Garbage collection in Chennai could soon have its place in the sun, thanks to Pi Beam Labs, being incubated at the IIT-Madras Research Park.

Pi Beam Labs is developing electric vehicles that are easier to use, cost-effective and long lasting. Visakh Sasikumar, CEO and Co-Founder, Pi Beam Labs, says solar-powered electric vehicles have many advantages but cost is still a limiting factor — the battery alone makes up about 40 per cent of the vehicle cost.

“To overcome the issue of cost and battery-life we are building a hybrid vehicle which is a combination of electric motor, solar panels and a pedal with an option to customise,” he says.

Garbage collector The company’s focus is on developing a garbage collector with increased efficiency. The Chennai Corporation currently has about 11,000 tricycles that carry waste from homes to the centralised garbage collectors. The cycles cover a distance of 10-20 km but last only six months. The solar-powered vehicle, currently in the design phase, is estimated to cost ₹45,000-₹65,000 and can carry a load of 200kg. More importantly, they have a lifespan of two years. The vehicles can move at a speed of 15 km per hour and travel a distance of 20 km. In case the charge runs out, the rider can use the pedal for moving the vehicle.

“We are giving importance to aesthetics. So, it will be enclosed to avoid the stench and we are also looking into other ideas to improve the looks,” Sasikumar says.

The team is in the process of finalising the design and the prototype will be ready by next March-April.

The company has received seed funding of ₹5 lakh from IIT-M’s incubation cell and ₹7.2 lakh through a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises grant from the government.

The company is in talks with Chennai Corporation and Pune-based SWACH, a cooperative of garbage workers, to deploy these vehicles for garbage collection.

Expansion plans

Jacob Thekkekara, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer, Pi Beam Labs, says though the company is currently focussing on garbage collection, it is looking to expand in other areas such as resorts and recreation spaces.

Stating that India has a market of $2.8 billion for golf cart and neighbourhood electric vehicles, Thekkekara says they are in talks with Anora Beach Resorts for supplying customised solar recreational vehicles.

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