In large cities across Asia, auto rickshaws (tuktuks) are one of the most important means of transportation. These tuktuks produce considerable CO2 emissions and air pollution, and their drivers are underpaid. Students participating in the Hybrid Auto Rickshaw project sought to cut CO2 emissions by 40%, while improving the economic positions of drivers.

The Hybrid Auto Rickshaw project was started by Stef van Dongen, founder of Enviu - an international organization working to implement sustainable development. Students of seven different technical universities in the Netherlands and India worked to design the most efficient, easy to implement, and affordable upgrade kit for existing auto rickshaws.

Auto rickshaw drivers are part of the poorer economic groups of society, and earn on average $3 to $4 a day. The goals of the Hybrid Auto Rickshaw were to reduce the CO2 emission of auto rickshaws by at least 40%, improve the economic situation of the auto rickshaw drivers and their families by lower fuel costs and more efficient motors, and improve the air quality in large Asian cities.

In order to get accurate and current information about the auto rickshaw sector, a base line study was made by Enviu in cooperation with local experts in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The research revealed that it was possible to increase the incomes of rickshaw drivers by at least 35%.

The contestants' efforts were displayed in the Hybrid Tuktuk Battle, held in Chennai, India from July 22-25. A panel of jurors included Tom Coronel, one of Holland's most successful racing drivers; Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch astronaut to go into space; and Wouter van Dieren, chairman of the Institute for Environment and System Analysis in Amsterdam (IMSA).

Students of Hogeschool Arnhem and Nijmegen (HAN) won the battle - HAN’ds On Eco Tuk has an LPG direct injection system that saves up to 26% of energy and 53% on fuel costs, compared to a regular petrol tuktuk. The winning tuktuk only costs about $200.

Enviu has hopes to upgrade one million auto-rickshaws.

(Hybrid Auto Rickshaw)