Auroville Energy Products' (AEP) was founded in
1996 Carsten Michelsen. It specialises
in solar energy products -such as in solar lamps, solar charge controllers
and inverters to provide a complete solution for solar home systems-,
wind energy systems - design, supply and erection of wind-diesel hybrid
systems- as well as micro-hydro systems. One of its main focuspoints
is presently the development of solar transport, starting with a simple
The solar bike
Because of the ever-worsening air quality situation
in most of India, including Auroville, the need for economical and ecological
vehicles is increasingly felt. Not only is the pollution detrimental
to the quality of life for all those living in the affected areas, but
according to recent World Bank studies, poor air quality in urban areas
is costing billions of dollars in increased health care cost and loss
of productivity. Since India has the second highest rate of bicycle
use in the world, and the average trip is much less than 20 km, the
transformation to electric bicycle use should not be too difficult.
Cleaner means of urban transport
In addition, solar charged electric bicycles are
a much more sustainable option than regular motorcycles and are befitting
Auroville which struggles towards a more sustainable future. Thus, as
urbanisation and motorised transport become an increasingly dominating
factor in India, a cleaner means of urban transport would greatly alleviate
the horrible air pollution problem that affects every Indian city. Electric
bicycles could play a major part in solving these problems.
A light, quiet and pollution-free vehicle
ready to roam Auroville's roads
Empowered by solar energy
The intention is to set up, here in Auroville, a
small fleet of electric bicycles (15 in all) which will be chargeable
from either the Tamil Nadu electricity grid or from 24VDC solar panels.
Existing panels, previously installed in PV pumping systems (there are
about 140 of these solar pumping stations in Auroville), can easily
be modified to become a solar charging station. Since only two panels
are required for charging the electric cycle batteries, this can be
done without compromising the original purpose and function of the panels.
The bicycles will have a range of approximately 10 km. This range can
be extended by either pedalling or using the motor for assistance, or
by changing the battery pack at a predetermined site. It must be remembered
that when the range of the vehicle is extended, battery size and weight
go up. We have come to the conclusion that the 10 km range represents
an ideal formula for the immediate Auroville area and presently some
bicycles are being tried out.
Rented out to Aurovilians and guests
The electric bicycles will be rented out to residents
and their guests on a daily basis. Certainly in these early stages of
the production, the rental period will not exceed two weeks at the time
in order to allow for proper monitoring of the condition of the new
vehicles. Each vehicle will be come with a maintenance booklet where
all relevant data will be entered. After 18 months, we will be able
to provide a detailed report of the technical and economic feasibility
of the program. Public acceptance of a light, quiet and pollution free
vehicle will be evaluated as well.
The final result will be a slower-paced and
pollution-free means of private transport. Health, ecology, and peace
of mind will all benefit from this initiative. In addition, this represents
one more step towards a more sustainable lifestyle in Auroville.