Brave duo attempts to schlep across Eurasia in solar-powered tuk-tuk


These guys are about to have a lot of bonding time. (Reuters)

 If you were going on a 6,200-mile road trip with a friend, you probably wouldn’t select a vehicle with a top speed of 25 mph. And you’d probably search for something with a lot of elbow and leg room. But Naveen Rabelli isn’t your average road tripper.

He’s devoted to sustainable living and wants to raise awareness for the potential of solar-powered vehicles. Rabelli plans to drive his tuk-tuk, a motorized rickshaw, to London. For an estimated 100 days, Rabelli and a companion will be locked in a very cozy passenger cabin.

“It will be quite challenging for both of us to fit in this tuk-tuk and to travel 10,000 kilometers, but I think that’s a whole part of the journey to understand the problems and make flexible solutions,” Rabelli explained in a video promoting his trip.

Raoul Kopacka was selected as his partner in part because his short stature makes it possible to sleep in the rear of the tuk-tuk.

Rabelli told Reuters he spent two years and his life savings of $6,000 to make the tuk-tuk — which is draped in solar panels — a reality.  Its battery can go 53 miles on a single charge. He’s calling the solar-paneled tuk-tuk Tejas, after the Sanskrit word for radiance.

Following a drive to Mumbai, the adventurers will hop a boat ride to Iran and then make stops in Turkey, Austria, Germany and other countries on their way to London.

“During my test drives in Bangalore I’ve had a really positive experience, positive feedback from all the people that I met,” Rabelli said. That’s the first mindblock that we need to address, to clear up that a solar powered cannot run as efficiently as conventional fuel vehicle. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Rabelli started the project after the idea came to him while en route to a kite festival.

“I was stuck up in traffic. And we noticed an empty number of tuk-tuks that make loud noises. And just a thought came out — can we convert this tuk-tuk into solar or electric? We just went straight back to the bar and started doing some sketches,” he said.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · July 14