EV pilot project launched for rural women entrepreneurs

Electric Vehicles could be a game-changing initiative for sustainable livelihood opportunities in rural India

New Delhi: Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in collaboration with Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) have launched a first-of-its-kind rural e-mobility demonstration pilot supporting women entrepreneurs.
The pilot aims to increase transportation equity, improve air quality, and enhance rural livelihoods through the adoption of EVs.
The beneficiaries for this pilot were selected based on multiple criteria, including vehicle ownership status, basic driving skills, access to clean energy sources for EV charging, regular long-distance travel habits, commuting expenses, and vehicle use for livelihood improvement. Electric two-wheelers were handed over to these women entrepreneurs in Anand district, Gujarat and Dungarpur district, Rajasthan.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr. R.K. Singh, Chief General Manager, SIDBI, said, “SIDBI has always endeavoured to connect the last mile through blend of development & finance through itself and its partners. Green and digitization is our top priority. EV Eco system is being strengthened by us in urban cities by directly supporting as also through adequate, timely and competitive funds availability to dedicate NBFCs financing EVs. The approach includes supporting different models, empanelling OEMs, capacity building of financing communities, and some of the key steps. We believe that unless we deepen our outreach to unserved or underserved segments and geographies, the mission would not get the desired pace. We have now started initiatives connecting smaller towns, religious circuits and this unique attempt is to empower rural areas. SIDBI is supporting the identified SEWA sisters for the demonstration of piloting of electric vehicles for commercial use. These EV ambassadors would set an example for others to assimilate and adopt.” SIDBI’s flagship EV scheme i.e. 50KEV4ECO would be instrumental in scaling of EV penetration in rural part of the country.
Nearly two thirds of the Indian population reside in rural India, where motorized transport has predominantly been two wheelers. “NRDC has been working with women in rural India through its partners for over a decade to enhance access to clean energy solutions,” said Dipa Singh Bagai, Country Head, NRDC India. “Pilots such as these are critical to build confidence of rural communities in EVs and show how an equitable and just transition to clean transport can be achieved. It also has the potential to inform policymakers on what kind of policy levers and business models are required to support the transition to clean mobility in rural areas.”
National two-wheeler sales reached nearly 16 million units in the fiscal year ending March 2023, of which rural areas contributed to around 55% sales. In that light, mobility solutions for rural areas assume high significance. Speaking to this, Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA said, “On its 50th Anniversary of organizing, SEWA launched its ‘Swachch Aakash: Cleaner Skies Campaign’ for the new generations of SEWA to accelerate their climate action. Today, the purchase of these Electrical Vehicles by our younger members leads to green asset creation in the name of women, brings freedom of mobility, and strengthens their livelihoods. We at SEWA call it climate justice and second freedom for our members.”
At the pilot launch this week, manufacturers of the EV two-wheelers demonstrated products and discussed tips on vehicle maintenance with the beneficiaries.