Auto rickshaw

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An auto rickshaw in Sri Lanka

An auto rickshaw is a motorized version of the pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. Most have three wheels and do not tilt. They are known by many terms in various countries including auto, auto/auto rickshaw, baby taxi, pigeon, bajaj, chand gari, lapa, tuk-tuk, Keke-napep, 3wheel, pragya, bao-bao or tukxi.

The auto rickshaw is a common form of urban transport, both as a vehicle for hire and for private use, in many countries around the world. They are especially common in countries with tropical or subtropical climates, since they usually are not fully enclosed, and in many developing countries because they are relatively inexpensive to own and operate. As of 2019, Bajaj Auto of Pune, India is the world's largest auto rickshaw manufacturer, selling 780,000 during the fiscal year.[1]

There are many different auto rickshaw designs. The most common type is characterized by a sheet-metal body or open frame resting on three wheels; a canvas roof with drop-down side curtains; a small cabin at the front for the driver (in India, the auto-wallah or tuktuK-wallah), with handlebar controls; and a cargo, passenger, or dual purpose space at the rear. Another common type is a motorcycle that has an expanded sidecar or, less often, is pushing or pulling a passenger compartment.


Daihatsu Midget Model DKA

In the 1930s Japan, which was the most industrialized country in east Asia at the time, encouraged the development of motorized vehicles including less expensive three-wheeled vehicles based on motorcycles. The Mazda-Go, a 3-wheel open "truck" released in 1931,[2] is often considered the first of what became auto rickshaws. Later that decade the Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan distributed about 20,000 used three-wheelers to Southeast Asia as part of efforts to expand its influence in the region.[3][4][5][6] They became popular in some areas, especially Thailand, which developed local manufacturing and design after the Japanese government abolished the three-wheeler license in Japan in 1965 .[7]

Production in Southeast Asia started from the knockdown production of the Daihatsu Midget, which was introduced in 1959.[8] An exception is the indigenously-modified Philippine tricycle, which originates from the Rikuo Type 97 motorcycle with a sidecar, introduced to the islands in 1941 by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.[9]

In Europe, Corradino D'Ascanio, aircraft designer at Piaggio and inventor of the Vespa, came up with the idea of building a light three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's post-war economic reconstruction. The Piaggio Ape followed suit in 1947.

Regional variations[edit]

Africa and the Middle East[edit]


Locally named the "toktok," the rickshaw is used to provide transportation in most parts of Egypt.


Together with the recent boom of recreational facilities in Gaza for the local residents, donkey carts have all but been displaced by tuk-tuks in 2010. Due to the ban by Egypt and Israel on the import of most motorised vehicles, the tuk-tuks have had to be smuggled in parts through the tunnel network connecting Gaza with Egypt.[10]


In Madagascar, man-powered rickshaws are a common form of transportation in a number of cities, especially Antsirabe. They are known as "posy" from pousse-pousse, meaning push-push. Cycle rickshaws took off since 2006 in a number of flat cities like Toamasina and replaced the major part of the posy, and are now threatened by the auto rickshaws, introduced in 2009. Provincial capitals like Toamasina, Mahajanga, Toliara, and Antsiranana are taking to them rapidly.[citation needed] They are known as "bajaji" in the north and "tuk-tuk" or "tik-tik" in the east, and are now licensed to operate as taxis.[citation needed] They are not yet allowed an operating licence in the congested, and more polluted national capital, Antananarivo.[citation needed][11][12][13]


Aerial view of autorickshaw congestion from a pedestrian bridge in Uyo, Southeast Nigeria

The auto rickshaw is used to provide transportation in cities all over Nigeria. Popularity and use varies across the country however. In Lagos, for example, the "keke" (Yoruba for bicycle) is regulated and transportation around the state's highways is prohibited.[14]

South Africa[edit]

Tuk-Tuk in Hermanus, South Africa (2014)

Tuk-tuks, introduced in Durban[15] in the late 1980s enjoyed growing popularity in recent years, particularly in Gauteng.[16] In Cape Town they are used to deliver groceries and, more recently, transport tourists.[17][18]

Rickshaw in Omdurman (Sudan)


Rickshaws, known as "Raksha" in Sudan, is the most common mean of transportation followed by the bus in the capital Khartoum.


Rickshaws are locally known as "bajaji" and are a common mode of transportation in Dar es Salaam.[19]


A local delivery company called as Sokowatch in 2020 began a pilot project using electric tuk-tuks, to cut pollution. [20]


Hende Moto electric 3 Wheeler Zimbabwe

Hende Moto Taxi were first introduced in Zimbabwe as the first car manufactured by a Zimbabwean three wheeler manufacturing company Hende Moto Pvt Ltd, Hende Moto Engine in a Safari fiberglass body. The first Hende Moto Taxi was introduced in Kwekwe August 2019, Zimbabwe and thereafter, Victoria Falls City came second and lastly Harare 2019. Hende Moto is also the manufacturer of the first Zimbabwean made electric passenger three wheeled vehicle. It operates on a lithium ion battery that has a range of 70 miles on a 6-hour charge.

South Asia[edit]


A tuk-tuk in Herat

Auto rickshaws are very common in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, where they are popularly decorated in art and colors.[21] They are also popular in the northern city of Kunduz.[22]


"CNGs" in Dhaka

Auto rickshaws (locally called "baby taxis" and more recently "CNGs" due to their fuel source, compressed natural gas) are one of the more popular modes of transport in Bangladesh mainly due to their size and speed. They are best suited to narrow, crowded streets, and are thus the principal means of covering longer distances within urban areas.[23]

Two-stroke engines had been identified as one of the leading sources of air pollution in Dhaka. Thus, since January 2003, traditional auto rickshaws were banned from the capital; only the new natural gas-powered models (CNG) were permitted to operate within the city limits. All CNGs are painted green to signify that the vehicles are eco-friendly and that each one has a meter built-in.[24]


Most cities offer auto rickshaw service, although cycle rickshaws are also common and even hand-pulled rickshaws exist in certain areas such as Kolkata.[25]:15,57,156 Many state governments have launched an initiative of women friendly rickshaw service called the Pink Rickshaws .[26]

Auto rickshaws are used in cities and towns for short distances; they are less suited to long distances because they are slow and the carriages are open to air pollution.[25]:57,58,110 Auto rickshaws (often called "autos") provide cheap and efficient transportation. Modern auto rickshaws run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) due to government regulations and are environmentally friendly compared to full-sized cars.[citation needed][nb 1]

To augment speedy movement of traffic, auto rickshaws are not allowed in the southern part of Mumbai.[27]

India is the location of the annual Rickshaw Run.

There are two types of auto rickshaws in India. In older versions the engines were below the driver's seat, while in newer versions engines are in the rear. They normally run on petrol, CNG, or diesel. The seating capacity of a normal rickshaw is four, including the driver's seat. Six-seater rickshaws exist in different parts of the country, but the model was officially banned in the city of Pune on 10 January 2003 by the Regional Transport Authority (RTA).[28]

CNG autos in many cities (e.g. Delhi, Agra) are distinguishable from the earlier petrol-powered autos by a green and yellow livery, as opposed to the earlier black and yellow appearance. In other cities (such as Mumbai) the only distinguishing feature is the 'CNG' print found on the back or side of the auto. Some local governments are considering four-stroke engines instead of two-stroke versions.[citation needed]

Auto rickshaw manufacturers in India include Bajaj Auto, Atul Auto Limited, Oculus Auto[29],[30] Kerala Automobiles Limited, Force Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Piaggio Ape, TVS Motors and Fleek Motors.

In Delhi there also used to be a variant powered by a Harley-Davidson engine called the phat-phati, because of the sound it made. The story goes that shortly after Independence a stock of Harley-Davidson motorbikes were found that had been used by British troops during World War II and left behind in a military storage house in Delhi. Some enterprising drivers purchased these bikes, added on a gear box (probably from a Willys jeep), welded on a passenger compartment that was good for four to six passengers, and put the unconventional vehicles onto the roads. A 1998 ruling of the Supreme Court against the use of polluting vehicles finally signed the death warrant of Delhi's phat-phatis.[31][32][33][34]

As of 2018 India has about 1.5 million battery-powered, three-wheeled rickshaws on its roads. Some 11,000 new ones hit the streets each month, creating a US$1.5 billion market. Manufacturers include Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Kinetic Engineering. A hindrance to adoption to electric vehicles is the paucity of charging stations; India had only 425 at year-end 2017. By 2022 the number is projected to rise to 2,800.[35]


Generally rickshaw fares are controlled by the government,[36] however auto (and taxi) driver unions frequently go on strike demanding fare hikes. They have also gone on strike multiple times in Delhi to protest against the government and High Court's 2012 order to install GPS systems, and even though GPS installation in public transport was made mandatory in 2015, as of 2017 compliance remains very low.[37][38][39]


Auto rickshaws were a popular mode of transport in Nepal during the 1980s and 1990s, until the government banned the movement of 600 such vehicles in the early 2000s.[40] The earliest auto rickshaws running in Kathmandu were manufactured by Bajaj Auto.[citation needed]

Nepal has been a popular destination for the Rickshaw Run. The 2009 Fall Run took place in Goa, India and ended in Pokhara, Nepal.[41]


Auto rickshaws are a popular mode of transport in Pakistani towns[42] and are mainly used for travelling short distances within cities. One of the major manufacturers of auto rickshaws is Piaggio. The government is taking measures to convert all gasoline powered auto rickshaws to cleaner CNG rickshaws by 2015 in all the major cities of Pakistan by issuing easy loans through commercial banks. Environment Canada is implementing pilot projects in Lahore, Karachi, and Quetta with engine technology developed in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada that uses CNG instead of gasoline in the two-stroke engines, in an effort to combat environmental pollution and noise levels.[citation needed]

In many cities in Pakistan, there are also motorcycle rickshaws, usually called "chand gari" (moon car) or "chingchi", after the Chinese company Jinan Qingqi Motorcycle Co. Ltd who first introduced these to the market.[citation needed]

There are many rickshaw manufacturers in Pakistan. Lahore is the hub of CNG auto rickshaw manufacturing. Manufacturers include: New Asia automobile Pvt, Ltd; AECO Export Company; STAHLCO Motors; Global Sources; Parhiyar Automobiles; Global Ledsys Technologies; Siwa Industries; Prime Punjab Automobiles; Murshid Farm Industries; Sazgar Automobiles; NTN Enterprises; and Imperial Engineering Company.

Sri Lanka[edit]

Trishaw in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Auto rickshaws, commonly known as Three-wheelers, tuk-tuks (Template:Lang-si) or trishaws can be found on all roads in Sri Lanka from the curvy roads in the hill country to the congested roads of Colombo transporting locals, foreigners, or freight about. Sri Lankan three-wheelers are of the style of the light Phnom Penh-type. Most of the three-wheelers in Sri Lanka are a slightly modified Indian Bajaj model, imported from India though there are few manufactured locally and increasingly imports from other countries in the region and other brands of three-wheelers such as Piaggio Ape. As of mid-2018, a new gasoline powered tuk-tuk typically costs around US$4,300, while a newly introduced Chinese electric model cost around US$5,900.[43] Since 2008, the Sri Lankan government has banned the import of all 2-stroke gasoline engines, due to environmental concerns.[43] Ones imported to the island now are four-stroke engines. Most three-wheelers are available as hired vehicles, with few being used to haul goods or as private company or advertising vehicles. Bajaj enjoys a virtual monopoly in the island, with its agent being David Pieries Motor Co, Ltd.[44] A few three-wheelers in Sri Lanka have distance meters. In the capital city it is becoming more and more common. The vast majority of fares are negotiated between the passenger and driver. There are 1.2 million trishaw's in Sri Lanka and most are on financial loans.

Southeast Asia[edit]


In Cambodia, the term tuk-tuk (Template:Lang-km) refers may refer to a three-wheeled vehicle or to a passenger-carrying remorque pulled by a motorcycle. It is a widely used form of transportation in the capital of Phnom Penh and for visitors touring the Angkor temples in Siem Reap. Some have four wheels and is composed of a motorcycle (which leans) and trailer (which does not). Cambodian cities have a much lower volume of automobile traffic than Thai cities, and tuk-tuks are still the most common form of urban transport. There are more than 6,000 tuk-tuks in Phnom Penh, according to the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), a union that represents tuk-tuk drivers among other members.[45]


In Indonesia, auto rickshaws are popular in Jakarta as Bajay, Java, Medan and Gorontalo as Bentor, and some parts of Sulawesi and other places in the country. In Jakarta, the auto rickshaws are called Bajay or Bajaj and they are the same to as the ones in India but are colored blue (for the ones which use Compressed natural gas) and orange (for the ones which use normal gasoline fuel).[46] The blue ones are imported from India with the brand of Bajaj and TVS and the orange ones are the old design from 1990 and are not powered by gas like the blue ones, yet the government is increasing units of the blue Bajays and is step by step decreasing the orange bajays.[46] The Bajaj is one of the most popular modes of transportation in the city. Outside of Jakarta, the bentor-style auto rickshaw is ubiquitous, with the passenger cabin mounted as a sidecar (like in Medan) or in-front (like the ones in some parts of Sulawesi) to a motorcycle.


In the Philippines, a similar mode of public transport is the "tricycle" (Filipino: traysikel; Cebuano: traysikol).[47] Unlike auto rickshaws, however, it has a motorcycle with a sidecar configuration and a different origin. The exact date of its appearance in the Philippines is unknown, but it started appearing after World War 2, roughly at the same time as the appearance of the jeepney. It is most likely derived from the Rikuo Type 97 military motorcycle used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines starting at 1941. The motorcycle was essentially a licensed copy of a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar.[9] However, there is also another hypothesis which places the origin of the tricycle to the similarly built "trisikad", a human-powered cycle rickshaw built in the same configuration as the tricycle. However, the provenance of the trisikad is also unknown. Prior to the tricycles and trisikad, the most common means of mass public transport in the Philippines is a carriage pulled by horses or carabaos known as the kalesa (calesa or carromata in Philippine Spanish).[48] The pulled rickshaw never gained acceptance in the Philippines. Americans tried to introduce it in the early 20th century, but it was strongly opposed by local Filipinos who viewed it as an undignified mode of transport that turned humans into "beasts".[49]

The design and configuration of tricycles vary widely from place to place, but tends towards rough standardization within each municipality. The usual design is a passenger or cargo sidecar fitted to a motorbike, usually on the right of the motorbike. It is rare to find one with a left sidecar. A larger variant of the tricycle with the motorcycle in the center enclosed by a passenger cab with two side benches is known as a "motorela." It is found in the islands of Mindanao, Camiguin, and Bohol.[50] Another notable variant are the tricycles of the Batanes Islands which have cabs made from wood and roofed with thatched cogon grass.[51] In Pagadian City, tricycles are also uniquely built with the passenger cab slanting upwards, due to the city's streets that run along steep hills.[52]

Tricycles can carry three passengers or more in the sidecar, one or two pillion passengers behind the driver, and even a few on the roof of the sidecar. Tricycles are one of the main contributors to air pollution in the Philippines,[53][54] which account for 45% of all volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions[55] since majority of them employ two-stroke engines. However, some local governments are working towards phasing out two-stroke tricycles for ones with cleaner four-stroke engines.[53][56]

Tuk-Tuks have now been accepted as Three-Wheeled Vehicles by the Land Transportation Office (Philippines) as distinct from tricycles and are now seen in Philippine streets. Electric versions are now seen especially in the city of Manila where they are called e-trikes.[57] Combustion engine tuktuks are locally distributed by TVS Motors and Bajaj Auto through dealerships[58]


The auto rickshaw, called tuk-tuk (Thai: ตุ๊ก ๆ, pronounced [túk túk]) in Thailand, is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkok and other Thai cities. The name is onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound of a small (often two-cycle) engine. An equivalent English term would be "putt-putt".[citation needed] It is particularly popular where traffic congestion is a major problem, such as in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. Drivers may also use their tuk-tuks to transport fresh produce or other goods around the city in absence of passengers. In Bangkok in the 1960s, these were called samlaws.

Bangkok and other cities in Thailand have many tuk-tuks which are a more open variation on the Indian auto rickshaw. About 20,000 tuk-tuks are registered as taxis in Thailand.[59] Bangkok alone is reported to have 9,000 tuk-tuks.[60]

Tuk-tuk hua kob (ตุ๊ก ๆ หัวกบ; literally: frog-headed tuk tuk) is a unique tuk tuk with a cab looking like a frog's head. Only Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya and Trang have vehicles like this.[61][62]

East Asia[edit]


Auto rickshaw Haikou

Various types of auto rickshaw are used around China, where they are called sān lún chē (三轮车) and sometimes sān bèng zǐ (三蹦子), meaning three wheeler or tricycle. They may be used to transport cargo or passengers in the more rural areas. However, in many urban areas the auto rickshaws for passengers are often operated illegally as they are considered unsafe and an eyesore.[63][64] They are permitted in some towns and cities, however. The Southeast Asian word tuk tuk is transliterated as dū dū chē (嘟嘟车, or beep beep car) in Chinese.[65]



A number of tuk-tuks (250 in 2013 according to the Paris Prefecture) are used as an alternative tourist transport system in Paris, some of them being pedal-operated with electric motor assist. They are not yet fully licensed to operate and await customers on the streets. Vélotaxis were common during the Occupation years in Paris due to fuel restrictions.[66]


An Ape C (1956–1967)

Auto rickshaws have been commonly used in Italy since the late 1940s, providing a low-cost means of transportation in the post–World War II years when the country was short of economic resources. The Piaggio Ape (Tukxi), designed by Vespa creator Corradino D'Ascanio and first manufactured in 1948 by the Italian company Piaggio, though primarily designed for carrying freight has also been widely used as an auto rickshaw. It is still extremely popular throughout the country, being particularly useful in the narrow streets found in the center of many little towns in central and southern Italy. Though it no longer has a key role in transportation, Piaggio Ape is still used as a minitaxi in some areas such as the islands of Ischia and Stromboli (on Stromboli no cars are allowed). It has recently been re-launched as a trendy-ecological means of transportation, or, relying on the role the Ape played in the history of Italian design, as a promotional tool. Since 2006 the Ape has been produced under licence in India.[citation needed]


Tuk Tuk Taxi in Albufeira Portugal

Tuk Tuks are used in the resort city of Albufeira in the Algarve as a novel form of transport for visitors during the tourist season.

United Kingdom[edit]

Tuk Tuks & Auto Rickshaws were introduced into the UK by Tukshop in 2004. Founded by mrsteve the first shipments of Bajaj vehicles arrived in Southampton where they were assembled and modified for UK road use.

Tuctucs booking auto rickshaw at Brighton Marina

In 2006 a British travel writer – Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent – and her friend Jo Huxster travelled 12,561 miles (20,215 km) with an auto rickshaw from Bangkok to Brighton. With this 98 days' trip they set a Guinness World Record for the longest journey ever with an auto rickshaw.[citation needed]

Central America[edit]

Bajaj mototaxis in El Salvador

El Salvador[edit]

The mototaxi or moto is the El Salvadoran version of the auto rickshaw. These are most commonly made from the front end and engine of a motorcycle attached to a two-wheeled passenger area in back. Commercially produced models, such as the Indian Bajaj brand, are also employed.[citation needed]


In Guatemala tuk-tuks operate, both as taxis and private vehicles, in Guatemala City, around the island town of Flores, Peten, in the mountain city of Antigua Guatemala, and in many small towns in the mountains. In 2005 the tuk-tuks were prevalent in the Lago de Atitlán towns of Panajachel and Santiago Atitlán.

North America[edit]

Westcoaster Mailster

United States[edit]

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States Post Office (replaced in 1971 by the United States Postal Service) used the WestCoaster Mailster, a close relative of the tuk-tuk.[67] Similar vehicles remain in limited use for parking enforcement, mall security, and other niche applications.


In Cuba, the autorickshaws are small and look like a coconut, hence the name Cocotaxi.

Cocotaxis in Havana, Cuba

South America[edit]


In Peru, a version of this vehicle is called a motocar[68] or mototaxi.[69]

Fuel efficiency and pollution[edit]

A CNG Auto-rickshaw in New Delhi

In July 1998, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Government of Delhi to implement CNG or LPG (Autogas) fuel for all autos and for the entire bus fleet in and around the city. Delhi's air quality has improved with the switch to CNG. Initially, auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi had to wait in long queues for CNG refueling, but the situation improved following an increase in the number of CNG stations. Gradually, many state governments passed similar laws, thus shifting to CNG or LPG vehicles in most large cities to improve air quality and reduce pollution. Certain local governments are pushing for four-stroke engines instead of two-stroke ones. Typical mileage for an Indian-made auto rickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre (99 mpg‑imp; 82 mpg‑US) of petrol. Pakistan has passed a similar law prohibiting auto rickshaws in certain areas. CNG auto rickshaws have started to appear in huge numbers in many Pakistani cities.[citation needed]

In January 2007 the Sri Lankan government also banned two-stroke trishaws to reduce air pollution. In the Philippines[70] there are projects to convert carburated two-stroke engines to direct-injected via Envirofit technology. Research has shown LPG or CNG gas direct-injection can be retrofitted to existing engines, in similar fashion to the Envirofit system.[71] In Vigan City majority of tricycles-for-hire as of 2008 are powered by motorcycles with four-stroke engines, as tricycles with two-stroke motorcycles are prevented from receiving operating permits. Direct injection is standard equipment on new machines in India.[72][73]

In March 2009 an international consortium coordinated by the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies initiated a two-year public-private partnership of local and international stakeholders aiming at operating a fleet of 15 hydrogen-fueled three-wheeled vehicles in New Delhi's Pragati Maidan complex.[74] As of January 2011, the project was nearing completion.[citation needed]

Hydrogen internal combustion (HICV) use in three-wheelers has only recently being started to be looked into, mainly by developing countries, to decrease local pollution at an affordable cost.[75][76] At some point, Bajaj Auto made a HICV auto rickshaw together with the company "Energy Conversion Devices".[77] They made a report on it called "Clean Hydrogen Technology for 3-Wheel Transportation in India" and it stated that the performance was comparable with CNG autos. In 2012, Mahindra & Mahindra showcased their first HICV auto rickshaw, called the Mahindra HyAlfa.[77] The development of the hydrogen-powered rickshaw happened with support from the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies.

See also[edit]


  1. Typical fuel economy for an Indian-made auto rickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre (99 mpg‑imp; 82 mpg‑US) of petrol.[citation needed]


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