Delhi engineer's vehicle promises safer rural transport

Delhi engineer's vehicle promises safer rural transport

India's rural mobility scenario could soon see a much-awaited change with a Delhi engineer's indigenously developed vehicle set to give the locally made but accident-prone 'jugaads' a run for their money - that is, as soon as he gets funds for commercial production.

Abhinav Das, a 26-year-old mechanical engineer from Delhi's Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University is confident that if and when he gets the funds, his Rural Utility Vehicle (RUV) will prove to be a boon for the dwellers of rural india.

"I had designed a vehicle for an inter-college off-road contest while in college but soon realised that if properly modified, it would be perfect for the off-road and no-road conditions in rural India," Das told IANS in an interview.

The annual off-road event, the Baja Rally, is organised by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) at Indore and serves as a stage for young engineering students to showcase their designing and manufacturing talents. After a stint at the International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT) and automobile-parts major Sona-Koyo, Das left for the Incubation Center at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, where he got the funds to further develop his idea.

Pursuing his goal, he travelled extensively in the rural heartlands of northern India, gaining a deeper understanding of the harsh realities of the poor infrastructure available in the region.

"Millions of villages lack road connectivity. Every day 50 million girls walk up to 40 kilometres to fetch water which in turn results in their dropping out of school," said Das.

"According to UN studies, in rural India, the majority of deaths in childbirth happen because medical help can't reach on time. My aim is to provide these people a better mobility solution as in such areas, mobility is hugely empowering," he added.

After three years of struggle, the first prototype of his RUV is ready and all he needs is some investors who will believe in his idea. "Its innovative chassis design means the structural strength of the RUV is better than the mini-trucks plying on Indian roads and three to four times stronger than the three- wheelers," he said, adding the RUV can be legally used on the road and is less polluting unlike the 'jugaads'.

Jugaads are locally made vehicles used mostly as a means of low-cost transportation in rural areas. With poor brakes, agricultural pump engines, faulty structures, they are often overloaded and are a disaster waiting to happen.

"The RUV can be easily transformed from people carrier to goods carrier and can be serviced locally and cheaply. The 12 horsepower power take-off (PTO) can be used for pumping, spraying or even power generation in rural areas, just like the tractors," he added.

A PTO is a splined driveshaft, usually on a tractor or truck, that allows implements to draw energy from the vehicle's engine. Powered by a Greaves-Cotton 600 cc diesel engine, Das' RUV would have a top speed of 50 to 60 kmph.

"Couple of years down the line, depending on customer demands, the RUV can be adapted to run on green fuels like CNG or electricity too," says Das. According to Das, his vehicle would be the perfect substitute for the 'jugaad' as it can do everything that the 'jugaad' does but in a much refined and safe manner.

And the price of the RUV is not too high for the intended market. "An average jugaad costs around Rs. 1.25 lakh. At Rs.1.5 lakh, a finished RUV will cost only Rs.25,000 more and would in turn provide a much safer ride. In our surveys, most of the jugaad users were more than willing to shell out the extra cash," he said.

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