Ola’s EV Taxi Pilot Program Facing Bumps

Considering that around $8 million was spent on the project, it seems fairly likely that expectations were moderately high for the program.

The problem, apparently, is that the drivers in question have become impatient with the long wait times at EV charging stations, and also the relatively high operating expenses (this is in India, amongst the working class, mind you). As a result, many have returned the EVs or are now planning to do so.

While a sample of 20 is by no means definitive, the fact that 12 of those 20 are now wanting out of the program (or have already ditched the EV) makes it clear that fast-charging infrastructure remains a weak point in India. The drivers in question have reported having to spend 3–4 hours a day charging.

Ola had said it would make 50 charging points available across 4 locations in Nagpur — a city of about 2.5 million people — for its fleet of 200 electric vehicles, but on a visit to the city in late January, Ola has added just 10 additional charging points but is still short of its target.

It’s notable that Ola was actually forced to close one of its EV charging stations last year in Nagpur as the result of resident anger about the traffic jams and due to government red  tape — it was 5 months before Ola was given approval to operate another charging station.

Also noteworthy, of course, is that the Mahindra electric cars being used in the pilot program only possess a range of around 100 kilometers per charge. Even the battery performance is unsatisfactory especially during the summer, so it sounds as though the batteries aren’t thermally managed — and that the battery chemistry being used isn’t the best for the climate.

The lack of fast-charging facility access, the relatively poor performance of the electric cars in question, and the slow speed of government processes in India have together made the pilot program a dud.