Electric Mobility (e-Mobility) and Low-Carbon Solutions for Sri Lanka

Conversion of three-wheelers from petrol to electrically operated modes of transport

May 11, 2023
Min. of Transport and Highways & UNDP RR on a short ride in a converted e-tuk driven by a female driver

Min. of Transport and Highways & UNDP RR on a short ride in a converted e-tuk driven by a female driver

UNDP Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 May 2023: Sri Lanka, like many other global nations, is working towards adopting greener and cleaner approaches for a more sustainable and resilient future. With the prevailing socio-economic crisis in the island, a shift towards adopting sustainable mobility approaches has been identified as a necessity for a green recovery process. 

In line with this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka is working closely with the Ministry of Transport and Highways and the Ministry of Power and Energy, together with the Department of Motor Traffic and the National Transport Commission to develop a project to mainstream e-mobility through the conversion of 500,000 Tuk-Tuks to electric vehicles (EVs) or e-Tuk-Tuks over a 5-year period.

The project aims to support the conversion of petrol three-wheelers to electric three-wheelers as a means for enhancing mobility as a driver of low-carbon, inclusive, equitable development pathways within Sri Lanka.  The proposed three-phased project consists of an incubation phase, a demonstration phase and an acceleration phase. The incubation phase will test the conversion process, the demonstration phase will support conversions and the acceleration phase will use market forces for conversion through concessional financing and infrastructure development.

Speaking at a project launch briefing held today, Hon, Bandula Gunawardena, Minister of Transport and Highways stated, ‘’This pilot project will serve as a platform to launch electric three wheelers in the country. Electric three wheelers will not only benefit individual operators but also contribute to spring boarding the country’s economic recovery process.’’

Highlighting UNDPs role in the pilot project, Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “This pilot project is a part of UNDP’s Green Development Portfolio which is currently being developed. This portfolio aims to build solutions and support Sri Lanka’s development in catalyzing low-carbon, green, and inclusive development within which sustainable transportation and e-mobility play a key role.  Through this pilot project UNDP will support the Government to establish a viable system which can be scaled up and will prioritize marginalised groups, including women and persons with disabilities while keeping equality and equity at the core of our work.” 

The incubation phase will support the conversion of 200 petrol three-wheelers to electric three-wheelers. The following criteria will be applicable in  selecting qualifying vehicles and owners for the incubation phase: age of Tuk-Tuk should not be greater than 10 years from date of manufacture, only petrol 4-stroke three wheelers are eligible, parties from Makumbura and Pettah will be eligible,priority will be given to applicants whose livelihood is dependent on a single three-wheeler, and preferential selections are given to women owners/ operators and persons with disabilities. 

Mr. Nishantha Anurudda Weerasinghe, Commissioner General of Motor Traffic noted the importance of the project and the role of DMT in promoting e- Mobility in Sri Lanka, stating ‘’DMT has established a system for the registration of electric three wheelers in Sri Lanka. We have also developed specifications for electric three wheelers with the support of UNDP. We believe that this intervention will encourage petrol three-wheel owners to come forward and convert their three wheelers to electric three wheelers’’ 

The strict selection criteria will minimize the risk of failure due to technical issues, the risk of delay in conversions due to limited capacity and will test the performance of different technologies available in the market-opportunity for project stakeholders to test the market for energy efficiency (km/kWh), actual range per charge and functionality of safety features. The findings from the incubation phase will then be used in designing the demonstration phase.
Taking into consideration the above aspects Pettah and Makumbura have been identified as viable locations for the initial conversion pilot in the Western Province. 100 petrol three-wheelers will be converted to electric three-wheelers from each location. During the pilot phase, UNDP will cover the full cost of conversion to electric three-wheeler and through this aims to support the revival of micro level/informal sector economic activities to inject much needed currency into the local economy. For more details drop a WhatsApp message to 0743309687. 


Seed funds were provided through UNDP's Funding Windows to kick-start this work around renewable energy solutions and support the Government of Sri Lanka in achieveing its renewable energy targets and economic recovery through green development. Read more about UNDP Funding Windows

High-level representatives speaking at the launch event

Min. of Transport and Highways, UNDP Resident Representative, and Commissioner General of Motor Traffic speaking at the launch event

UNDP Sri Lanka