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Assessing the Viability of Using Autorickshaws for Urban Freight Delivery in India

It is estimated that, between 2020 and 2030, India’s freight activity will increase fivefold (NITI Aayog et al. 2021). To meet the rising demand cost-effectively, we need to explore new forms of micro-mobility-based, last-mile freight modes with a focus on low-emissions cargo transportation and optimize existing vehicle stocks.

Currently, there is a significant gap between vehicle types in the 30-350 kg payload capacity range. Two-wheelers are agile but not suitable for carrying heavy freight. Meanwhile, three- and four-wheeled cargo vehicles, with a carrying capacity of 400-700 kg, end up getting underutilized whilst carrying smaller payloads. Three-wheeler passenger autorickshaws can step in to fill this gap. They fare better than other micro-mobility modes in carrying heavier freight, as they have both the flexibility and manoeuvrability of 2-wheelers and are designed to carry larger payloads of up to 300 kg.

The new WRI India research paper ‘Assessing Viability of Using Autorickshaws for Urban Freight Delivery’ explores the feasibility of a dual-utility strategy for autorickshaws and examines its potential impacts on driver incomes, safety, and the environment. It finds that using autorickshaws to transport freight as well as people could enable drivers to make more productive use of existing vehicles. It could also raise driver incomes by around 15 percent, reduce logistics costs for small and medium enterprises, make vehicle use more efficient, and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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