German automotive behemoth Audi has teamed up with Nunam, a German-Indian business that is developing electric rickshaws in India using end-of-life EV batteries. It also intends to use the batteries to assist in the development of a more environmentally friendly charging infrastructure, with zero-emissions across the entire energy lifespan as one of its main goals.

“Car batteries are designed to last the life of the car. But even after their initial use in a vehicle, they still have a lot of their power,” said Prodip Chatterjee, co-founder of Nunam, in an article by CarScoops. “For vehicles with lower range and power requirements, as well as lower overall weight, they are extremely promising. In our second-life project, we reuse batteries from electric cars in electric vehicles; you might call it electric mobility ‘lite’.”

It's nothing new to recycle automotive batteries for use in electric vehicles. Nunam isn't the first startup to think of putting electricity in rickshaws, which are a familiar sight in India due to increasing gas prices and an insatiable demand for mobility. However, lead-acid batteries, which aren't especially power-dense and have a limited operational life cycle, are used in the majority of electric rickshaws and low-cost electric scooters. They're also frequently not properly disposed of, which can have disastrous environmental implications.

Weight and efficiency aside, existing e-rickshaws are generally powered by the Indian electrical grid, which contains a number of coal-fired power plants. Doesn't this sort of negate the whole green energy concept? To address this, Nunam will also engage with partner companies in India to set up sustainable charging stations that are not connected to the Indian power grid, in order to prevent carbon emissions. Solar panels will be used to create electricity, which will then be stored in Audi batteries. Nunam's electric rickshaws will be able to charge at these stations, therefore eliminating emissions.

The nonprofit firm will also work to make its e-rickshaws more accessible to women in order to help them get their items to market without the use of brokers. “Initiatives like the one pioneered by Nunam are needed to find new use cases for e-waste—not only in India but worldwide,” said Rüdiger Recknagel, the director of Audi’s environmental foundation in the same CarScoops writeup. “So Nunam shares its knowledge to motivate more initiatives to develop products with second-life components that can drive the eco-social revolution forward,” he concluded.


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