On 21 February 2016, after spending his life’s savings creating a solar powered tuk tuk, 35 year-old electrical engineer, Naveen Rabelli, set off to London from Bangalore, India in his creation, with Austrian film maker Raoul Kopacka.
The pair want to prove that being good to the planet is a state of mind and something achievable. Mr Rabelli’s tuk tuk was made from a standard Piaggio Ape with basic tools and materials, and could fairly easily be recreated by others in India and around the world.
The Piaggio Ape, despite being almost synonymous with India, was invented in Italy after the second world war as an affordable means of transport for anyone needing to carry a load in Italy’s straightened economic climate following the conflict.
In 2015, Piaggio sold over 188,000 of these iconic three-wheeled vehicles around the world.
Mr Rabelli’s solar tuk tuk has a top speed of 40 km/h and runs for around 85 km on a full charge, making for a slow trip with many stops. The tuk tuk’s power doesn’t always come from the sun. It can also be plugged in and charged. The bright red machine was spotted in Germany plugged into a charging point outside an Aldi supermarket by one Facebook user.
The three-wheeled intercontinental light transport vehicle arrived in Zurich on 19 August, before passing through Lucerne, Bern and Lausanne on its way to Geneva. While in Switzerland, Mr Rabelli met with Louis Palmer, who inspired him to pursue his project. Louis Palmer is a Swiss solar vehicle entrepreneur. In 2008, after travelling more than 54.000 km through 38 countries, his dream of making it around the world in a solar vehicle ended with a traffic accident in India. Here is a video showing his car.
If Mr Rabelli makes the return trip he should consider a stop in Payerne, Switzerland, the home of Solar Impulse II the round-the-world solar aircraft, which completed its successful record breaking trip less than one month ago.
The full journey from Bangalore to London is around 10,000 km. The pair ambitiously aimed to complete the full trip in 100 days. It is now 186 days since they left. On the bright side, it’s hot and the sun is out everywhere between Geneva and London. Great for charging the batteries. Although travelling with the windows down – Piaggio Ape air conditioning – might reduce its aerodynamic performance.
You can follow the rest of the journey on Facebook.
Solar tuk tuk website (in English)