Indo-German startup Nunam has deployed the luxury car maker Audi's e-tron's used batteries in its e-rickshaws, which are scheduled to hit the Indian roads under a pilot project early next year, a release said on Wednesday.
The startup's primary goal is to develop ways to use old batteries as second-life power storage systems, thus extending their lives and using resources more efficiently, it said.
The non-profit startup based in Berlin and Bangalore is funded by the Audi Environmental Foundation and this is the first joint project between the German auto giant and the Audi Environmental Foundation in addition to Nunam, as per the release.
The foundation has been funding Nunam since 2019.
The startup has developed three prototypes in collaboration with the training team at Audi's Neckarsulm site which, in turn, benefits from the intensive intercultural exchange, it said.
The batteries have been taken from test vehicles in the Audi e-tron test fleet.
These e-rickshaws are planned to be made available to a non-profit organisation, it said, adding, women in particular will be able to use the all-electric rickshaws to transport their goods to market for sale, all without the need for intermediaries.
In addition to the rickshaws intended for road use in India, the trainees at the Neckarsulm site are developing an additional show rickshaw in cooperation with Nunam.
"The old batteries are still extremely powerful. When used appropriately, second-life batteries can have a huge impact, helping people in challenging life situations earn an income and gain economic independence – everything in a sustainable way," said Prodip Chatterjee, co-founder, Nunam.
Car batteries are designed to last the life of the car. But even after their initial use in a vehicle, they have a lot of power, according to Chatterjee.
"For vehicles with lower range and power requirements as well as lower overall weight, they are extremely promising. In our second-life project, we reuse batteries from electric cars in electric vehicles; you might call it electric mobility 'lite'. In this way, we're trying to find out how much power the batteries can still provide in this demanding use case," he emphasised.
With a high-energy-density battery and comparatively low vehicle weight, the electric motor doesn't have to be particularly powerful, since rickshaw drivers in India travel neither fast nor far, as per the release.
In a third step, the batteries' remaining power might be used for stationary applications such as LED lighting, it said.
"We want to get everything possible out of each battery before recycling," said Chatterjee.
"Initiatives like the one pioneered by Nunam are needed to find new use cases for e-waste. Not only in India, but worldwide. So Nunam shares its knowledge to motivate more initiatives to develop products with second-life components that can drive the eco-social revolution forward," said Rüdiger Recknagel, director at Audi Environmental Foundation.
A 12-member strong team of trainees under the guidance of Timo Engler, head of automotive engineering/logistics training in Neckarsulm, is playing a key role in development of the show rickshaw, said the release.
"The trainees and Nunam are in constant communication with each other – we have a dedicated line between Neckarsulm and Bangalore. In building the show rickshaw, our trainees are focusing on range, charging time, and design – the result is a rickshaw with Audi's DNA," said Engler.
In the long term, electric mobility and solar energy can help reduce India's dependence on fossil fuels such as coal, reduce the huge volume of exhaust emissions on India's roads and provide people with a reliable power supply, said the release.
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