Eco Transport Revving up! The Solar buggy “Namuna” from CSR
Many of you in Auroville must have seen Namuna – the solar electric buggy that keeps zipping between CSR, Adventure and a few other places within the township. Namuna literally means “an example”. It is also used to refer to “a character”. And a character indeed it IS .
The prototype Namuna that you see is a hybrid vehicle with automatic transmission. It has the capability of running entirely on solar electricity, entirely on liquid fuel (petro or bio-based), or on a combination of both of these. This hybrid feature - both unique and useful - was developed right here in Auroville. It was tried as an experiment and developed also as a backup in case the solar power was insufficient or ran down.
Namuna has some other unique features. As you know energy is lost in conversion. As much as 40% of energy is lost while converting and routing energy from the solar-panel or grid to the battery. So, if energy can be directly used from its source it will be more efficient than storing first in a battery and using it from there. Battery back-up is however necessary when driving in the dark, on cloudy days or in shaded areas. When Namuna is driven in the sun it uses the energy directly from the solar-panel bypassing the battery. If the power requirement is greater than the demand - such as when under fast acceleration, on sandy roads, in case of an over load or while driving in the shade/cloud - the motor gets its additional power from the battery bank. This transition between direct power usage from the panel or from the battery when needed happens smoothly without any involvement of the driver. However, when one drives slow or when the vehicle is parked in the sun the net excess power gets stored in the battery. One thing is easy to find for the Namuna in Auroville - a sunny parking place!
We are now considering making a few of these hybrid vehicles ideal for short distance personal transportation. These “future Namunas” are also meant to run on Auroville’s roads! After field testing for 2000+Kms in Auroville – it is clear that it is a pretty rugged vehicle that can max a speed of 60 KMPH on a good road with the solar electricity generated by it being enough for ordinary use. (~50km on a fully-charged battery. It takes ~5hrs of charging in the full sun to charge a battery from empty to full ). The future models, however, will be solar/electric powered and not a hybrid. This will make the vehicle somewhat lighter and perform even better. It will also be zero polluting. As a backup, a recharge option for the grid or any other alternative energy source will be provided. Like the first prototype, the drive will be fully automatic. It will not have A/C or other “fully-loaded” frills. Instead it will have a rather simple look that will highlight its typical qualities –robustness and reliability.
However, we are working on its looks too and what you see in the picture here is the current model and its computer simulated future self.We are not a car manufacturer and are very likely not going to be one. However, we want to make a few just out of our sheer passion for innovation, research, and creativity.
We intend to make about 10 vehicles over the coming months. These are strictly “for Aurovillian consumption only” at this point. The approximate cost per vehicle - including the on-board solar panel and back up option - is estimated to be around Rs.2.5lakhs (Rs.2,50,000) each. (Remember that almost 50% of this is the cost of the solar panels, whose prices are unstable and tend to fluctuate a lot ).
We will take requests from within Auroville for 10 vehicles on a “first –applied- first- considered basis”. Every application has to be backed with a full payment upfront. However, we will commence production only after we have received full payment advances for all the 10 vehicles. If this requirement is not fulfilled, we will return the advances to those parties who had enough faith in us; and shelve this for a later date when we have 10 solid bookings. We estimate that we will need at least 6 months to produce these ecological Namunas for you. For detailed information about the Namuna and booking procedures please write directly to Alok (Aurore/CSR) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Possible configurations for Namuna: