Sunday, June 29, 2008

Look to the right

This, is a tuk-tuk.

It is a three wheeled contraption that fits three persons conformably (counting the driver), four if they squeeze, and 10 if they are Indian. Tuk-tuks are made of single layers of sheet metal, yellow fabric, and Krishna stickers. Also known as autorickshaws, they are the modern art of transportation: minimal and effective. In comparison, Western cars look like a government payout to the steel industry. They are all so big on the outside and yet so small on the inside. In that sense, mainstream cars are reverse-TARDISes. I prefer the simple three-layered construction of the rickshaws: humans on seats on wheels (The frame is only there to hold the stickers.) There is so little space dedicated to non-human-body elements, they depend on the unfortunate miracle of the two-stroke engine to make them go.

Which means, of course, that they pollute like the farting of a sacred cow confined to a small bedroom. Bangalore is a parade of out-of-tune 2-strokers running off of salvaged lubricant. There is a real business opportunity in opening a shop that would pacify the exhaust of tuk-tuks for free, then sell the resulting carbon offsets on the market.

Until someone figures out how to build a small electric engine out of the recycled parts of a 2-strokes engine, India is stuck with this ugly, evil, insidious device hatched by misbegotten Communists.

Rather, the future rests with hip, cool, great ideas, such as the Topia HUVO.

Wish us luck.


Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

You've read the auto (nobody ever calls it an “autorickshaw”, except when speaking to foreigners) to perfection. That said, my father pointed out that there has been a movement to run various contraptions—from autos to buses—off CNG. My dad pointed to various sources for this information; in return I reminded him of the air in Bangalore. Damn two-strokes. But the most fun transport on earth. Remember, it's just a different body on a scooter chassis.

Andrew said...

Bah. I'm sure you can get a good old four stroke that'll fit. I mean, I'm pretty sure my lawn mower has one; 5 horse power! That at least will fix the out-of-tune issue :-)

Just think, though. While those little engines are spewing out smoke, I bet they are relatively efficient compared to modern cars given that their engines are most likely very small and their construction is very light. While they may be smoky, I would be their carbon footprint is fairly tiny.