Mumbai to Goa – December 2015
It all started with making an e-bike. Sushil began modifying the ‘Btwin MyBike’ bicycle and rechristened it ‘Solar Etwin’, the solar-powered, motor-assisted electric twin of the Btwin bicycle. A motor-powered bicycle assists in pedalling and eases the effort on flats and positive gradients.
Sushil bought the necessary equipment and got cracking. A few welding sessions and alignment adjustments later, it was time to test the e-bike system on ‘MyBike’. The initial results –was an average speed of 20 km/hour and a mileage of 25 km per charge on reasonable flats. Many rounds of testing, analysing results and re-tweaking later, the motorised version of bicycle was ready. It was now time to solarise Etwin.
To put the Solar Etwin to the test of tests, he came up with the idea of cycling from Mumbai to Goa along the Konkan coastal route.
Sushil also wanted to spread awareness about solar energy while on his expedition, especially in the villages that are devoid of electricity in the Konkan region. Sushil carried efficient and cost-effective solar battery chargers developed by kWatt to distribute for free to the villagers.
Sushil joined a group of 10 other cyclists and a support vehicle led by an experienced campaigner, Milind Chitley from Hills & Trails
From Mandwa, the group of cyclists started pedalling to Alibaug, Kashid, to their destination for the day, Murud. Some motorcyclists stopped Sushil to ask him about the bike and asked how solar energy powers the motor. The first day ended after reaching Murud, clocking 60 km, just after sunset. The cycling trip on the second day took them from Murud to Harihareshwar, a 70 km ride. As gratitude and in a bid to spread awareness about solar energy, Sushil gave away solar battery chargers to the locals.
Clocking another 65 km on day five, Sushil cycled from Velneshwar to Pawas and crossed the Tavsal Jetty. Sushil adds, “It was interesting to see the Tavsal Jetty control point powered using solar energy with 200 watts of solar panels. The local bodies at Tavsal encouraged solar power for the people as an alternative source.”
Recce around Ganpatipule town and talking to the people revealed that many villages on the outskirts suffered from frequent power cuts. Sushil explained to the people how solar energy could be used, gave demos and donated a kwatt solar battery chargers.
Sushil’s trip gave him insight into not just the solar Etwin’s performance but also on the adoption and scope of solar-powered devices in the Konkan region. Sushil says that though solar energy is used in some villages on the Konkan Belt, maintenance is still an issue as the responsibility is not defined or adhered to.
A lot of solar water heaters were in use by the houses which was a good sign. In some remote villages on the coastal route, getting electricity even for a few hours is a big question mark. In these villages, people still use kerosene which is toxic and expensive in the long run. They spend Rs 600 annually to buy subsidised kerosene; the same amount can be used on solar lamps. It’s a one-time investment.