For anyone who has traveled in South East Asia, the continuous sound of tuk-tuks (the local answer to taxis) is impossible to ignore – as is the smell of exhaust emitted from the mostly two-stroke vehicles.
A group of students from RMIT in Melbourne, however, have come up with an idea to address both these problems – a solar-powered tuk-tuk that operates with an electric motor and Tesla car battery.
“Three wheel, zero emissions,” is the very succinct motto of the project, which has been developed in partnership with social enterprise company Unbound.
Dubbed “SolarTuk”, the little vehicle is a vast improvement on the standard two-stroke tuk-tuk, which emits considerably more carbon than four-stroke vehicles, as well as producing more carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide due to the lack of catalytic converter.
Traveling at a top speed of 50km/hr, the solar tuk-tuk will be tested along the east coast of Australia in a demonstration drive from Melbourne to Cairns, from November 24 to December 18.
The trip, which is the first phase of a much longer global expedition, will include around 20 scheduled stops along the way, in an effort to help make the case for a low-carbon transport future.
The SolarTuk can travel up to 300km on a single charge, but unlike other EVs doesn’t have a plug to recharge.
Instead, it recharges from portable solar panels carried in the vehicle.
The second phase of its pilot journey – starting in Melbourne – will circumnavigate the globe, covering over 30,000km and more than 20 countries.
The SolarTuk will head to Singapore via Perth by boat, and then travel overland to Spain before heading across the Atlantic (again by boat) to New York, to Los Angeles, and eventually arriving in New Zealand before returning home.
The SolarTuk was developed with assistance from RMIT’s engineering unit, the Australian Geographic Society and a grant from the Australia-ASEAN Council.
Those wanting to view the SolarTuk and meet the team as they stop along the east coast. For details of where and when, you can visit the expedition’s website.
The SolarTuk team is also keen to touch base with solar-powered home owners who can offer assistance with additional charging needs.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.