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Inside India’s Messy Electric Vehicle Revolution

A million electric rickshaws sprang up out of nowhere and are now being used by 60 million people a day. The government and vehicle makers are struggling to catch up.

It’s the morning rush hour at Nawada metro station in India’s capital, and dozens of electric rickshaws are jockeying to get through the narrow gate into the parking lot. Once inside, each one stops to let its four or five passengers off before squeezing back out to pick up more riders.

More than half of the shared three-wheeled taxis are technically illegal, and the drivers typically don’t have licenses. Accidents are common. Nearly all of the rickshaws are powered by lead-acid batteries underneath the passenger seats. And the electricity used to recharge them is often stolen.

“It isn’t safe at all,” said Suman Deep Kaur, who works at a credit agency and rides an e-rickshaw twice a day between the station and her home. “But this is the only conveyance that will get me home.”

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