Will we see luxury-laden rickshaws or is something else afoot that brings Audi into the world of previously human-powered transportation?
When you think of a traditional rickshaw, you think of a small cart that carried one or two people and used a third or fourth person as the motor. In countries where work animals were scarce, this was a great way for poor people to make a little money and for rich to pay for a ride in a cart when they didn’t want to walk places. Thankfully, most of these carts aren’t like this any longer.
What Does a Modern Rickshaw Use
Today, the ratan and bamboo carts of old have been replaced by vehicles that look like small vans on top of a moped chassis. This doesn’t sound like a useful combination, but it seems to work just fine in places like India and Thailand. Best of all, these carts get power from a small two-stroke gasoline engine in most cases, but that could change in the near future. If you’re still picturing this vehicle, think of a three-wheeled golf cart and you’ve just about got the idea of what this little machine brings to the transportation world.
Where Does Audi Come In?
If most rickshaws use a small two-stroke gasoline engine to power them, what does this have to do with Audi? That’s a good question and it brings us to one of the most burning questions of our time. With the movement toward electric vehicles, every automaker understands the batteries of these EVs must go somewhere. Trashing these batteries isn’t an option, which means they need to be recycled or reused in some way. While the energy left in the batteries might not be enough to continue to power the E-Tron, but it could be enough to make a rickshaw go for a while.
Making Rickshaws Environmentally Friendly
The idea of moving toward battery-powered rickshaws using the recycled electric batteries from Audi is to create a place for these old batteries to be used. By swapping the two-stroke motor for the electric power and some old batteries these rickshaws could be extremely eco-friendly. They will be part of the “Three R’s” of conservation, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse. Of course, to make this happen, a partnership is needed in the countries that use these little carts to transport passengers around town.
A Partner Found for Audi
A German-Indian start-up called Numan is already working to create these new electric prototype rickshaws using old E-Tron batteries from the test vehicles. This could create a great reusing process of these batteries and give them a new life. To make this happen, each electrically-powered rickshaw is fitted with an electric motor and the right floor to accommodate the batteries. Because the space where these batteries reside is exposed, Numan created a special splash-proof protection to ensure no water can get into the battery area. The goal with this program is to great a “second-life power storage system,” according to the partners. If successful, this could extend the lives of the batteries and help us use resources more efficiently.
Old Batteries Still Have Lots of Power
The battery power needed to drive the Audi E-Tron is much greater than that of a small rickshaw. Even though the recycled batteries don’t have enough juice left for the car, doesn’t mean they don’t still possess a lot of power. Using these batteries for rickshaws could be the beginning of creating a world using second-life batteries for other mobility needs in small areas. Can you imagine these batteries making it to scooters and golf carts when the automakers are done using them?
When Will These Rickshaws Get Their First Test?
The first batch of Numan electric rickshaws with the E-Tron batteries will hit the streets of India in 2023. A non-profit organization will use them to help local women transport goods to market for sale. In addition to this pilot program, Numan will also test the use of solar energy to provide recharging to the batteries while they are out on the roads. This could mean a rickshaw can drive all day long without ever needing to recharge.
What Happens When the Rickshaws Are Done With the Audi Batteries?
This is where BMW has led the way and shows us what Audi can also do with these batteries when they no longer have enough charge to power moving vehicles. Once they have run the course in the rickshaws, these batteries will be used to power stationary items including appliances and LED lighting. BMW already does this with old EV batteries which are used to power Coldplay’s recent tour. If these batteries can power that light show, they still have enough energy to be used in various ways and continue to be useful for many years.
Don’t Forget About the Volkswagen Influence
Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group. This group of brands is exploring many ways to recycle and reuse the EV batteries once they no longer work for the vehicles intended. Once the E-Tron batteries have made the tour from the car to the rickshaw to the appliances, could it be time to break down the batteries and reuse the core materials? If so, the items in the battery cells wouldn’t need to be mined to make new batteries. If this becomes the life cycle of an EV battery we might see one battery last decades before the materials are no longer valuable.
Are Other Brands Working on EV Recycling?
Yes, we do know most automakers have asked and answered the question surrounding recycling EV batteries to some extent. Some opt to send old batteries to companies that specialize in storing them until a solution is found. If the Audi plan to turn batteries into rickshaw power sources works, more automakers might head down the same path and begin to send their batteries around the world for mobility and sustainability needs. The mining aspect of EVs might not be as detrimental as some think if batteries can be reused many times over.
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