The Journey Of A Man Who Travelled From India To London In A Solar Powered Auto Rickshaw

Sudhanva Shetty

January 13th, 2017

We see many who claim a passion for travelling.  However, only a few put their passion into action; only a few set out to travel the world.

But what if your dream of travelling around the world coincides with your obsession for clean energy and a green environment? What do you do then? You build an eco-friendly tuk-tuk and travel from India to the United Kingdom.

The Logical Indian interviewed one such individual who found a way to travel across continents in a solar-powered, emission-free tuk-tuk or an autorickshaw which he built and opted for by choice and not due to necessity.

Naveen Rabelli was born and brought up in India. He did his Masters in Australia, from where he began to realise his childhood dream. Since he was ten years old, Rabelli’s biggest dream was to travel around the world, experience different cultures, taste various local cuisines, witness natural phenomena, and visit as many places as he could.

And he did exactly that. After a five-year course in Australia, Rabelli set about realising his childhood dream. He made plans to visit the United Kingdom from Australia, stopping in as many places he could in between.

However, when he reached India, everything changed. He reached India in 2011 and somewhere along the way he encountered a sight that changed his outlook.

“I saw people wearing scarfs to safeguard themselves from the thick haze of air pollution that has enveloped the city. One striking photograph was that of a young woman, walking alone, probably to work, with a scarf draped across half her face with her weary eyes showing from the gap.”

It made him think. “I realised that my dream was contributing to making the lives of thousands of others a living hell. I wanted to travel around the world, but not at the cost of being party to the pollution that was gripping the world and adversely affecting these innocent people.”

Ever the engineer, Rabelli set about making a zero-emission vehicle. He resolved to travel the remaining distance from India to the United Kingdom (UK) – over 14,000 kilometres – without petrol and in a thoroughly pollution-free manner.

Tuk tuks are auto rickshaws in South Asia. They are also one of the leading causes of pollution in the region. Rabelli rose to the challenge and began to design a solar-powered, zero-emission, fully-green tuk-tuk that would take him from India to the UK. He decided to use his travel to teach people about the importance of sustainable existence.

It goes without being said that he faced several challenges along the way – the lack of resources, finances, time, and manpower being the foremost obstacles. He coached students for badminton alongside the project to pay for funds,

However, after nearly three years of hard, gruelling work, when the vehicle was deemed to be finished, it broke down in its first kilometre. Dejected and let-down, Rabelli could have given up the entire project. However, with his determination and his friends’ encouragement, he pursued until he finally fixed the problem.

The second time, the vehicle did not break down even once in 14,000 kilometres.

As it is with travelling, Rabelli learnt a lot along the way. His mode of transport being solar-powered, he had to stop every 60 to 80 kilometres to recharge or wait for the sun. Along the way, he also visited schools and universities to teach the importance of sustainable development and living. His journey began on 8 Feb 2015, and he reached London on 16 Sept 2016 generating a lot of media interest and raising awareness about clean energy.

Air pollution causes millions of deaths every year, worldwide. Though its causes are chiefly urban-centric, its effects are borderless. The cause of several health ailments and disorders, air pollution, is also a huge drain on a nation’s economy.

“Be aware,” Rabelli warns. “As human beings, we tend to be very careless, which is proving to be very costly. Go to Australia, Kerala, Bangalore, anywhere, and you will see how air pollution is on the rise. There is an abject lack of concern for our future. There is an urgent need to emphasise on public transport and green energy solutions for transport. We should wholly and truly adopt clean energy and decrease – or, better yet, eliminate – our contribution to environmental degradation. This is about our future, our planet, our health. If we do not take action now, there will be no second chances. If we do not take action, who will?”

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