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. Quadricycles can offer 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.
Bajaj Auto is already ready with such a vehicle - called RE60 - and other three-wheeler manufacturers such as Mahindra & Mahindra and Piaggio may also enter this space in the near future.
No wonder car makers are already feeling threatened. Tata 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. Car makers fear that their cars in the commercial segment as taxis would suffer if quadricycles are allowed; 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. A committee with representations from the Government, ICAT, ARAI and industry has been working on formulating norms and its recommendations should be available any day now.
It is possible that 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.
"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," Bajaj had said. 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. The company had said earlier that RE60 has half the carbon emission of other four-wheelers at 60 grams of carbon per kilometer.
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