The idea of building a solar auto rickshaw was given by Chancellor Amma last year when she was shown the video of solar tricycle built by the Mechanical Engineering students of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri campus, as part of their B.Tech. project. The solar tricycle was running at a maximum speed of 15 km/hr because of some limitations. Amma said that it would be useful for society if the engineering students could make a solar auto rickshaw which could run at a maximum speed of 50 km/hr. Chancellor Amma gave many instructions, including advising mounting the solar panels on all sides of the vehicle to improve efficiency.
Consequently, Dr. Ganesha Udupa, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Josh Freeman, Research Scholar, Electrical Engineering, started guiding a group of 9 students from both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. The Mechanical Engineering students were Vikas, Rajesh, Swaroop and Sreeraj and Electrical Engineering students were Chandrakanth, Griyon, Srinivas, Manish and Vishnu. Some of the important parts like solar panels, battery, electric hub motors and motor and charge controllers were purchased. The body and vehicle chassis was made in our college workshop and the project was completed within 6 months.
Amma encouraged the team and students saying, “We should indigenously develop and build hardware systems like this that will be beneficial to the society. We are very good in software development. We should also put effort into hardware development and not depend on other countries”.
The solar auto rickshaw, weighing 320 kg, is fully driven by solar energy and can carry three people, including the driver, with a maximum speed of 50 km/hr. Each efficient semi-flexible solar panel weighs just 3 kg and a total of 12 panels provide up to 1200 W of power. The auto houses a battery and BLDC motor, powered by solar panels, to maintain the cruising speed with the help of battery management and control systems. It has both mechanical and regenerative braking systems.
This is the first of its kind prototype passenger auto rIckshaw fully designed and built by students and faculty of Amritapuri campus without the guidance of any industry. It travels a distance of about 100 to 120 km at a cruising speed of 40 km/hr with full charging of the battery. The battery charging time under the sun is about 5 hours. In contrast, there are single seater solar racing cars, made in various universities which are very costly and used mainly for sporting purposes, developed as part of world solar challenge.
Dr. Ganesha Udupa said that the effort put into this will definitely help increase the role of solar innovation in India and the world and promote green mobility. “We are all grateful to our beloved Chancellor Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Amma, for providing such a nice environment and funding to carry out a world class research work at Amritapuri campus. We sincerely pray that all our Amrita researchers emulate this, bring laurels to the institution, achieve the best in their lives and serve society with all their intellectual capabilities. We would like to thank all for their kind support, encouragement and assistance, especially the mechanical workshop and carpentry shop in our Ashram for their assistance."