New Delhi: Quadricycles may change the landscape of urban and semi-rural commuting in India, provided the government speeds up the process to finalise its norms for this category of vehicles.
This four-wheeler is usually less than half the weight of a small car, can muster up just about a tenth of a car's horse power and has a maximum top speed of anywhere between 70-80 km an hour compared with a car's top speed of up to 200 km.
In comparison to three-wheelers though, its top speed and horse power are both higher.
So how would quadricycles change commuting landscape in India? By offering a safer, more comfortable four-wheeled option with doors and seat belts for intra city commute. Three-wheelers do not have either doors or seat belts.
While Bajaj Auto is already ready with such a vehicle - called RE60 - other three-wheeler manufacturers such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Piaggio and TVS Motor Company may also enter this space in the near future.
But it seems car makers are already feeling threatened. According to industry sources, a prominent small car maker has been lobbying against quadricycles being categorised separately from cars by insisting that safety measures such as crash tests etc are made mandatory for such vehicles.
The sources also tell us that some three-wheeler makers are keen that the formulation of norms for quadricycles should be delayed by three-four years so they get adequate time to prepare themselves to enter this space.
Car makers perhaps fear that their cars in the commercial segment as taxis would suffer if quadricycles are allowed; even semi-urban and rural transport options such as light commercial vehicles (example Tata Ace) and vikrams used at present may get affected.
A quadricycle, if allowed in its present form of about 400 kg weight and maximum power of 20 horse power, could well be priced somewhere in between a two-wheeler and the Tata Nano and Maruti Alto.
Speaking to Firstpost, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Sanjay Bandopadhyay denied there was any delay in formulating norms.
He said that a committee with representations from the Government, ICAT, ARAI and industry has already begun work on formulating norms and its recommendations should be available for consideration within the next fortnight. "A notification should be possible within the next 2-3 months".
An industry representative said the government may place restrictions on speed and engine power and also ban the use of quadricycle-based vehicles on highways as part of comprehensive norms for this kind of vehicles.
But the real bone of contention appears to be a move to consider applying crash testing and other stringent safety norms for such vehicles, as are in force for cars.
Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director of Bajaj Auto says it is wrong to compare quadricycles to cars and norms for quadricycles should be those which are already prevalent in Europe with suitable modification for Indian conditions.
He points out that at present, 40,000 Indians buys three-wheelers and a million others buy scooters and bikes every month and that none of these products have crash testing or other safety norms which are mandatory for cars.
"A quadricycle is much more comfortable and safe than a three-wheeler so all I am saying is norms for qudricycles be made on their own merits rather than in the context of cars."
Crash testing and other safety norms for cars are made keeping in mind vehicle weight, its top speed etc. Since there appear to be none for three-wheelers, perhaps the government needs to first formulate them for three-wheelers before moving on to quadricycles.
Bajaj explained that India should match European norms for emission, noise levels, lighting, safety and braking of quadricycles.
The RE60, which was showcased at the Auto Expo in January this year, carries a 200 cc petrol engine fitted to the rear of vehicle. Besides petrol, RE60 may also be available in LPG and CNG variants.
The company had said earlier that RE60 has half the carbon emission of other four-wheelers at 60 grams of carbon per kilometer.
Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 14:55 PM