Vikranth Racherla has three phrases for his new love: home-made, eco-friendly and future of automobile sector.
Meet Deshla, the electric three-wheeler built on campus at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT Kharagpur) after three years of research and development by a team of students and professors of the institute led by Racherla, a professor of mechanical engineering. The vehicle can be charged at home and can be driven at a maximum speed of 50km per hour. It is touted as a fully indigenous model and designed as a city passenger vehicle.
The IIT Kharagpur team now aims to raise funds for commercial production.
“The road test of our vehicle is very encouraging. Its comfortable, easy to drive, and jerk-free. We built this from scratch," said Racherla over the phone from Kharagpur.
Deshla’s back wheels have independent suspension. This is similar to cars but unlike battery rickshaws, which have rigid axles as in trucks.
In contrast to the three-wheelers in the market at present, the vehicle is far more stable and jerk-free on bad roads. It has a steering wheel and works on gear mechanism with high mechanical advantage, said Racherla. The vehicle uses hydraulic brakes instead of mechanical brakes for more effective braking.
The professor said they can produce two models with regard to the seating capacity: a ‘3+1’ model and a ‘6+1’ model. “With its powerful motor, a lithium ion battery that can last up to seven years, high load carrying capacity, sturdy frame and yet easy manoeuvrability, Deshla is a better option than diesel-guzzling, polluting autos and the flimsy and high-maintenance Totos. It is not only clean and green, but also steals a march on both when it comes to safety, reliability, performance, and comfort," IIT Kharagpur said in an email.
“Deshla’s batteries are more expensive but given their long life, it gains in the cost-benefit analysis. Besides, they provide uniform power delivery unlike lead-acid batteries," IIT Kharagpur said.
The engineering school created in-house the embedded and power electronics subsystems such as battery management system, motor controller, battery charger, GPS and 3G cellular connectivity modules, it said.
Rachrela said he and a couple of his students have already set up a startup to raise around ₹3 crore of seed funding to make the final commercial product and receive the necessary formal certification from the Automotive Research Association of India.
Sriman Bhattacharyya, the director of IIT Kharagpur, who himself has driven the electric three-wheeler, said the ride was jerk-free and smooth and has encouraged the team to go for commercialization of Deshla.