Pollution not only affects the planet in an adverse way but is also a negative externality to human beings, affecting their health. 9 out of 10 people living on this planet are breathing polluted air. The situation is worse for Asian countries, like India, China, Pakistan etc. WHO has named Delhi as the World’s Most Polluted city in year 2018. With this belief, we at Amplus Solar support steps such as electric mobility which tread towards a greener and cleaner future.
On June 19, 2019, Amplus Solar got the opportunity to welcome Mr. Sushil Reddy and his team, comprising of Mr. Sudheer Iekkala, Miss. Pallavi Siddhanta and Mr. Ruthvik Arya to the Gurugram office. They are currently on the Sun Pedal Ride– Golden Quadrilateral on their VAIPL (Volta Automotive India Pvt. Ltd.) Solar assisted electric retrofitted auto rickshaw. They have covered more than 2500 kilometers in 25 days, before reaching Gurugram. The journey that started from Bangalore on 28th May 2019 will have its end point also in Bangalore. They will be passing through four major cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, covering a total of 6000 kilometers in 60 days.
About the Sun Pedal Ride
The Sun Pedal Ride is a movement to create awareness about solar energy, sustainable mobility (electric mobility in this case)and healthy living. With the advent of industrialization and greater pressure of growth and population being exerted on natural resources, they are depleting and getting exploited at a much faster rate than they can regenerate. Certain simple steps can reduce this harassment of nature. Electric Mobility and use of solar energy in place of conventional electricity are some of the steps. They are making pit stops along the way in various schools, colleges, universities educating the authorities and the students about the need for electric mobility.
EV Used for the Journey
The EV used for the journey was assembled as per requirement of the route.
Bajaj has provided for the body of the vehicle. It has a solar panel of 365KWp attached to the top which is connected to the EV battery. This solar module helps in charging the battery on the go. The module acts as one source of electricity, along with a spare battery that they carry all along. Volta Auto India Pvt. Ltd. has retrofitted the vehicle with a battery and the motor. It can cover 120+ kilometers in a single charge. Charging time is 4-6 hours for the battery. Ibis Hotels are their accommodation partners, providing them with a comfortable accommodation in the cities falling on their route wherever possible and helping them charging the vehicle as they have EV charging facility on their premises.
Interview with the Sun Pedal Team
Amplus Marketing team got a chance to have a tête-à-tête with the team and hear about their experiences on the road on the EV. Here are the few glimpses of the questions that the team has answered.
In these 2500 kilometers, what are the various challenges that you have faced on the road?
So far, we have not faced any major challenges except the scorching sun and heat wave of various places across the country, especially Gujarat state with its immense Solar potential, was the most difficult to pass through. One observation was that the solar panel on the top absorbed most of the direct heat from the roof. So, you can imagine what it can do for your homes as a rooftop solar.
Another interesting observation was the absence of public toilets along the highway. Even after many campaigns by the current Govt., there are not enough toilets on the highways. They were a hurdle and the condition of the roads in certain areas.
Surprisingly, the charging of vehicles wasn’t much of a problem. Our accommodation partner and friends helped us out throughout and it was free of cost.
According to the experience gained in these 25 days and the past Sun Pedal Rides, what do you think are the major obstacles in the path of mass adoption of electric vehicles (EV)? What are the possible solutions for the same?
Adoption of EV has already begun from two-wheelers and commercial vehicles like buses, taxis, cabs, logistics vehicles etc. Technological constraints like maximum range and charging time are definitely affecting the mass adoption. Other obstacles are not having easy access to charging stations and resale value of the vehicles. Speed and reliability of the vehicle is something which we have covered to a large extent. To make electric vehicles more promising, charging infrastructure should be available within reasonable distances. One possible solution can be placing them along the petrol pumps. Another solution can be solar powered carports at all the major parking station with priority being given to EV for charging.
Number of vehicles in India are increasing sharply, not only because of an increase in population but also because car is a symbol of prestige and prestige is a function of income. So, how can electric vehicles enter the mainstream market of four wheelers, where some brands have already established their values?
Private Cars would definitely be the last to enter the electric bandwagon. This is because of the battery, which is a major component of the total cost of car, is imported makes the vehicle very expensive. The first entrants like I told earlier, will be the two wheelers and buses. With a better planned system in place, charging infrastructure can be built. Biggers vehicles will enter eventually with technological enhancements, starting with hybrid vehicles.
How economically viable is the idea of your Retrofit electric vehicle?
The payback period of this EV is roughly 1.5 years, which makes it a good buy. Government of India has also passed a notification making retrofitting a legal option for IC engine vehicles to fight air pollution. To enable this, the ministry revised the existing Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, allowing retrofitting of existing vehicles with electric after market kits.
For auto drivers, it can be a good replacement for their traditional autos. With subsidy schemes by government and easy financing options, they can retrofit their existing autorickshaws to electric autos and later save on huge operational costs. With one charge, you can travel 120 kilometers. One charge consumes about 6 units of electricity, which makes it a lot cheaper than a vehicle running on petrol.
Road ahead for Solar Energy and Electric Mobility
Adoption of electric vehicles have started and commercial sector is a front runner in adopting electric mobility. It makes business sense as well as good for the environment. With continued government support, these vehicles may well replace the traditional autos which have higher economic and environmental costs. Also, access to charging infrastructure coupled with solar energy like in carports is what makes an EV truly sustainable. Forward looking government policies like permitting retrofitting of existing vehicles is a landmark decision. It has the potential to bring about a transition to electric mobility at a much faster pace. A pan India movement to phase out conventional ICE automobiles is what is needed to achieve this.