Harvesting the Sun

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A 60 day-6000Km journey on a solar powered auto rickshaw along the Golden Quadrilateral has taken a giant step towards creating awareness for sustainable mobility.

Sushil Reddy an Energy Engineer from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay started a cause called The SunPedal Ride to promote solar energy via public interactions, workshops and media outreach in villages and towns in India in 2016. He is currently doing Masters in Sustainability and Social innovation at HEC Paris. He tells us about his tuk tuk ride along the Golden Quadrilateral that has been supported by Accor’s ibis hotels in this exclusive conversation.

What is The SunPedal Ride all about?

With an aim to raise awareness and outreach of sustainability – solar energy, electric vehicles and healthy living – The SunPedal Ride was started as an initiative by me to connect with the masses using the medium of solar powered electric vehicles. The first journey in India was in 2016 on a solar powered electric bicycle to educate people about clean energy technologies via talking to people on ground, collaborating with stakeholders, sharing insights and enabling the faster adoption of clean energy technologies on the long run.

How does one harvest solar energy at home?

One kW of solar power gives an average of 4-5 units of electricity per day. So, if you have an electricity bill equivalent of 150 units of electricity consumption, 1 kW of solar power will suffice to run your needs. 1 kW needs a space of 100 Sq. Ft. shadow-free area (preferably on an open rooftop) and it will cost approximately 1.25 Lakhs of investment. Payback period is typically 4 to 5 years. Solar Panels have a lifetime of 25 years, so it is a long-term investment without dependence on the fluctuating prices of conventional electricity. There are schemes where you can sell excess power to the grid and earn money too. The cost of solar panels has dropped drastically over a period of time, so it is actually quite competitive to switch to solar power.

As a world record holder for the longest journey on a solar powered electric bicycle, what is your message to people?

Climate change is a global issue and the responsibility lies on each and every one of us to act wisely. On an individual level, my message to people is to apply the ‘AMG’ principle – Avoid, Minimize and Generate Energy. The idea is to be conscious about the individual energy usage and bring energy efficiency into our lives as much as possible. Dependence on coal will phase out if we all act together and do simple lifestyle changes (as simple as switching off the lights and fans when not in use) to make a positive impact. Also, the message to people would be to spread the knowledge and urge people around you to change their mindset towards a sustainable lifestyle.

SunPedal team at ibis New Delhi Aerocity
SunPedal team at ibis New Delhi Aerocity

What are your views on sustainability in an Indian context?

The awareness of sustainability in India is gaining a lot of interest among the masses. There are many corporate organisations in India who have dedicated sustainability teams which are working towards a strategy to attain sustainability in the firms. For example, ibis Hotels has a Planet 21 sustainability strategy which encompasses a lot of ‘green’ initiatives throughout the chain of hotels. Such sustainability initiatives drive a mindset shift in the people and make them conscious of the nature and surroundings.

How was your experience on the 60 day-6000Km journey along the Golden Quadrilateral?

The experience was enriching for all of us. It was a good learning experience. We met a lot of people and talked to them about the need of using electric vehicles, especially to reduce pollution. The retrofitted solar assisted electric auto rickshaw provided by Volta Automotive India Pvt. Ltd. completed the journey of 6000+ kilometres successfully. Test drives were given to the people to make them feel how electric vehicles work and how easy are they to drive.  Students, think-tanks, government officials, transport commissioners and other stakeholders appreciated the vehicle performance too and gave constructive feedback. We got a lot of data from the journey which will be collated in the form of a report/book/case study for the benefit of the people. This journey has enabled a network of stakeholders to prove that electric mobility is here to stay. The next step is to make it more sustainable.

What are your views on climate change?

It is a global issue and there is enough scientific proof today which shows the acceleration of. It is the responsibility of each one of us to act to mitigate climate change.

Tell us about your future plans?

The immediate plan is to collate the data and content from the journey in order to make a comprehensive report for the benefit of the masses. We are planning to have more such awareness journeys across India and the world via ‘The SunPedal Ride’ initiative to ensure maximum outreach via collaboration to promote sustainability.

This story first appeared in Sakal Times dated Aug, 02, 2019 here:

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