary had an overall share of 23.8% of the Indian three-wheeler market and confirmed its leadership in the Cargo segment with a share of 42.9%.