Can India chart a low-carbon future? The world might depend on it

(The Washington Post, 12 Jun 2020) Dusk was falling as Sadanand Jha drove his electric three-wheeler through the streets of this north Indian city, passing vegetable markets, tea stalls and tiny storefronts on a cool evening before the pandemic.

He wove in and out of rush-hour traffic, darting to the curb to pick up passengers — some of them cranky and all of them in a hurry. The night air was alive with the sound of thudding engines, but Jha’s battery-powered royal blue rickshaw zipped along with only a whirring noise.

Until recently, Jha, 35, had been one of the vendors he now passed by in a blur. But then he spotted a new type of three-wheeler on the streets of Ranchi, the capital of one of India’s poorest states. The inexpensive, brightly colored vehicles spelled opportunity, a chance to earn more money and be his own boss.

With a bank loan and small down payment, Jha joined the ranks of an unlikely army of new-energy entrepreneurs. About 1.75 million electric rickshaws ply India’s roads — more than the total number of electric cars sold in the United States. The scrappy, slightly anarchic industry is a homegrown success story in India’s fight against climate change and debilitating air pollution.

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The Washington Post, 12 Jun 2020: Can India chart a low-carbon future? The world might depend on it