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Ride-hailing firm Ola Cabs announced on Monday its plans to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws in India in the next 12 months, as part of its Mission: Electric program.

Aiming to place one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2021, the startup group ran by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., stated that it is negotiating with various state governments, automakers, and battery producers to meet its goal.

Ola is also discussing with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) partners and EV innovators across the globe to launch the vehicles at the planned time.

The additional 10,000 e-rickshaws and electric auto-rickshaws will be introduce across three more cities in the country this year, though it was not specified which three cities the company is exactly looking into.

Ola has been on an expansion spree in recent months. Back in December, it bought delivery service Foodpanda’s Indian operations, and then took its ride-hailing service to Australia, which was followed by its acquisition of India’s public transport ticketing and commuting app Ridlr.

Ola Modernizing Public Transport

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As part of a bigger electrification plan, Ola intends to make sustainable technological solutions that are cost-effective and practical for daily commute, so as to bring cleaner, more comfortable, and safer products to market.

The Bengaluru-based group believes that EVs can not only help the environment, but it can also provide better outcomes for drivers, customers, as well as with its overall business model for EV deployment in India.

The company plans to create an existing trial program in Nagpur, where Ola’s first EVs have already clocked more than 4 million kilometers (km).

The project, which started in May 2017, has already given the ride-hailing firm a good sense of how to effectively manage vehicles, batteries, and operations. Ola plans to keep on testing different methods to optimize batteries and charging.

The pilot program included rickshaws, electric cabs, electric buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery-changing experiments.

Three-wheeled rickshaws are a vital means of transportation in several Indian cities and are a source of income for millions of people every day, which can be hailed through Ola’s app.

The firm currently provides ride-hailing services to 110 cities in the country and has over a million drivers.

Ola co-founder and chief executive Bhavish Aggarwal said three-wheelers also offer an immediate opportunity to improve results for all stakeholders, while lessening pollution across towns and cities.

Reports last May had suggested that Japanese holding firm SoftBank Group Corp., Ola’s main investor, was bullish about the electric car market in India.

However, two sources stated in March that Ola is downsizing its plans for its EV fleet, following the Indian government’s statement of not needing an EV policy, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal to make all new cars battery-operated by 2030.  

Around the same time, it was also reported that a number of Ola drivers wanted to return their vehicles due to long waiting times at charging stations and higher operating expenses.

To resolve the issue, a spokesperson for Ola said the company has set up charging docks at houses of some drivers to save time by swapping batteries.

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