Published: 18th September 2019
This electric auto rickshaw designed by IIT Kharagpur students could make you turn Ola, Uber away soon
Manuj Agrawal, one of the students, explains to us why they wanted to create this vehicle and what makes it different from the electronic three-wheelers already in the market
After cars and bikes, the thought of the auto rickshaw going electric is probably logical — although you've got to wonder what an e-auto will sound like. These IIT Kharagpur students took the idea of developing a 'Make in India' e-auto very seriously and developed a three-wheeler electric auto called DESHLA that is affordable and environment-friendly. The new green vehicle, designed and built by a team of over 50 students, is set to pose a strong challenge to the current generation of three-wheeler autos and high-maintenance e-rickshaws, says Manuj Agrawal, one of the students who was part of the team. Manuj and his fellow IITians are also the ones who want to take this product to the market, for which they have already applied for a trademark.
With its powerful motor, lithium ion battery that can last up to 6-7 years, high load carrying capacity, sturdy frame and easy manoeuvrability, the concept prototype called the Alpha Prototype had a successful test-run at the IIT KGP campus. The entire production took them three years, with over 50 students from IIT and few interns from other colleges. The team is led by Prof Vikranth Racherla from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the institute. Distinguished alumnus Dr Purnendu Chatterjee, Bijoy Chatterjee have funded the project.
The dream team: The new green vehicle is designed and built by a team of over 50 students
These IITians have always been customer-driven in their approach for which they took a number of surveys, plenty of customer feedback and then finally created a prototype. Their aim was to create a high-powered electric auto, affordable to the consumers which can drive at least 150 km per day, get charged in 3-4 hours and also has the option of being charged at home. "Rider comfort was also a factor while creating it. Passengers should be willing to choose this vehicle over Ola, Uber, and the regular ones where they spend a lot more and the pollution component is way higher in them. This is the most energy efficient means of transport by default, you can also share the ride with other passengers, unlike a single car or vehicle. We have made it with a good suspension at the back so that it's comfortable," he adds.
He explains to us why they wanted to create this vehicle and what makes it different from the electronic three-wheelers that are already in the market.
We moved up quite a few concepts and designs that we want to bring into the market, we discussed about what capacity it should be, what driving technique and so on — will it be a hybrid or purely electrical? However, we were more confident that we could create something completely electric that would contribute towards the shared mobility movement that's happening in India currently
Manuj Agrawal, team member
Shared mobility refers to the shared used of a vehicle, bicycle, or any other transportation mode. It is a transportation strategy that allows users to access transportation services on an as-needed basis. There was this environmental summit that took place in Delhi in 2018, inaugurated by PM Modi, "This is where we got an idea that India needs a lot of push in the electronic or e-mobility segment, so we decided to make the product completely electric. We got the idea of developing a three-wheeler vehicle to compete with electric autos. We already have a lot of autos in the market which are actually electric-rickshaws — a replacement for cycle rickshaws. There's a lot of hardship involved for the driver. E-rickshwas are imported from China, they came in as knockdowns from China so the performance was not good, quality was also not up to the mark. They did not have much power delivery in the vehicles as the batteries used were cheap. Quite clumsy I would say," explains Manuj.
So, how cheap will it be? "We do not want to put the numbers right now on the affordability, but we have some unique business models which will make it affordable for the drivers specifically to operate on a daily basis. This is just a prototype, the next version will come with more upgrades. We will make the battery pack in India, it will be assembled here. We will just buy the cells from China, but everything else will be made in India. Thus, the cost is expected to be lower as compared to the ones that are imported," says Manuj.
Currently, they are waiting get angel funding, says Manuj, so that the final product can be commercialised. "We need a total of three to four crores to create a market-worthy product. For the funds, private firms can approach us, venture capitalists can, and we will get the funding secured as soon as possible. And the final plan is to then produce the end product, test it with the consumers and launch it in the market," he concludes.