A German-Indian startup called Nunam is bringing three electric rickshaws to Indian roads using Audi-sourced second-life batteries.

Powered by used battery modules taken from Audi e-tron test vehicles, these electric rickshaws serve the purpose of showing how modules made with high-voltage batteries can be reused after their car life cycle and become a viable second-life use case. As a secondary purpose, the three electric rickshaws will strengthen job opportunities for women in India, transporting their goods to market for sale without the need for intermediaries.

Funded by the Audi Environmental Foundation, the Nunam non-profit startup developed the three prototypes in collaboration with the training team at Audi's Neckarsulm site, marking the first joint project between both Audi AG and the Audi Environmental Foundation in addition to Nunam.

The e-rickshaws powered by used Audi e-tron battery modules are scheduled to hit Indian roads for the first time in a pilot project in early 2023. 

Gallery: Audi e-rickshaw concept powered by second-life e-tron batteries

"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. 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.' In this way, we're trying to find out how much power the batteries can still provide in this demanding use case."

Nunam cofounder Prodip Chatterjee

The startup's main goal is to develop ways to use old batteries as second-life power storage systems, thus both extending their lives and using resources more efficiently.

Why start with rickshaws? Chatterjee says these vehicles have "an ideal eco-efficiency" as the electric motor doesn't have to be particularly powerful, helping the vehicle achieve a comparatively low weight. Furthermore, the high-energy-density battery is superior to common e-rickshaws currently in use in India that feature lead-acid batteries, which have a relatively short service life and are often not disposed of properly.

And while typical rickshaw drivers charge their vehicles primarily with public grid electricity, which has a high proportion of coal-fired power in India, Nunam's e-rickshaws will charge using power from solar charging stations set up at local partner's premises. 

In addition to the three rickshaws intended for road use in India, Audi trainees at the Neckarsulm site are developing an additional show rickshaw in cooperation with Nunam. The vehicle will be on display and available for test drives at the Greenwich Festival in Berlin from June 22.

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