A math teacher and innovator from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, invented the affordable solar-powered electric car. Bilal Ahmed, who is from Tangmarg in Jammu and Kashmir, has been working on this project for more than 13 years and has finally reached a milestone.
He appears to have built his solar-powered electric car from the body of a Maruti Suzuki 800, which was covered with solar panels on all sides to harness the sun’s energy. In addition, he has made slight modifications to the car’s body to house the solar panels.
The 1988 Nissan Micra was one of the base models that he converted to an automatic car and then an electric car. He says, “I liked the design and thought it was suitable for this project. But connecting the engine to the gear in this car was one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever been through.” He later supplemented the car with solar power.
Most of the car’s surface is covered with black-tinted solar panels that can rotate in any direction. Powered by a high kilowatt motor, it can run like any other normal car on the road. There is space for 5 people, and the car is a dual system, as it is also equipped with a high-end rechargeable battery. With a charging point prominently adjacent to the dickey, it can be charged at any charging station.
According to the innovator, the solar panels automatically rotate in the direction of more sunlight. This feature is of great importance, particularly in places like Kashmir where there is a problem of cloudy weather during winters. As normal solar panels are usually 20 to 30 per cent less efficient in that climate. Bilal says that to overcome the problem, he has used monocrystalline solar panels which are known to work efficiently in less visibility or also in bright sunlight.
“Cars like Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW are a dream for an ordinary person,” he said, adding: “Only the rich can afford those cars. I thought it would be great to let people feel luxurious through this innovation.”
“I always wanted to do something better for society. While moving around on local transport, I often thought: How important is transported for humanity in the modern world? It occurred to me that I should devise a future means of transportation that would be affordable for everyone. This is how I started this dream project in 2009,” says Bilal as he seduces her towards his solar car in his backyard.
“Lack of resources and lack of exposure are some of the main challenges one faces in Kashmir. While working on this car, I was often challenged with acquiring equipment. Often my search for a product in the local markets ended in vain. So I had to switch to second-hand products or reserve the items online,” says Bilal, as he ponders the challenges he faced on the project. “Once it took me more than a year to get a sophisticated sensor,” recalls Bilal.
Ahmed started by modifying the car after watching various videos and adding new features to it. “In the beginning, I planned to make a car for the disabled, but due to some financial problems, I couldn’t go ahead with the project,” he said.
In 2009, the self-taught innovator embarked on a project to create a solar-powered luxury car and completed the project this year.
He said that the car has the features on par with other luxury cars. The car runs solely on electrical power generated by monocrystalline solar panels.
Ahmed has used this specific type of solar panels because they generate maximum electricity even in the least amount of solar energy they are exposed to, and also because the panels are efficient and take up little space.
The car is fully automatic and has gull-wing doors to overcome space limitations.
“Nobody provided me with any financial help,” he said. “If I had gotten the necessary support, maybe I would have become Kashmir’s Elon Musk.”
His efforts have been lauded by the internet including former Chief Minister of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah.
Twitter users tagged Mahindra Group Chairperson Anand Mahindra and the Ministry of Education to help Ahmed with further assistance. “Ministry of Education, Anand Mahindra, please help this guy to innovate and build a good product and eventually benefit whole world in case of environment and climate change,” tweeted Sharad Jadhav.
In Anand Mahindra’s words, “Bilal’s passion is commendable. I applaud his single-handedly developing this prototype. Clearly, the design needs to evolve into a production-friendly version. Perhaps our team at Mahindra Research Valley can work alongside him to develop it further.”
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