Cycle-rickshaws in New Delhi are getting a green makeover. This month, the state-run Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research unveiled what they call a “soleckshaw” (short for solar electric rickshaw). The soleckshaw, which like traditional cycle-rickshaws can still be pedaled, is a motorized cycle-rickshaw that runs on a 36-volt solar battery for up to 9.3 miles per hour, and carries a load of up to approximately 440 lbs. The battery has enough juice to get the rickshaw going for 30 to 42 miles. Once that power’s used up, the driver can drop the battery off at a centralized solar-power charging station and, for a small fee, power-up again.
It gets better; it is a makeover, after all. The new edition of the 460-lb rickshaw has a studier frame and better seats. It also gets a technological upgrade. The rickshaw comes with an FM radio, and a cell-phone charger. It may not have all the bells and whistles associated with the latest luxury sports car, but given that there are eight million cycle-rickshaws in India, the green upgrade could significantly reduce the country’s traffic woes. Traditional cycle-rickshaws don’t leave a carbon footprint behind to begin with, as they are pedaled. Auto-rickshaws—also popular in India— are another story. The soleckshaw is expected to aid the environment in a new way, and from a bigger-picture approach: It’s new look will appeal to the middle-class and to small families who want to access tourist destinations without having to use buses or automobiles that run on fossil fuels. At the moment, prototypes are undergoing testing in the bustling, long-winded streets of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area— one of India’s most polluted residential areas.