India overtook China in sale of electric three-wheelers in 2023, at over 5.8 lakh units, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Electric 3W sales grew 65 per cent year-on-year, with government financial incentives helping lower prices.

In China, sales fell 8 per cent in 2023 to 3.2 lakh units, making it the second-largest electric 3W market, according to IEA.

Globally, the 3W market expanded by 13 per cent in 2023, selling 4.5 million units, of which 21 per cent was electric, compared to 18 per cent in 2022. At nearly one million units, sale of electric 3Ws grew 30 per cent year-on-year. The market is dominated by China and India, which together account for over 95 per cent of all electric 3Ws and 80 per cent of conventional 3W sales.

Role of subsidy

In India, despite being 55 per cent costlier than gasoline variants in 2023, the average electric 3W (autorickshaw) proves to be 50 per cent cheaper to own after eight years of service, and over 40 per cent cheaper even without subsidies.

When compared to a 3W running on natural gas — namely the most cost-effective internal combustion engine (ICE) — the electric model achieves total cost of ownership (TCO) parity within just two and is about 40 per cent cheaper over an eight-year lifespan. However, without subsidies the TCO breakeven is reached only after four years, it said.

Battery differentiator

The Chinese market predominantly uses lead-acid batteries despite government efforts to transition to Li-ion technology due to environmental concerns. 3Ws with lead-acid battery remain popular in India and rural China as they are cheaper, commanding an estimated 55-98 per cent market share in India.

3Ws with Li-ion batteries are expected to gain ground in the Indian market with the introduction of the 2024 EMPS subsidy scheme, which favours vehicles with advanced battery chemistry.