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Powering Electric Vehicles in Extreme Weather Conditions

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India has been one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19. Apart from the staggering impact on human lives, the virus pushed students to attend classes in the online mode. However, this shift also opened opportunities for expanding our learning given the availability of unique platforms that we could now leverage in the virtual mode.

Therefore, when I heard about HCL Jigsaw, India’s Premier Critical Reasoning Platform, I was keen to participate in the same as it encouraged participants to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

HCL is a renowned technology organization globally and especially in India. They have designed Jigsaw as a unique platform to assess important 21st-century skills in young (Grade 6 to 9) Indian students like me. The multi-level competition included an Olympiad style competition at the first level, followed by solving a real world problem in teams of three. In the final stage, 36 students (nine per grade) presented individual plans to solve a real-world case scenario to an expert jury. Three winners were selected for each grade and I was one of those for the Grade 9 category. My winning solution focused on designing an Electric Vehicle suitable for extreme weather conditions. 

 

The situation that was given to all Grade 9 students was about a Gurugram based couple, who worked towards minimizing their carbon footprint by installing solar panels in their home and buying an electric car. The problem arises when the couple relocates to Jaisalmer. 

 

We had to come up with a solution that makes electric vehicles sustainable in desert areas.

To resolve the issue, I had to look at the root of the problem -- the use of electric vehicles is only restricted to metro cities -- resulting in fewer or no charging stations in other cities. 

 

Jaisalmer’s hot weather would drain the battery fast as the cooling system is controlled by the outside temperature and will eventually decrease the range of the car. Some of the probable solutions suggested by the programme in charge were using an Alternative Fuel Source like Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Compressed Natural Gas, or Biodiesel, or an alternative power source such as Solar Panels/Cells, Wireless EV Charging, or Thermo-Electric Generator.

 

I found these options quite complicated and decided to keep my idea simple. I suggested to add a battery in the front boot of the car, a space which is usually empty in electric cars. Additional batteries would not only increase the range of the car but will also address the problem of frequent charging. An additional rechargeable battery in the boot of the car would help increase its range, which would allow the car to run for longer distance even in extreme weather conditions. This would be a safe solution to the problems.

 

To increase the efficiency of my solution, I also suggested installing a solar panel on top of the car that would charge the batteries on the go. Due to fewer charging stations in the city, solar panels would help charge the car on a continual basis.

 

In India, the concept of electric vehicles is still unfamiliar to a large extent, nonetheless, it is making its presence in the market. With growing awareness in consumers regarding pollution control and using an eco-friendly and sustainable product, people are opting for such solutions for a better future. 

 

The competition allowed me to explore the technicalities of electric vehicles and what more could be done to make them more useful and people-friendly in different weather conditions. As one of the winners, I was awarded a trophy, an HP Laptop, an HP Printer, and Bose speakers. Overall, it was an enriching experience, and I hope one day that I will be able to turn a modified and better version of my ideas into a reality.

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