Kolkata plans battery run autos
After missing umpteen high court deadlines on phasing out smokebelching vehicles, the West Bengal transport department is looking at a proposal that promises to drastically improve the ambient air quality of Kolkata. According to plans, the one lakh strong fleet of autorickshaws in the city and surroundings would be converted in phases to battery operated ones. The proposal has been jointly floated by the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation and Tara International, a developer of battery operated automobiles.With the March 2009 high court deadline for phasing out of two stroke autos and four stroke ones that don’t run on LPG, the state is keen to accept the proposal. When the conversion is done, the existing fuel-based engine would be discarded and rechargeable batteries installed along with a compatible motor. Not only would emission drop to zero, the vehicles would also be soundless. The battery is able to run for 200 km after being charged for eight hours.“Our proposal says that to start with, we would set up 30 recharging stations. There are 123 approved auto routes in the city and we have accordingly plotted our recharge stations. The auto drivers do not have to spend upfront for the conversion. We have already conducted a detailed survey and found out that each driver spends at least Rs 200 per day on fuel (read kata tel) that helps him drive about 100 kilometres per day or complete five round trips. We have proposed that each driver pays us Rs 200 daily and gets the battery recharged, he doesn’t have to pay anything for the battery or the motor,” explained Tara Ganguly, the proprietor of Tara International. Conventional electricity will not be used for recharging the batteries as the corporation is designing these stations fitted with solar panels to generate solar energy for battery recharging. The kata tel or adulterated fuel used in autos is a parallel industry. It is sold at Rs 35 per litre, gives any autorickshaw operator a higher margin of profit, if one takes into account the price of petrol (Rs 52 per litre). The consumption of this fuel has become so profitable that in Kolkata Metropolitan area alone, there are at least 250 units selling this oil on every autorickshaw route, openly in the suburbs and discreetly in the city, said Sharad Jhawar of Greater Kolkata Auto Gas Dealers association.“We will have to spend Rs 1 lakh per auto for the conversion and have worked out the finances in such a way that the auto drivers do not have to shell out anything extra. The reason why auto drivers have been resisting any change in status quo is that they are being asked to discard their vehicles and buy new ones that are environment friendly. The solution that we have given saves the driver this hassle and also converts his vehicle into a clean one at apparently no extra cost!” urged SP Gon Chowdhury, managing director of the corporation.To explain the concept to the state, Tara International has already fit a battery in a passenger autorickshaw and organized a demonstration for the state transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty and state transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury earlier this week. “It was indeed an experience, neither was there any fume nor was there any sound. We found ourselves moving at top speed without causing any commotion! I think this is our future vehicle!” Chakraborty said.There is just one hitch. The Public Vehicles Act does not yet have a provision for vehicles converted to battery operated ones. So, the permission to ply such vehicles road can be given either by the surface transport ministry or the state transport department.
Labels: Kolkata Battery operated Autos