Naveen Rabelli recently completed a unique 10,000-km journey from India to the UK in a fully solar-powered auto-rickshaw. His mission was simple: To show the world what Indian jugaad or frugal innovation can achieve in the world of renewables. A colourful solar-powered auto-rickshaw rode into London recently to complete its 10,000-km journey from India. The autorickshaw, or tuk-tuk as it is known in some parts of the world, was driven by Indian engineer Naveen Rabelli who had set off from Bengaluru in February. He arrived at Dover ferry crossing in the UK on September 12, five days later than expected because he was robbed during a toilet break last week as he approached the ferry crossing from France. “The purpose of this journey is to create awareness of alternative mobility solutions for passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries using renewable energy - mix of solar and electricity,” explains the 35-year-old, who refused to let the robbery in France get him down. “My passport and wallet were stolen when I parked to go to the toilet at a fast food restaurant at Sarcelles, about 45 km west of Paris. I reported it to the police, where there were some language issues but after a few hours they found an officer who could speak English. They are very helpful and sorry when they heard that I was about to finish my trip,” he said. India-born Rabelli, who now holds an Australian passport, was able to acquire an emergency travel document and complete his journey. He drove up to Buckingham Palace in London and then attended the Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2016 in Millbrook, Bedfordshire, in September, seven months after he set off from India. “The aim was to highlight an entirely Indian solution to the world and show the benefits of using a prototype that is reliable, feasible and affordable,” said Rabelli. The mission was to spread awareness about the power and potential of clean energy. “It's really feasible. A person like me in a garage can make it and live his dream of traveling from India to London, so maybe in the future we can really see it's quite possible.” The specially-modified autorickshaw, which is equipped with a bed, food cupboard and solar-powered cooker, was shipped from India to Bandar Abbas in Iran from where he kick-started the overland mission to drive through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France before arriving in the UK. Among his more memorable experiences, he recalls how in one town in Iran he smoked horse shit.
“It seems that this special horse shit is good for sore throats, which I had at the start of the journey in Iran. At first I thought it was prank, but other people too smoked the same,” he said. The diesel-powered autorickshaw cost him $1,500 to buy, on which he spent an additional $11,500 to get it ready for the zero-emission adventure, entitled “Tejas”. His website solartuktuk.com offers people the chance to track his journey and plans in the future. He recalls: “It's going to take some time for me to believe that this has happened! I hardly had any time to myself to think about this because I was meeting a lot of people. When I was in ferry from Calais, from the top of the deck and half way through I could see Calais on my right hand side and on left Dover was arriving. At that particular moment I knew that I had done it. “My mind had glimpses like a show reel of the all the work done and all the people I met for last four years.” Rabelli holds a Master′s degree in electronic engineer and has experience as a product development engineer in the automotive industry. The Tuk Tuk The Piaggio Ape diesel three-wheeler was converted into an electric solar-powered one. Keeping modularity in mind, new components have been integrated in a way that enables convenient replacement. This approach leaves scope for development in the future. The unique and different feature of the prototype is the iData Acquisition System (DAQ), an on-board computer and a driver display system, to monitor the performance of the vehicle.