According to the Energy and Wetlands Research Group, 80 per cent of India's harmful emissions are generated by road traffic. As environmental conditions worsen, there is a need for evaluating the problem and devising solutions. According to Elon Musk, we will run out of energy and die sooner than expected if we continue to utilize non-renewable fuel the way we currently are. Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, believes that the electric vehicle (EV) is the future of transportation. As a permanent solution to the problem of exhausting fuel, EVs will utilize electricity for power. However, EV technology requires several pre-requisites including power optimization, range, cost and charging time to achieve the desired results. India today is a far cry from achieving the desired prerequisites for truly leveraging EV technology.
Despite the limitations, several corporates have tried to utilize EV technology for employee commutes. However, they have been unable to succeed due to the glaring operational challenges in the technology. The drawbacks of EVs that make uptake next to impossible in India are that they take 90 -180 minutes to charge and run for about 100 - 120 kilometres per charge. This means that an EV can make about two 25 kilometre trips during the day, which is not nearly close to the number of kilometres commute vehicles cover on a daily basis. Thus, environmental friendliness must be achieved through other methods. India requires logical and cost efficient solutions to reduce carbon footprint in employee commute for corporates that don’t involve EV.
Shared employee transportation system (ETS)
Employee transportation systems are incorporated by several large organizations that want to streamline employee commute. This is also a fool-proof way of reducing carbon emissions and pollution in cities. Corporates that provide shared cabs to employees can significantly lower the number of cars on roads. In fact, 1 car eliminated from the road reduces about 2 tonnes of CO2 emission a year. A fully occupied 4 seater cab can take away 3 additional cars from the road. It is easy for a corporate with over 1,000 employees to club employees coming from neighbouring localities into cabs. Therefore, an environment friendly corporate of about 1,000 employees can reduce over 4 tons of carbon emission every day. This would reduce traffic congestion and the corporate's overall carbon footprint.
Shared employee transportation systems also offer an excellent cost benefit as shared cabs cost reasonably lower than leading cab aggregators. Shared cabs can help employees save on fuel prices and car maintenance. Further, rotational shifts at corporates translate to employees leaving and reaching work at odd times. Travelling via shared cabs with their colleagues makes employees feel safe and secure during odd-hour commutes.
Evidently, shared cabs have several benefits including employee safety, reduced travel costs for employees and most importantly, reduced emmissions.
Incentivize public transport
An employee spends an average of Rs 5000 per month on self sponsored commute. On the flipside, it costs a corporate Rs 8000 to arrange for ETS for the employee. However, if a corporate were to incentivise the employee to take the metro or local train for the arterial route and provide a cab shuttle service free of charge for the last mile to and from the office, it would be a win-win for both the employee and the company. In fact, it would be a great incentive if a corporate shared their savings with the employee by offering a sustainability gift voucher of Rs 2,000 per month for using the shuttle service. Moreover, the last mile shuttle service can without a doubt utilize an EV to bring commute caused emissions down to a delightful zero.
Automating the Employee Transportation System
Manual employee transport systems are unnecessarily wasteful. For every 1,000 employees who are transported, 1,500 pages are printed log sheets every day. These sheets are required to manage documentation and billing. If corporates sidestep such practices and use technology to automate and digitize the employee transportation process, it would save 5 trees per month! Additionally, digital transactions are largely transparent and very easy to track. This makes it easy to audit and process data to generate analytics and improve the efficiency of the process.
Overcoming employee resistance
It is evident that corporates can derive several environmental and cost benefits from shared employee transportation systems. However, numerous organizations face resistance and disapproval about this method of commute from employees.
Often, employees find it inconvenient to share cabs with three other unknown passengers due to their need for privacy. They would rather take overpriced cabs and travel alone. To overcome this hurdle, corporates can allow employees to choose the number of co-passengers they would be comfortable travelling with, and charge them accordingly. This way, corporates can give the employee the right to choose number of co-passengers at the acceptable price point.
Further, employees prefer travelling to work on their own as they need flexibility in their arrival time. However, arriving late to work can significantly hamper productivity and cause the company to pay for wasted time. It is in the company's best interest to alter employee behaviour and urge them to use employee transport services that will help them reach work on time. Adherence to office timings will benefit the company while shared transport will promote environmental protection.
Employees perceive the route deviation of a shared cab to pick/drop co-passengers as a waste of time. It is counter intuitive to consider that employees would prefer to drive to work, where they devote a significantly larger time to an unproductive activity such as driving. On the other hand, using a shared cab with a 10-minute deviation to pick/drop other employees in a chauffeur driven car frees up time for the employee to do more productive tasks.
Furthermore, corporates can save real estate costs by freeing up parking spaces through the use of shared cabs. A parking space in a top corporate hub costs between Rs 4,000 - Rs 7,000 per month. By using less parking spaces, corporates can save almost half of this money and devote it to more productive purposes.
Protecting the environment and becoming responsible citizens is the need of the hour. If something as simple as sharing an office cabs contributes towards a healthier earth, there should be no second thoughts. Electric vehicles might find a place in our daily commutes someday. Till then, corporates should encourage employees to use shared cabs and help protect the planet in the easiest way possible.
—by Surajit Das, Co-Founder and CEO, Routematic....