Green Energy

A new solar rickshaw offers freedom from fumes

Battery powered auto rickshaws, which have started making their presence felt in Indian cities, take another step forward in Kerala.

Even as debates rage over the alarming levels of pollution in cities across the country, the battery operated e-rickshaws have come as a breath of fresh air. After New Delhi, where they found legal approval, Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, and recently, Ludhiana in Punjab have seen use of these vehicles.

In Maharashtra, they are operating in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. In Kerala, the port city of Kochi is now in the news, for an e-rickshaw powered by solar energy will hit the road on August 16.

Georgekutty Kariyanappally, the brain behind this innovation, says that excessive pollution through conventional vehicles and autos inspired him to create a vehicle that would use renewable energy and have no carbon emissions. “Living in Kochi, I have been witness to the pollution and seen people suffer on this account,” he told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

For Kariyanappally, who is an ardent advocate of solar power, the last 16 years have been spent in creating products such as a solar poultry incubator and a solar cow milking machine. He thinks that with its abundance of bright sunlight, solar power is the way to go for India. His latest venture, the solar rickshaw, he explains, is going to help the working class and will also be a non-polluting source of transport. His main intention is to have a single mini public transport system as a feeder passenger vehicle for metro stations. “The aim is to make public transport affordable for the working class,” he said.

Apart from being ecofriendly, the vehicle is cost-effective. “I had discussions with many auto-rickshaw drivers in Kochi and found that they are hiring an auto for 12 hours at the rate of Rs 250 from auto owners. Then again, they require Rs 250 for diesel to ply for approximately 80 to 100 km a day. So per km, they charge Rs 10 from passengers,” said Kariyanappally. “At the end of the day, after spending Rs 500, they manage to save Rs 500 for their family.”

“The solar rickshaw is available at Rs 125,000. Since there are no rent and fuel charges, they will save Rs 500. With a solar panel of 250 watts, the rickshaw, when stationary, say at a stand, can be charged. Once they are on the run, they can use the battery. Moreover, the local Grameen banks or any other bank can give them a loan with 5% interest. The local government can give carbon credits to rickshaw owners and a subsidy of around 50% can be easily worked out. As per my calculations, a solar rickshaw driver can easily earn Rs 1,000 in a day. The only expense he will need to incur is the cost of maintaining the vehicle.”

The main body of the e-rickshaw is being made through a tie-up with a vehicle design and manufacturing company. It is then converted into a solar rickshaw in Kochi. The service will start with 16 solar rickshaws. Kariyanappally has also got an order for 100 such vehicles from Elite Foods, a bakery, in Trichur. Eventually, he plans to introduce these vehicles in all the southern states, since when it comes to e-rickshaws, these provinces lag behind compared with their counterparts in the North.

The solar e-rickshaw. (Image by Georgekutty Kariyanappally)
The solar e-rickshaw. (Image by Georgekutty Kariyanappally)

There is a lot of interest, but the vehicle will need to be customised as per consumer needs. “A vegetable vendor’s requirements will differ from say a baker. So, they have to be made according to the need and use,” Kariyanappally said.

His plans include either a franchise or a manufacturing hub near Bangalore to distribute these rickshaws. Bangalore, he adds, is an obvious choice, since “it is centrally located in South India.”

In the years to come, Kariyanappally believes that solar rickshaws are going to get more popular. India definitely needs to improve its public transport system in a very big way – today only 10% of the population owns private vehicles, and cities are already choked by their exhaust fumes.

With the government now planning to provide free charging stations for battery operated vehicles, the future of e-rickshaws appears secure. For the ones powered by the sun, a solar power station at every auto stand is in the offing, says Kariyanappally.

Stressing on the need for a strong policy, he said, “This is a must if public transport has to switch over to renewable energy. Our policymakers must oversee these issues so that electric vehicles and rickshaws get a further impetus. A firm policy and guidelines will make India a role model for others to emulate.”

This article first appeared on India Climate Dialogue.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.