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The Issue of Lead-Acid Batteries in India

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As a means to combat the issue of rising pollution in the country, India shifted its focus on e-rickshaws. Provision of public transport services for cities by electrification of auto-rickshaws appears to be one of the optimal solutions for pollution. These rickshaws work on batteries and have become extremely popular in leading towns and cities in India. Running the rickshaws in an eco-friendly way seemed to be the best possible solution for faster adoption and raising awareness about EVs in India.  The country is the largest market for three-wheelers as they are cheap and provide the much-needed solution for motorized mobility.

E-rickshaws have witnessed an unrestricted growth on Indian streets. These vehicles run on batteries; an average electric rickshaw takes up to 7-7.5 units of electricity, which is charged domestically. These batteries are typically lead-acid batteries, which the environmentalists claim to undermine the environmental brownie points earned by these e-rickshaws. The leading popularity of lead-acid batteries is due to the fact that these are not only dependable but are also very cheap. However, this technology is old and technicians prefer lithium-ion batteries to better suit the purpose, given its efficiencies and densities. Zinc-air and aluminium-air batteries are even better choices.


The problem with lead-acid batteries in India is that most of the rickshaw drivers source the discarded lead-acid batteries from petrol and diesel vehicles. As such, the effective life of a lead-acid battery used in an e-rickshaw is very short about 8-10 months. An e-rickshaw typically needs a change of battery as often as every six months, when compared to 3-5 years in case of a four-wheeler.

Over 11,000 new e-rickshaws are estimated to be added every day and over 60 million Indians travel by e-rickshaws every day in India. As the number of these rickshaws increase, the number of discarded lead-acid batteries will also rise. Though the government mandates the use of recycled lead (which is less polluting than mining), the process of recycling is also questionable in India. Most lead-acid batteries in India are recycled in the informal sector causing health and environmental hazards. Manually breaking up the batteries releases lead particles and lead oxide dust which has led to innumerable cases of lead poisoning. Also, read e-boats or e-waste in India

The law requires the battery manufacturers to collect 90% of used batteries from registered recyclers and collection points, ensuring consumers trade in old batteries for every new battery purchase. But sadly, the majority (more than 90%) of the used batteries escape the formal value chain. The short life span of the lead-acid batteries used in the e-rickshaws and lack of proper recycling has led to an increase in waste.  Delhi’s e-rickshaws alone produce 8-10 lakh discarded batteries annually. The issue needs to be properly addressed by closing illegal smelting joints, monitoring the sale and collection networks for used batteries, strictly mandating the laws and regulations, etc. The rise of new technology is surely targeted towards a better lifestyle and environmental upsides, but care should be taken towards proper disposal and recycling. Rising of waste of all kinds is the new-age problem of our country.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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