Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
A Feasibility Study of Electric Bicycles
Case of Manikkal Gram Panchayat, Kerala
07 February, 2024 | Sustainable Mobility
Nilanshu Ghosh, Anannya Jha, Himani Jain, Amit Sood, Ritu Singh, Chetna Gogna, Suraj Kant, Akshita Arora, Narayankumar Sreekumar, Priyadarshini Alok

Ghosh et al. 2024. A Feasibility Study of Electric Bicycles: Case of Manikkal Gram Panchayat, Kerala. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water; Convergence Energy Services Limited and Energy Management Centre, India.


Micromobility technologies, primarily consisting of e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds, have been proliferating across the Global South. Low cost of operations, ease of use and charging/swapping are the primary drivers facilitating the uptake of these technologies. These modes are energy-efficient alternatives to internal combustion engines and motorised two-wheelers. Limited public transport services and expensive shared modes of transport make micromobility technologies a lucrative option in rural areas.

In this study, a detailed survey followed by a demonstration exercise of e-cycles was conducted with Anganwadi, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and women associated with Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The study aims to assess the potential of e-cycles as an alternative to their current travel modes.

Key highlights

  • Among the identified beneficiaries, ASHA workers and Haritha Karma Sena members are most interested in owning e-cycles. This interest is despite some having limited experience riding traditional bicycles.
  • 70–75 per cent of beneficiaries believed that e-cycles would reduce fatigue and improve work efficiency, resulting in higher wages.
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculated to estimate the economic viability reveals that the e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds are around 56-70 per cent cheaper than the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles and electric two-wheelers.
  • Respondents from the target groups considered in this study spend around INR 23,000 to INR 40,000 annually on their commute. Switching to alternate modes like e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds can reduce this expenditure to around INR 6,500 per annum owing to lower refuelling costs.
  • The perceived monthly payment capability of the target groups to own e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds is INR 500 over a time frame of 2-3 years. However, the savings from lower refuelling costs would be around INR 900 to INR 2,300 per month, which could potentially increase their payment capability to INR 1000 - 1500 instead of INR 500.


"Micro-mobility in rural areas unlocks a path to energy-efficient and cost-effective transportation, revolutionising traditional travel patterns while uplifting livelihoods. While our analysis indicates that the total cost of ownership (TCO) is cheaper for these technologies, the high upfront cost remains a barrier. Government incentives will play a pivotal role in mitigating the aforementioned barrier and catalysing the demand. This increased demand can further drive innovations, technological advancements, and economies of scale in production, leading to reduced costs in the long run."

Executive summary

The availability of public transport is limited in many regions, specifically in rural areas, leading to increased use of private motorised vehicles for commuting. As economic conditions improve, the aspiration towards owning private modes increases, leading to increased fuel consumption and emissions. Hence, it becomes imminent to delink economic growth from emissions through clean alternatives.

Between March and June 2023, the Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL) team conducted field visits in Raipur and its adjoining districts in Chhattisgarh, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Nalanda in Bihar, and Trivandrum in Kerala. These visits aimed to assess the potential adoption of technologies such as electric bicycles among people who travel short distances (5-10 km). The team studied current trip durations, the frequency of on-demand trips, and transport-related expenditures to identify the target beneficiaries who could benefit from more convenient commute modes. Initial field visits indicated e-cycles as a viable commute mode to address their aspiration of owning a private vehicle while ensuring zero emissions.

The initial discussions hinted at women government employees, especially Anganwadi, Accredited Social Health Activists and women associated with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as the potential users of e-cycle for their work travel. Subsequently, CESL and Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) collaborated with the Energy Management Centre (EMC) of Kerala to conduct an extensive survey and demonstration to assess the viability of electric cycles (e-cycles) as a prospective alternative to the existing commute patterns of the identified beneficiaries at Manikkal Gram Panchayat, known for being one of Kerala’s net-zero Panchayats.

Three different models of e-cycles were made available at the Panchayat office in the month of July 2023. The demonstration of e-cycles conducted at Manikkal Gram Panchayat received enthusiastic response and the identified target groups took the opportunity to take a test ride and provide detailed feedback on their experience. The majority of the beneficiaries (70–75 per cent) believed that e-cycles would reduce fatigue and improve work efficiency, resulting in higher wages. Key findings from the survey and demonstration include:

  • The target beneficiaries travel an average of 5–15 kilometres (km) per day, with ASHA workers traversing the farthest distance (around 17 km).
  • Monthly incomes of the target beneficiaries vary from INR 6000 to 12,000, with Anganwadi teachers earning the highest (INR 12,000).
  • Among the identified beneficiaries, ASHA workers and Haritha Karma Sena members are most interested in owning e-cycles. This interest is despite some having limited experience riding traditional bicycles.

A detailed Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was calculated to estimate the economic viability between Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) two-wheelers, electric twowheelers, e-cycles and low speed e-mopeds. It was observed that the e-cycles and low speed e-mopeds are around 56-70 per cent cheaper than their ICE and EV counterparts. Despite having minimal operating costs, the upfront cost of the e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds (INR 25,000 – INR 50,000) remain a significant barrier for the target groups, hindering their adoption.

Figure 1 TCO comparison of different technologies

Source: Authors’ analysis

Considering their aspirations, repayment capacity, and specific requirements, the following e-cycle models are suggested for deployment:

  • A cargo e-cycle is most suitable for Haritha Karma Sena workers and the Kudumbashree members. This would result in a potential cumulative demand of around 35,560 e-cycles across Kerala.
  • A low speed e-moped is most suitable for Anganwadi workers and ASHA workers. This would result in a potential cumulative demand of 41,000 e-mopeds across Kerala.

Given the presence of the target beneficiaries across different government Institutions pan-India and the similarity in their monthly incomes and operational characteristics, there is a considerable potential demand of around 9.4 lakh e-cycles among ASHA workers, 7.4 lakh e-cycles among Anganwadi workers and 5-6 crore e-cycles among SHG members.

The following recommendations can be implemented to scale up the adoption of e-cycles pan-India:

  • Fiscal incentives and aggregation can increase viability: Targeted incentives from the national and sub-national governments can be deployed in two phases to ensure wide-scale adoption of the e-cycles:
    • Ecosystem enabler: Dedicated fiscal incentives from the Government will be instrumental in reducing the high upfront cost of e-cycles and low speed e-mopeds. Fiscal incentives followed by awareness campaigns and educational programmes will inform the public about the benefits of these technologies such as reduced emissions, cost savings on fuel, minimal maintenance, and their contribution to a cleaner environment. This increased visibility creates a ripple effect, encouraging more individuals to consider and adopt these economic and clean alternatives for their existing travel modes.
    • Large scale adoption: Interest-free loans offer crucial financial flexibility, allowing consumers to invest in e-cycles or low speed e-mopeds. Government-backed interest-free loans lower barriers to entry, encouraging widespread adoption. These fiscal incentives, by bolstering consumer benefits, simultaneously catalyse an upsurge in demand for such technologies. This escalating demand acts as a catalyst for innovations, driving technological advancements and fostering economies of scale in production. As a result of increased adoption due to incentives, the expanding market for e-cycles and low speed e-mopeds will solidify their viability and establish them as a sustainable transportation option for the future.
  • Design improvements in the existing e-cycles in accordance with the user requirements to cater their needs (see figure 2), while keeping costs in check.
  • Systemic data collection accelerates the adoption of e-cycles and lowspeed e-mopeds by offering critical insights into their usage and impact on users’ livelihoods. On-ground e-cycle demonstrations gather real-time operational data covering travel patterns, usage frequency, routes, and user input. Analysing this data informs decisions on infrastructure, incentives, and policies, optimising their incorporation into existing systems. This data-driven approach substantiates their potential positive impact, enabling more effective initiatives to support their widespread adoption.
  • Strengthening institutional structure ensures streamlined and transparent processes for disbursing funds, particularly interest-free loans. This enhanced structure guarantees efficient allocation of financial incentives while bolstering accountability and oversight. With improved channels, more women within SHGs gain access to financial support for e-cycle adoption, extending the benefits of sustainable transportation to a wider, more inclusive demographic. Empowering these women will not only enhance mobility but also promote economic independence and empowerment within their communities.

Figure 2 Additional features requested by the beneficiaries, post e-cycle demonstration

Source: Authors’ analysis

E-cycles emerge as an ideal solution for addressing individual mobility challenges while meeting social aspirations in rural and semi-urban areas. It also promotes energy efficiency and zero emissions targets, contributing to India’s Net-Zero 2070 target. Moreover, e-micromobility technologies provide time-saving advantages, address mobility challenges, augment livelihood prospects, and promote an inclusive transition with women attaining greater self-sufficiency.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the concept of e-cycles? Are electric cycles worth buying in India?

    E-cycles are bicycles with a supportive power unit, providing pedal assistance or fully throttle-controlled propelling force. Our analysis indicates that the e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds are around 56-70 per cent cheaper than their ICE and EV counterparts. Thus, they can be a cost-effective solution as compared to other motorised two-wheelers for the Indian market.

  • How do e-bikes/e-cycles affect the environment?

    E-cycles can be a lucrative option for distances ranging from 5-10 km and can be a suitable substitute for motorised internal combustion engine (ICE) two-wheelers. Thus e-cycles can reduce the exhaust emissions from two-wheelers, which currently occupy the largest share of the total motorised vehicles on Indian roads.

  • What are the social impacts of e-cycles?

    From our survey, we find that the majority of the beneficiaries (70–75 per cent) believed that e-cycles would reduce fatigue and improve work efficiency, resulting in higher wages. Our analysis also indicates that the annual savings are around 70-80 per cent by switching to e-cycles. This could increase the disposable income of the beneficiaries, thereby leading to better education for the children, better healthcare opportunities and better family and social support.

  • Why are e-cycles a lucrative option for rural areas?

    In several regions of rural India, public transport and shared modes are unviable owing to low and dispersed demand, making people rely on private Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) two-wheelers for commuting. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) reveals that e-cycles and low-speed e-mopeds are around 70% cheaper than ICE two-wheelers, making them economically lucrative.

  • What is the future uptake of e-cycles?

    Our analysis indicates that there is a potential for e-cycles among rural government institutions. In Kerala itself, there is a demand for around 77,000 e-cycles among the Anganwadi, ASHA and SHG workers.



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