Electric vehicle cab operator Lithium to hire 2000 drivers in one year

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New Delhi: Bangalore-based electric cab services firm Lithium Urban Technology plans to hire at least 2,000 drivers in one year to expand its presence— another signal that electric vehicles are gaining traction in India.

Founded in 2015, the corporate transport service start-up is expanding its services in the National Capital Region centred on Delhi besides Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai, in addition to Bengaluru, Lithium co-founder Sanjay Krishnan said in an interview.

“We want to raise the number to 1,000 cars by the end of the financial year, and hire about 2000 more drivers. This will be across five markets – National Capital Region, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, besides Bengaluru where we began,” Krishnan said.

Lithium Urban Technology currently has 400 cars and at least two drivers per car. Each car currently covers 300 km a day and drivers at the firm work for 10-12 hours a day

“We have 10 clients now and wants to double the number by end of this year,” Krishnan added.

The company is in talks with companies in various sectors such as information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services, hospitality and the public sector for potential tie-up.

Any push to the usage of electric taxis will help in stimulating consumers mindset towards vehicles run on non-conventional fuel. Lithium’s plans come against the backdrop of ambitious government plans for a mass scale shift to electric vehicles by 2030, so that all vehicles on Indian roads by then—both personal and commercial—are powered by electricity.

The government is pushing the adoption of electric vehicles to reduce India’s dependence on oil imports and as part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. India’s energy import bill is expected to double to $300 billion by 2030. The government has set an ambitious target of selling six million EVs by 2020. EV sales in India grew by 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016, according to industry lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Of these, only 2,000 units were four-wheelers.

Running an electric vehicle is an expensive proposition largely due to the steep battery cost, which raises the initial cost of ownership. While electric vehicle transportation is in its early stages across the globe, for the first time, battery prices have been dropping (about a 60% drop in the past five years) and the rapid decline is likely to continue. The battery that goes into Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf, used to make up 50% of the vehicle’s cost in 2010 in the US, but it has come down to as low as 25% now. The car starts selling at $30,000 in US.

“Earlier the biggest concern with electric vehicles was the source of electricity. Now the cost of clean energies like solar dropping considerably provides a fantastic opportunity to look at electrical mobility in an active way,” said Abdul Majeed, head of the automotive practice at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Krishnan also said that drivers at Lithium Urban Technologies earn a minimum of Rs 20,000 per month in addition to other benefits like health insurance and partial/full education scholarship for a girl child. However, he refused to divulge any details on their hiring budget for the financial year.

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