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State mulls battery car as taxi

The state government intends to introduce a fleet of battery-run taxis in Calcutta, a move aimed at curbing pollution and beating refusal by increasing the number of cabs.

The plan is to ply the battery-run taxis in specified zones though doubts remain about availability of charging points for such cars.

The battery-run vehicle being considered is e2o, manufactured by Mahindra. The car with automatic transmission — which seats four, including the driver — is a modified version of the company’s electric vehicle Reva. It’s maximum speed is 81kmph.

“This vehicle can run smoothly within the city and would fit the bill as a taxi. e2os can be used as ‘No Refusal’ cabs and the government will facilitate bank loans for those applying to use the vehicles as cabs,” transport minister Madan Mitra said on Tuesday, after a demonstration of the vehicle by the company. “It’s a pollution-free vehicle and can be best used in and around the tech hub in Sector V.”

A company official said maintenance could be done at the owner’s doorstep at a low cost. “The car comes fitted with a 48-volt lithium battery. If the battery is charged for five hours, the car can run 100km,” the official said during the demonstration. The battery can be charged by plugging it into any 15-ampere point.

Akinchan Bhattacharya, the sales manager of Mohan Motors, a dealer of the car, said: “We have got four orders for the e2o in the past two months.”

The orders are for private use. The company has to formally apply to the government for permission to use the vehicle as a taxi. Only after getting the green light can an owner apply for the permit. If everything goes smoothly, the process will take “a few months”, said an official.

Taxi operators said the biggest challenge in adopting the e2o as cab is the price. “The base model is priced Rs 7.68 lakh in Calcutta. The top end costs Rs 8.05 lakh,” said Bhattacharya of Mohan Motors.

“You pay once and are relieved of paying for diesel or petrol. If you were to ever run out of charge, there is a technology that remotely activates a reserve and lets you continue,” said a representative of the company.

“The vehicle may be fine for individuals but not as a taxi,” said Bimal Guha, president, Bengal Taxi Association.

Newborn rescued

An abandoned newborn boy was rescued from a bush in Garden Reach around 8am on Tuesday. Residents found him near a sewer on Bagdipara Main Road.