A cross between a cycle rickshaw and an auto rickshaw they have been around for quite some time now, noiselessly whizzing past us and slowly making their presence felt particularly in the fringe areas of Kolkata. We’re talking about the colourful, peppy and non-polluting e-rickshaw, popularly known as ‘Toto’. However, despite being environment friendly, the absence of valid licence and registration have prevented Totos from being a replacement for either auto rickshaws or cycle rickshaws
A Toto is a battery run three-wheeler rickshaw, inspired by the globally operated used Tuk-Tuk, which has a more powerful combustion type engine.
Its parts are imported from China before being assembled which is done mostly in Delhi and Rajasthan. Currently, it is a private player- Basanti which is selling the most number of vehicles.
The price of the vehicle varies between Rs 80,000 and Rs 85,000. While the cost of the vehicle is Rs 55,000, the battery and the charging kit cost Rs 26,000 approximately.
Toto made its first appearance in suburban Kolkata, around 2013.These e-rickshaws are allowed to ply on the lanes and by lanes but not on the main thoroughfares of New Town and Howrah.
Advantages of Toto over auto rickshaw and cycle rickshaw
No Pollution: Totos are entirely electrically powered and have zero emission.
No Noise: Totos have noiseless engines.
Safer: As Totos cannot travel at a speed of more than 20 kmph, they are comparatively safer than auto rickshaws.
Economical: A single charge of a Toto consumes only 3 units of electricity which costs less than Rs 30 and can cover close to 100 kms. For the same distance travelled, the cost of LPG or fuel in Kolkata’s auto-rickshaws is around Rs 150.
The number of Totos on the street is increasing day by day and they are weaning away a large number of commuters who were earlier forced to travel by auto-rickshaws, all because of the comfort factor. Hence, it is inevitable that Totos are largely eating into the market once monopolized by the auto rickshaws.
“Our demand has gone down considerably as more and more people are opting for the e-rickshaw over us even though our fares are lesser compared to them” said Sk. Najim Rashid, an auto rickshaw driver who plies between Naka 1 and 2 in New Town.
“More owners are opting to buy a Toto over auto rickshaw as the running cost is much lower” said Prithvi Sarkar, a Toto owner.
The government till now has no plan of action for formulating rules and regulations for these e-rickshaws; hence the buyers of the Totos do not get any financial aid for procuring these non-polluting vehicles. Also, as they are battery operated, they do not come under the jurisdiction of the road transport authories and hence do not have registration numbers. This also removes the element of taxation as there is no channel for the government to collect road tax, registration fees from Toto owners. Absence of valid driver’s licence is also an issue since there are no laws to govern battery operated vehicles in the city.
While the city dwellers have welcomed the non-polluting, noiseless tricycle happily, the reason for its popularity is not just the lower fare cost or lesser pollution but also the fact that they are much safer and not as much of a menace for car drivers on the road as auto and cycle rickshaws.
But, being a public vehicle with no registration numbers and drivers without licences, Totos might end up becoming another lawless menace on the streets instead of a safe, non-pollutant option for daily commuters unless the government acts real fast.
Motor: 800 watt 48 V.Motor
Transmission Mode: Shaft Drive
Top Speed: 25 km/h
Load Capacity: 6 people
Mileage: 100 kms for a 6 hour charge