Three electric rickshaws powered by recycled battery components from Audi e-tron prototypes are making their way into the streets of India, thanks to Nunam. This study aims to evaluate the viability of recycling battery modules from electric vehicles. While doing so, economical options for Indian women who use these electric rickshaws to convey their items are bolstered. The nonprofit startup has received funding from the Audi Environmental Foundation, the company's environmental charity arm. The three electric rickshaw prototypes were a collaborative effort between Nunam and the Audi manufacturing apprentices in Neckarsulm.
These electric rickshaws will be the first to use recycled batteries when they hit the streets of India in early 2023 for a trial run. Electric rickshaws will be made accessible to a nonprofit group so that low-income individuals, particularly women, can use them to bring their handmade wares directly to consumers at local markets.
The battery modules used to power these electric rickshaws were initially installed in an Audi e-tron electric SUV. Prodip Chatterjee, a co-founder of Nunam, claims, "The old batteries still have plenty of energy." Second-hand batteries can have a significant impact and provide opportunities for people in difficult circumstances to earn money and become economically self-sufficient in a manner that is less taxing on the environment if they are used in the proper places.
The overarching goal of the new business is to find ways to put old batteries to good use as secondary energy storage systems, extending their valid lifetimes and reducing waste.
Despite its primary function in a vehicle, "a car battery is meant to last the life of the automobile," as Chatterjee puts it. "They are promising for vehicles with less demanding range and performance and a reduced total weight." As part of our second-life study, we're investigating the energy-delivery limits of electric car batteries in a lighter form of electric mobility.
The 31-year-old Chatterjee claims, "The environmental efficiency of an e-rickshaw is ideal." An e-rickshaw driver in India doesn't cover much ground, so the electric motor's performance doesn't have to be exceptionally high despite the vehicle's lightweight and the battery's high energy density. In the present day, electric rickshaws are a common sight on the streets of that region. However, lead-acid batteries are commonly used to power them, despite their short lifespan and poor recycling practices.
However, the electric rickshaw drivers, in particular, use the public energy grid to power their electric vehicles, which in India are primarily powered by coal. Nunam also offers a workaround; solar-powered recharge stations power their rickshaws. Solar panels are installed on the rooftops of the project's local collaborators. During the day, an Audi e-tron battery is charged with energy as buffer storage, and in the evening, the power is transferred to the numerous rickshaws. This essentially renders automobile travel locally emission-free of carbon dioxide. This implies that the electric rickshaw can be used all day – and still be charged with green electricity in the evening and at night. A perfect solution for India would be solar panels mounted on the roof, as the country enjoys year-round sunshine. The charging stand is likewise tailor-made for this use.
The efficiency and range of Nunam's electric rickshaws are subject to regular inspections. The socially responsible firm makes all the information they get from e-rickshaws public on the open source website circularbattery.org, with the explicit encouragement that others do the same. "Initiatives like those from Nunam are important to identify new areas of usage for e-waste." not only in India but throughout the world. According to Rüdiger Recknagel, CEO of the Audi Environmental Foundation, "Nunam offers its knowledge to stimulate others to build products with second-life components, which can drive environmental and social transformation further." Since 2019, Nunam has received funding from the foundation.
Furthermore, the battery may not be exhausted after being utilized in an Audi e-tron and an e-rickshaw. Finally, the residual energy might be used in a third stage for fixed applications, such as LED lights. One of the founders, Prodip Chatterjee, has said, "We want to make full use of the battery before it is shipped for recycling."
Electric mobility and solar energy can significantly impact India's energy future by lessening the country's reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, reducing road emissions, and providing a steady electricity supply to its citizens. This initiative, according to Rüdiger Recknagel, "is ground-breaking with its varied views."
Much of the credit for this breakthrough goes to a group of 12 apprentices led by Timo Engler, the director of engineering and logistics training in Neckarsulm. Auto mechanics, expert auto painters, tool mechanics, computer scientists, and automation technicians make up the crew. All the way, from Neckarsulm to Bangalore, there is an open channel of communication between the apprentices and the Nunam team.
The apprentices have swapped out the gas engine for an electric motor and built the base to accommodate the recycled batteries while keeping them dry from road grime as many non-native materials as feasible have been recycled.
According to Engler, the rickshaw was built with "Audi DNA" by prioritizing range, charging time, and aesthetics. Apprentices should be allowed to provide input and try their ideas at every project stage. To achieve our goals, we emphasize hands-on experience while sharing essential information about advances in electric mobility, resource efficiency, and charging technologies in a lighthearted manner. This innovative undertaking bridges the gaps between four modern megatrends: environmental friendliness, electric transportation, globalization, and civic duty.
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