PESHAWAR -- New, "green" e-rickshaws are hitting the market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), making it easier for drivers to run a three-wheeler with no fuel except electricity.
The vehicles appeared on the road in May. They operate in Peshawar, with drivers hoping to bring them to the rest of KP and to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Authorities hope the launch of the product will create jobs, providing gainful employment to jobless youth to keep them from turning to terrorism and other activities of the disenchanted.
"Most of those involved in terrorism and crime are jobless," Maj. (ret.) Shakil Khan, a Peshawar-based security consultant, told Pakistan Forward.
"More job and business opportunities will discourage crime and militancy," he said.
The e-rickshaws come in different colours and designs and can accommodate three to five passengers and considerable baggage.
"A number of designs exist and are affordable," Bilal Afridi, a Peshawar importer of the three-wheelers, told Pakistan Forward.
The e-rickshaws cost about Rs. 240,000 (US $2,289) each, compared to Rs. 220,000-300,000 (US $2,000-2,861) for traditional rickshaws, depending upon the model and engine capacity.
Each e-rickshaw has a powerful electrical motor that enables it to reach the required speed. It is easily charged and takes up to seven hours to fully charge, Afridi said. "Once completely charged, it can go up to 150km."
“The good thing is that these rickshaws are completely covered like a car and you don’t need to worry about rain, heat or cold due to the weather,” Peshawar journalist Salman Yousafzai told Pakistan Forward, adding that families can use them too, rather than relying on motorbikes or public transport.
Rickshaws enjoy great popularity in the narrow streets of Peshawar, which has an estimated 13,000 registered rickshaws and thousands of unregistered ones.
Authorities in Peshawar and KP welcome the appearance of the clean-burning e-rickshaws.
"Thousands of old rickshaws cause noise and emit thick smoke," KP Transport Department officer Muhammad Jamil told Pakistan Forward.
“Vehicles that don't emit smoke and don't cause any noise are very much needed in Peshawar and other parts of the country,” he said, adding that transportation officials are cracking down on drivers who do not have fitness certificates for their vehicles.
"I intend to sell my old rickshaw and buy an e-rickshaw," Yar Muhammad, a Peshawar rickshaw driver, told Pakistan Forward.
Passengers and drivers "will love a better model with no noise or air pollution", he said.
If the e-rickshaws conquer KP and FATA, it will mean more jobs for drivers, Yar said, echoing Khan the security analyst.
"Nobody will commit any crimes when they're earning good money," he said.