It is not uncommon to find youngsters of today fixated on finding a definite career path. But Neel Shah, a student of Class 12 at Zenith High School at Vadodara, Gujarat, is doing far more than just working towards job-worthy aptitude.
He made a solar battery-powered e-bike out of a common electrical one from the local junkyard.
“My interest in the laws of science piqued right in my childhood. I would always be curious about questions like how solar energy works and how different mechanisms work for the benefit of people,” Neel tells The Better India.
In Class 7, he single-handedly built a helicopter out of a plastic bottle and waste cardboard for a ‘Best Out of Waste’ school competition. Bit by the innovation bug, he chose the science stream after Class 10 to concretise his interest in the field.
He shares that his physics teacher Santosh Kaushik fueled his interest in the field and would give him a topic to study on and oversee the outcomes of his research.
Of late, they had been conversing on the matter of solar energy and this inspired Neel to gain some practical experience. Amid rising fuel prices and contentious electricity bills, he could see the plight of the common man and wished to do something about it.
This gave birth to the prototype of an electric bicycle that involves no running or charging cost and reduces the traveller’s carbon footprint.
The Bicycle Project
When Neel told his father, a retired government employee, that he wished to dabble in solar powered innovations, he was immediately supportive.
“He went out and bought me a second hand e-bike from a local scrap dealership, as it was my first attempt and could go wrong. This cost us a mere Rs 300,” he says.
Next up, Neel bought two 10 watt solar panels, a pair of 2 volt batteries and a dynamo alternator. The final investment rounded off to Rs 12,000, which he says was covered up by not having to pay fuel prices.
“The dynamo is a motor run device which is attached to the tire. When the wheel rotates, it generates electricity through natural current. This means that while the solar panels charge the bike during the daytime, the dynamo charges it at night, without costing a dime,” he states.
The prototype works on a relay charging system, which means that the panels actively charge it under the sun even while it’s running. According to the young innovator, it takes roughly 8 hours to fully charge and runs up to 15 km.
“If you increase the capacity of the panels or battery, the distance increases as well,” he adds.
While it took him only 30 days to get this model running, Neel reveals that it took him half the time to conduct adequate research. This renovation employed the principles of mechanical and electrical engineering, both of which stood beyond the purview of his school syllabus.
“This is not even a field I wish to pursue a career in. I want to be a physicist and do my PhD in the same subject. But this project taught me skills that will help me in life and make things better for the people around me,” he says.
The 18-year-old relishes the moment as he relates the excellent learning experience he has had with this project. He reveals no plans to market the product as of now, but shares that he uses the bike to ride to school and other places in the vicinity on a daily basis.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao