Will govt capitalise on solar taxi?

ISLAMABAD - A private company has proposed an innovative solar taxi system for the capital, claiming that it will not only provide a cheaper transport to the people but will also reduce import bill.
The proposal came from Islamabad-based Economia, which grabbed huge media attention last month after it launched country’s first commercial solar car.
According to the document available with TheNation, in this proposal to government the company has volunteered to build taxi stands at every metro bus station. Solar cars waiting there would carry passengers from bus station to different sectors of the city.
As many as 30 taxi stands and waiting areas have been proposed. They include two stations each at secretariat Kulsoom Plaza, Shaheed Millat, NIC Building, Centaurus, PIMS, 9Th Avenue Junction, Karachi Company, Peshawar Mor, Industrial area, IJP Junction and Faizabad, while six stands are kept for future provisions.
Solar taxi stands are also proposed for each sector and Markaz. There would be 47 taxi stands and waiting areas at approachable places from where passenger could travel to their destination in the capital. In this proposal, the Capital Development Authority has been asked to provide electricity connections so that the solar taxis could charge their batteries.
Company owner, Aslam Azad, while talking to The Nation claimed that this new taxi system will provide people with low cost transport and it will reduce import bill. “Government is providing low cost transport through Metro bus, but it does not fully cover Islamabad and people would have to use taxi to reach their destination”, he said.
He said in absence of sufficient public transport system, people have no choice but to use their own cars or taxis running on gas or petroleum fuels. With solar taxi system in place, nobody will use own car and number of conventional high cost taxi will be reduced.
Azad said after Islamabad, this solar car system can be introduced in other cities also. Despite his ambitious plan, there are many challenges in making this car acceptable to Pakistani people, who are addicted to high-speed motor vehicles.
In neighbouring country India, ambitiously marketed low cost car Tata Nano badly flopped. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the sales of this cheap car costing around $2,000, dropped from 10,000 in April 2012 to 2,500 a month in 2013.
With around 650 horsepower and up to 24 kilometres per litre petrol consumption, this economical car failed to attract common man due to its design, cheap looks and lack of modern features like air-conditioning, the journal said. Its slow speed was also a hindrance in making this car popular in hilly areas.
But Azad is confident that his battery-operated car will not only grab big share in market but people would also be happy to travel in it. “It is no comparison to Nano as it is unique in the sense that it is using five alternate energy resources including solar panels and hydraulic system, and is very cheap,” he said. He said his company would produce cars with latest features including air-conditioning in next step.
Azad’s solar car prototype is in testing stage yet but he is hopeful that within few months he will start its production on commercial scale. “It is the world’s first solar car which will be produced on commercial scale; as we are testing it, we are making it better every day, but we would surely start commercial manufacturing way before inauguration of Metro, which is on August 14, 2014,” he said.
This proposal has been sent to Ministry of Planning and Development and CDA simultaneously. After the approval from ministry, CDA would allocate land for this project. Azad is ready to take the chance, the ball now lies in government’s court. “We don’t need anything from government but permission, as we will build all infrastructures ourselves and will earn from passengers,” Azad said.

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