Environment

Santhosh Thannikat’s SuryaKranti: A dream to bring a solar car race to India

Santhosh Thannikat, a volunteer at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, 2019, talks about his plans to host a similar rally in India

When Santhosh Thannikat reaches Darwin, Australia, on October 10, it will be a dream come true. Volunteering at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC), is only one part of it. The other is that of an Indian team participating in the event that has entries from universities around the globe. Each team will drive a solar battery-operated car made by them through a distance of 3,000 km from Darwin to Adelaide. This year, 53 teams from 24 countries are participating.

As a volunteer, Santhosh will undergo two days of orientation before the event and will be seated in the rear escort vehicle of the convoy. There are two categories of racing cars: single-seater or the Challenger and four-seater or the Cruiser. “Volunteering for this requires professionalism. The volunteer has to be observant and alert at all times. Our role will include time-keeping, location and route details, overnight impounding of batteries, driver’s details, ballast and safety issues.”

Santhosh explains that India did not qualify in the two races it previously participated in (2015 and 2017) “on the grounds of unmet standards. The car specifications are four square metres of solar panel, 20 kg battery and a speed of 60 kmph, apart from other markers of road worthiness.”

Santhosh also hopes to bring a solar car race to India with SuryaKranti. This is a race that he has conceptualised from Chennai to Jammu to take place in September 2020. He is in the process of forming an organising committee to set the rules and regulations for the race. He is contacting government departments like the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and corporates, private individuals, scientists and faculty from engineering colleges to join him in this venture. Santhosh aims to contact and connect with India’s 23 IITs, 31 RECs, 10,000 private engineering colleges and three million engineering students and is in talks with youth bodies like Yi-CII, AIESEC and IYCN to help with operations on the ground.

“The real challenge for engineering students is to create a car that meets international standards,” he says, adding that this project will help bridge the 30-year gap in technology application between India and the rest of the world. “We cannot have an entry in SuryaKranti that is of lower quality than that of BWSC. India produces 25% of the world’s engineers; we should be able to make a quality solar car. DRDO and ISRO have the technology and engineers needed to pull it off and manufacture a competitive vehicle.”

IIT Ropar has already agreed to work with him, as have several scientists and academicians.

Before he leaves for Australia, Santhosh is working towards throwing open SuryaKranti to the young engineers of the country.

For details, log into: www.suryakranti.org

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 11:16:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/santhosh-thannikats-suryakranti-a-dream-to-bring-a-solar-car-race-to-india/article28506084.ece

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