Meet the electric rickshaw with Audi e-tron power
Let’s answer the obvious bits first. Yes, this is a very real rickshaw, with very real Audi e-tron batteries powering it. And yes, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever drive one.
It’s not technically an Audi, per se; this is a rickshaw, after all, and Audi’s not exactly a player in that space. But then it has had quite a bit of involvement from the four rings – batteries aside, Audi funds Nunam, the non-profit that’s bringing e-rickshaws to India, and the team at Neckarsulm helped develop the e-ricks. Side note: Audi, definitely do find a way to build these, please call them e-ricks, and please put us on the list for them – daycare drop-off would be so much more entertaining.
Nunam’s idea is that EV batteries have much more to give after their ‘useful life’ in an electric car. And we absolutely agree. But while we’re thinking about home power storage or off-grid living, the rather more civic-minded sorts at Nunam are thinking about that whole ‘helping others’ thing, giving people access to clean energy by reusing batteries... which just so happens to reduce waste and pollution at the same time. And we just wanted to go all Walden for a bit, just with hot showers.
The plan is fairly straightforward – take used batteries from Audi’s e-tron test cars at the end of the prototyping stage, then repackage and reuse them for stationary batteries and in a fleet of rickshaws in Bangalore. Solar cells charge the big stationary batteries, which then charge the rickshaws day or night. And if you’ve ever experienced the sun at that sort of latitude – southern India, Philippines, Vietnam, Caribbean and so on – you’ll understand that solar power isn’t exactly scarce.
And now to the less obvious, but thoroughly more Top Gear question: if these have e-tron power and rickshaw weight, can they do the wheelies from Octopussy? Well, no. Reality, being the general fun-sponge it so often can be, means the e-ricks will have small electric motors, because they “don’t have to be particularly powerful, since rickshaw drivers in India travel neither fast nor far". Next they’ll be telling us these electrickshaws can’t jump camels, fend off henchmen or plough through conveniently placed wall posters. Do famous tennis players even drive these things, or what?
TEXT Craig Jamieson