Delhi: A ubiquitous means of public transport in small town India, the humble cycle rickshaw is getting a facelift. Henceforth cycle rickshaws, particularly the ones plying in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in north India, will now be powered by solar energy instead of human energy.
Earlier Chandni Chowk was in the news for being the most polluted residential area in Delhi and is now known for the launch of solar-powered cycle rickshaws. Chandni Chowk comprises a byzantine maze of narrow, winding streets, choked with buses, cars, scooters, cyclists and brave pedestrians.
Even though traffic and human congestion has ensured that the Chandni Chowk has fewer petroleum powered vehicles plying in the area leading to low carbon emission levels, the high congestion levels has given it the tag of being the 'most polluted residential area' in NO2 levels and suspended particulate matter (SPM) pollutants, compared to 326 other Indian locations.
This led the government of Delhi launching the solar-powered cycle rickshaw, ''Solekshaw'', last week.
A 36 volt solar battery can run for up to 60 km after being charged for five hours. The rickshaw can be pedalled normally or run on the battery. The fully-charged solar battery can power the rickshaw for 50 to 70 kilometres (30 to 42 miles). Discharged batteries can be deposited at a centralised solar-powered charging station and replaced for a nominal fee.
Alongside its solar powered battery, the rickshaw has also attained a new look. The flimsy metal and wooden frames have been replaced by a sturdier frame, foam seats that can seat upto two to three people, FM radios and powerpoints for charging mobile phones during rides.
Now if the "soleckshaw" works successfully it will be able provide a viable and environment friendly transport solutions between sporting venues at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi mainly.
India has an estimated eight million cycle-rickshaws.
Government officials are upbeat about the future of the Solekshaw. Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal praised the invention for its "zero carbon foot print." The authorities CSIR even wants to come out an advanced version of the "soleckshaw" that will have a car-like body and which could become a viable alternative to the 'small car.'
The dual-powered Soleckshaw is the CSIR's solution for the dual problem of employment generation and mitigation of global warming. More than 60 per cent of the increase in the green house gas (GHG) emission is from the transport sector. Currently, no powered vehicle or transport system is free from carbon dioxide emission.
Soleckshaw, has a zero carbon foot print and its widespread use would also enhance energy savings by cutting down on the consumption of the limited fossil fuels. Equipped with novel features, this pedicab is easy to drive, both on plain as well roads or uphill road, without any strain of imbalance, which all of the current cycle rickshaws suffer from.
the Mark I version of Soleckshaw has been designed, developed and prototyped by the CSIR's national laboratory, the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) at Durgapur, in a record time of eight months.
The accompanying solar charging station for swapping the batteries has been set up by the Central Electronics Limited (CEL), a central government undertaking. The specifically designed robust low power high torque brushless DC motor has been developed for the first time in India by the Crompton Greaves based on the specifications provided by CMERI.
The Advanced Materials & Process Research Institute (AMPRI), another constituent laboratory of CSIR, has provided excellent support for the Technology Demonstration Project (TDP) at Chandni Chowk. AMPRI's fly ash jute-polymer composite-based instant housing unit houses the battery bank. The Centre for Rural Development (CRD), an NGO working on rickshaw banks in different cities, has joined the prohect as a partner for wider deployment of Soleckshaw.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has provided the facility for accommodating the solar charging station at its Delhi Metro Station at Chandni Chowk. The MCD has further facilitated the TDP by allowing necessary construction in Yudhbir Singh Park and its use for a period of one year. The synergy among the above organizations reflects the ethos of CSIR in true Team India spirit.
Robust and ergonomically designed to take the drudgery out of the rickshaw driving, the prototypes of Soleckshaw were earlier flagged off at CMERI, Durgapur, by Prof. Brahmachari in August.
With better aesthetics and ergonomics, the cost-effectiveness of Soleckshaw has been engineered by optimising the system around the most appropriate commercially available components. This would also minimize the capital requirement for a mass manufacturing unit. Only the novel sub-assemblies like the differential drive, the special hub motor with regenerative feature and the light weight solar panel need to be manufactured apart from the chasis designed for comfortable ride even for the senior citizens and physically challenged. Innovative business model is being evolved with NGOs, banks, environment-loving corporates and manufacturing organizations to make the rickshaw available to the drivers at the cost of an ordinary rickshaw.
|Power source ||Solar and human|
|Drive ||Motor-assisted pedal-driven|
|Electric motor ||BLDC hub motor: 240-350 W, 36 V with regenerative capabilities |
|Transmission ||Chain drive with differential and two ratios|
|Brakes ||Three-wheel braking|
|Seating capacity ||Two passengers|
|Payload ||200 kg (excluding driver)|
|Speed limit ||15 kmph |
The advanced versions of Soleckshaw Mark II and Mark III with better aesthetics, ergonomics, speed and recumbent driving position is expected to be ready for launch during the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Several R&D projects are slated to be launched in the areas of storage batteries, charge and speed controller, solar photovoltaics and hybrid transmission, in a network mode to make the future Soleckshaw, an engineering marvel.