Author – Roshan Vijayakumar
The increasing levels of air pollution in various Indian cities are a matter of great concern. We know that transportation, though necessary, is the major source of air pollution as we rely on petrol/diesel for fueling our vehicles. Besides being harmful, fossil fuels are a finite resource. So, in order to prepare ourselves for the future, there is a drastic need to shift our reliance from petroleum-based fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable sources of energy such as CNG, electricity, hydrogen etc.
The recently concluded Delhi Auto Expo showcased so many new electric vehicles that are being released in the Indian market. A lot of individuals and startups are working on this thought. In this endeavor, student groups across India have developed innovative solutions for personal transportation using alternative fuels for vehicles in order to curb pollution.
Electrified Maruti 800 by RSET, Kerala
Students of the Rajagiri School of Engineering & Technology (RSET) in Kochi, Kerala have revived an old Maruti 800 car by making it battery powered. In order to make way for the electric vehicles, the fuel driven cars will have to be scrapped, melted and recycled. From scrapping to assembling, the processes will result in pollution from working the furnaces and assembly line. Keeping this thought in mind, Anupama Johnson, Jeffin Francis, Aby Biju and Jeswant Mathew of RSET decided to tackle the problem by replacing the petrol engine of a Maruti 800 with an electric motor.
RSET students replaced the engine of a Maruti 800 with a 2HP brushless direct current electric motor (BLDC) at a cost of INR50,000. In addition, the car integrates innovative technologies like gearless driving and regenerative braking. Working under the guidance of their professors, the students were able to convert a fossil fuel driven car into a battery powered one. The electrified car was tested by members of the Regional Transport Office in Ernakulam, as well as by Maruti Indus Motors and was declared on par with the original Maruti 800, with the added benefit of being sound less!
These RSET students have now set up their own startup, Greenfolks India, aimed at converting any normal car into an electric one in a day. Other services they plan to offer are green energy solutions, electric vehicles and pollution reduction through sustainable transportation for everyday use. Their innovation received many accolades and has won second place at the Hult Prize International Expo.
Solar Car Prototype by MIT Manipal
Students of Manipal Institute of Technology, a constituent college of Manipal University, Karnataka have developed a passenger car prototype powered by solar energy. It was a joint project of Manipal Institute of Technology and Tata Power Solar, India’s largest solar company.
The prototype is called the ‘Solar Mobil Manipal’ car, which was designed by 27 students who made up the SolarMobil team. Work on the four-wheeled prototype started in 2011 and ended in 2015. This two-seater solar car weighs 590 Kgs and can reach up to 60 kmph with a cruising speed of 30Kmph, which is slow but won’t put much strain on the chain-drive transmission.
The vehicle’s three main design and fabrication components include customized solar panels, a high end battery system and data acquisition. The car’s energy density Lithium-ion battery pack allows a speed of 150km on a full charge and the high-end system monitors the individual strings of the battery pack to ensure proper safety. Solar Mobil Manipal team participated in the Quest Global’s annual pan-Indian innovation contest – Quest Ingenuim in 2015 and won the first prize.
Hydrogen Bike by RVSSET, Tamil Nadu
Driven by the pressing need for eco-friendly alternative fuels, students of RVS School of Engineering & Technology, Tamil Nadu, have designed a motorbike powered by hydrogen. For a liter of hydrogen, the bike runs up to 148km. R. Balaji, Gowthem Raj and Kalid Ibrahim converted a bike without any modification done to the engine. Hydrogen fuel is very cheap; the gas costs just INR30 per liter as compared to our increasing petrol prices. Moreover, it doesn’t leave any residue behind after combustion. However, when compared to other fuel engines, hydrogen restricts tuning the engine.
RVSSET students attached a hydrogen gas cylinder to their bike and modified the bike’s fuel-engine connections. The total cost of this addition was just INR7,000 and no modification of the engine was required to convert it into hydrogen powered. Although quite bulky, the modified vehicle does not pollute at all and requires less maintenance. Further, the average life of the engine has been enhanced and the noise and vibration reduced.
Hybrid Fuel System by MCE, Thiruvananthapuram
From Kerala comes another success story of using hydrogen gas as a fuel. A team of students from Mohandas College of Engineering, (MCE) Thiruvananthapuram has developed a hybrid fuel system using a mixture of hydrogen and ethanol as fuels. The MCE students Sonu John, N.S. Gopikrishnan, R.R. Remesh Shekhar and Chintu Salam developed this unconventional fuel system as part of their academic project.
The hybrid system uses ethanol as the main fuel, while hydrogen is used to enhance the low calorific value. The calorific value of a fuel is the amount of heat released by a unit weight of a substance during complete combustion. However, storing hydrogen, which is explosive in nature, posed a major challenge. The students used a 16-plate electrolyzer unit for on board production of the gas, thereby eliminating the need to store it.
The two-wheeler was refitted with a dual carburetor for liquid ethanol and for hydrogen gas. A throttle splitter was provided to control the fuel supply to both carburetors, while a no-return valve reducer assembly was used to prevent any chances of an explosion due to backfiring in the engine. By turning off the second carburetor, the vehicle can switch back from hydrogen-ethanol to petrol. Developed at a cost of just INR7,000, the vehicle has an average mileage of 72km/liter. The students believe that mass production of industrial ethanol would definitely reduce the price hike on petroleum fuels.
Solar Power-cum-Electric Car by GPCET, Kurnool
Students of G.Pulliah College of Engineering and Technology (GPCET), Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, have developed a six-seater solar power-cum-electric car at the cost of a motorcycle. Hussain Basha, C. Anil, Sainath Goud, J. Nirmal, D. Ashish, Ranjith and Yogesh have developed the car in 2017 that can be run by solar power as well as electric charging as part of their project work.
The GPCET student’s car is fitted with a BLDC motor, four rechargeable batteries and two solar panels on top. With solar power charging for two to three hours or manual charging through A/C power output, the car can travel for a distance of 40 km and run at speeds of 35-45km. The car, developed at a cost of Rs.70,000, is currently used inside the college campus to transport the faculty, guests and students.
By recognizing such student innovations on alternative fuel vehicles around our country, India would be able to reduce its import of fuels and our cities would be cleaner and greener.