Our itinerary has been filled with travel all week. And we almost gave The New Indian Express article on the travel plans of Indian engineer Naveen Rabelli and Austrian filmmaker Raoul Kopacka a miss. That was only until we read the details: a 10,000 km journey from India to London on a self-built solar-powered tuk-tuk/autorickshaw to Britain to promote a sustainable low-cost alternative-transport solution and check air pollution in towns and cities across their journey. Talk about going the extra mile.
Project Tejas officially began in March 2012 as Naveen’s brainchild, but its journey can be traced back to his college years in Hyderabad, India. An electronics engineer by education but an adventurer at heart, Naveen’s desire for travel led him shortly after graduation to Australia, where he found work with an automotive company. After about five and a half years, the allure of travel once again got hold of him. Naveen quit his job and traveled around New Zealand and South East Asia before returning to India. In Bangalore, he found a job with Reva Electric Car Company, one of the pioneers of electric car manufacturing in India.
At Reva, Naveen had the opportunity to meet Louis Palmer, a Swiss teacher who turned his passion for the environment and solar energy into a full time occupation with Solartaxi. Before stopping at Reva to give a presentation on the project, Louis had been travelling around the world in the solar taxi that he constructed with four engineering students in order to spread awareness on climate change, and to demonstrate ways that individuals could prevent the degradation of the environment. Evidently, Louis’s presentation was a success. Having resonated with one adventurous personality in particular, Naveen came out of it inspired to pursue a solar-powered journey of his own. While similar to Solartaxi in concept, Naveen decided that Project Tejas would take on a unique Indian spin. So, rather than travelling the world in a solar taxi, Naveen’s vehicle of choice was the iconic Indian tuk tuk.
Equipped with a new motor, battery and gearbox, the bright red vehicle – named Tejas, a Sanskrit word meaning splendour or brilliance – now bears little resemblance to the sputtering, diesel-fuelled three-wheelers ubiquitous on India’s roads. A tonne when fully loaded, it weighs double a normal auto rickshaw. Its roof is made entirely from solar panels and cloth drapes protect its open sides from the elements. Eight hours of battery charge will carry the tuk-tuk fewer than 50 miles, while five hours’ exposure to the sun will allow Tejas to push on for another 16 miles. That’s a lot of recharging stops on the road to London.
Read the entire article here.
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