New Delhi: These young minds of team “Pravega” are a hope for a sustainable future. They are the students of a government engineering college based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The students brought their brilliant minds together to create the first 100 per cent eco-friendly bamboo car that runs on electrical energy.
Where did the idea pop up from?
Team Pravega, of Barton Hill Engineering College, said that they were inspired from Shell Eco-marathon, an auto industry innovation competition conducted by the energy giant Shell for the last 70+ years. The competition recognises student innovations in energy-efficient automobile prototypes that can help the creators become leading engineers and scientists of the future.
The team got the Circular Economy Award at the Asia competition for creating the first-ever 100% eco-friendly vehicle prototype in the world.
The appropriate resources were not easily available. After all it was about making a full-fledged working car with a material like bamboo. But they were determined to turn their idea into a real-life working model.
From fact finding and researching at the Bamboo Research Centre in their college to visiting other institutes to test their model, this team went round the clock to adhere to 'Reuse, Reduce, Recycle' and create the world's first 100 per cent eco-friend car made of bamboo.
Faces behind the eco-friendly bamboo car
The 15-member team Pravega is behind this eco-friendly bamboo car worked under the guidance of their professor, Dr Anish K John, along with support from their principal Dr Suresh K, their HOD, the technical centres in their college and staff, and of course the former team members Abhinav P Sekhar (Team Manager), Sandeep Sunil, Sebastian Joseph, Adarsh S Moosath, Augustin Raju, Varun S, Midhun R, Navaneeth V, Akshay Praveen, Ansar A, Indrajith B, Kevin Fellicious, Arjun LS, Kalyani S, and Ajay Krishnan.
Creation of the bamboo car
Dr Anish K John proposed the idea to use bamboo to build a car to Team Methodos, the previous team from the college who participated in Shell Eco-marathon, India held at Chennai.
The earlier model was made by using a woven bamboo body that generated air pockets, thus creating a vehicle drag. Moreover, the strength of the vehicle body was also lower when compared to commonly-used materials like glass fibre and carbon fibre.
Team member Midhun R said that it was during the research they came to know of the fabric made of bamboo fibres from Dr Raji M, the head of Bamboo Research Centre in our college. “Bamboo fibre could reduce both the body weight and the aerodynamic drag. But since the fabric cannot be used as it is, we made a composite of bamboo fabric and glass fibre,” he added.
“The final material was tested for strength at the polymer-testing facility of Central Institute for Plastic Engineering and Technology under the Government of India and was found to have enough strength,” said team member Akshay Praveen.
“The composite material turned out to be successful in terms of eco-friendliness, strength, rigidity and aerodynamic performance,” says team member Adarsh S Moosath.
The team looked up all the existing vehicle prototype designs to decide on the most aerodynamic shape for the body of the bamboo car, and did a couple of literature studies as well. Pravega ran through software analysis and finalised on the design for their eco-friendly bamboo car. Many of the components needed were developed in the in-house workshop facilities of the Mechanical Engineering department.
Midhun says that when professor Anish suggested that we try making the chassis out of bamboo we were like 'WHAT!?'. But we decided to give it a try since we had decided that our team would implement something novel.
The real challenge for the team however was creating the load-bearing framework on which the entire body of the car would be mounted. To create a car, the team studied about bamboo species and their properties.
Midhun added that after an extensive search and consultations with various professionals in the field of bamboo development, we found the right species we were looking for – Dendrocalamus Stocksii.
This bamboo species is not hollow but solid and perfect to create the framework. But it grew only in certain parts of India. One of the teammates contacted Parameswar who runs a startup, Bamboopecker who helped the team get the bamboo.
So, team Parvega upped and went to the bamboo firm in Bangalore and worked with the personnel there to create the bamboo framework for the eco-friendly car.
Fuel dependency reduction
The bamboo car prototype can run with a 35cc IC engine and achieve a fuel efficiency of about 170 km/litre. “We started converting the same into an electric-powered vehicle using electric motors and batteries,” says Arjun.
“The vehicle we have designed is not the epitome of sustainability in the automobile sector. We just showcased how sustainability can be brought to a sector like the automobile industry,” explained team member Arjun LS.
The fuel dependency of a vehicle is not calculated merely on the fuel used to run but also the net energy saved in building the vehicle. Barring some critical systems, the team tried their best to include eco-friendly components into the design, and building the body and chassis using bamboo is the real highlight of their innovation.
Arjun said that we even tried the inclusion of a bamboo-based helmet but chose to go with a normal one due to safety concerns. Such a brilliant concept of creating a 100 per cent bamboo car that runs on electrical energy shows how far we can go in making automobiles eco-friendly – if we try!
Such innovative ideas by students can go a long way in creating a more sustainable planet for a brighter future for mankind.