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AdBuzz LeadRickshaws are a common sight on Pakistan’s roads, providing a quick and cost-effective mode of transport to many people. However, spiralling LPG costs coupled with increasing shortages of CNG prompted engineering students at CECOS University in Peshawar to collaborate with Peshawar’s Directorate of Science and Technology and design Pakistan’s first concept electric rickshaw.

The CECOS rickshaw has a 1kW DC motor, powered by two dry-cell batteries and one solar panel. It has a top speed of 45 km/h. With a seating capacity of three, the rickshaw is fuelled by the energy generated from the solar panels during daylight hours; its engineers estimate that it can run for over six hours on a fully charged battery. The Peshawar Transport Department plans to upgrade the concept and bring it onto Peshawar’s roads in 2015.

This is not the first example of the auto engineering ingenuity of Pakistani students. Earlier this year, students from Iqra University in Karachi, developed the Solect Hybrid, a two-seater solar-powered rickshaw, fitted with a 1kW DC motor. The Solect Hybrid has four solar panels installed on its roof, and four lead-acid batteries, allowing it to run on steady speeds of 40 km/h for almost 20 hours without a recharge. Unfortunately, despite its higher specifications compared to the CECOS rickshaw and the fact that it is suited to run on congested roads, such as Karachi’s, the transport and energy authorities are yet to show any interest in starting commercial production.

The international auto industry is also recognising the CECOSS rickshaw’s potential as a cost-effective, short-distance commute. Last month the Swedish firm Clean Motion introduced the Zbee, a three-seater rickshaw (the first of its kind in the western world). The Zbee is powered by a 4kW brushless DC motor, and is becoming very popular in Scandinavia. Boasting a top speed of 45 km/h, it can be charged easily using a power outlet.

However, mass producing electric rickshaws in Pakistan requires technology upgrades in the local auto manufacturing industry, not to mention government subsidies to reduce production costs.

– Syed Wajeeh-ul-Hassan Naqvi

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 2, 2014.