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Uber India plans to have 3,000 electric vehicles (EV) in its fleet by the end of 2021, a top executive at the ride hailing company said, in line with the trend in the mobility sector which is taking rapid strides in green technologies.

Uber plans to continue to partner with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), EV infrastructure firms for charging and battery swapping, and fleets and financiers to make green-powered automobiles both ‘accessible and affordable’.

“As of now, we plan to have approximately 3,000 EVs and e-rickshaws (across two, three and four-wheelers) on our platform by the end of 2021," Prabhjeet Singh, president, mobility, Uber India and South Asia, said in an interview.

Mobility service providers were among the worst hit as demand has been muted since the covid-19 outbreak. However, the companies are aiming to accelerate some of their larger plans to take the green route as they expect strong recovery in these segments once the restrictions are lifted.

“In Mumbai, for example, gross bookings for auto have bounced back to over 150% of pre-covid levels. In Chandigarh, it’s at 100%, in Hyderabad at 85%," Singh said.

The auto segment has also seen a strong recovery for other operators, with most commuters considering it a safer option with enough ventilation, compared to enclosed spaces such as cars during the ongoing pandemic. Uber’s inter-city travel offering is seeing a 70% recovery.

Buoyed by the quicker recovery in auto, moto (bikes) and rental businesses, compared to its core cab services, the company is aiming to take a bigger slice of the growing EV-powered mobility, where the entire segment (including private vehicle ownership across categories) accounts for less than 1% of the automobile market.

Uber rolled out 100 e-rickshaws in Delhi followed by 500 in Greater Kolkata, earlier this month, and is looking to expand the service to other Tier-II cities. Small towns that rely more on auto rickshaws rather than cabs are a significant area of interest for mobility startups which have rapidly expanded in semi-urban centres.

Uber said its plan to reach 200 cities by end of 2020 was affected by the pandemic, but it remains on course to achieving the milestone. EV-friendly policies and targets by the Centre and state governments, such as Delhi and Telangana, will translate into sales in the near future, the company said.

Uber has partnered with green technologies services startups such as Lithium to deploy over 1,000 EVs across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. It has also partnered with micro-mobility startup Yulu, Mahindra and Sun Mobility for battery swapping to enable faster and seamless transition to EVs.

“I would believe that over the next 12-24 months, the (EV) space will evolve further for us to collectively be able to have a more definitive view on where this is at the pace at which the broader electrification of the Indian mobility ecosystem will happen. It is a trend which is irreversible," Singh said, adding that the core cabs business is yet to witness similar levels of recovery.

“The recovery for the core business varies in different cities, but in general, we are seeing very healthy recovering in that part of the portfolio," he added.

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