Audi has started a new project that will see old batteries from its e-tron electric cars given a second life in powering rickshaws in India. 

Working with start-up Nunam, which is based in Berlin and Bangalore and funded by the Audi Environmental Foundation, the rickshaws will be powered by used batteries taken out of Audi’s test vehicles. The brand is keen to explore how the high-voltage batteries can be reused after their time in a car is up. 

The e-rickshaws are set to hit the roads in India from early 2023 in the trial project, and will be made available in a non-profit organisation, with Audi keen to point out that the batteries still have a ‘lot of power’ even when they’re no longer suitable for use in EVs. 

Nunam cofounder Prodip Chatterjee, said: “The old batteries are still extremely powerful. “When used appropriately, second-life batteries can have a huge impact, helping people in challenging life situations earn an income and gain economic independence – everything in a sustainable way.”

They’re said to work particularly well in electric rickshaws because of the vehicles’ low weight, meaning they don’t need a very powerful electric motor. Typically, rickshaws also run on lead-acid batteries, which are said to have a ‘relatively short service life’ and are ‘often not disposed of properly’. 

Data from the trial project will be readily available, with Nunam openly encouraging imitation, to explore further uses for second-life batteries and reduce the environmental footprint. 

Nunam also says the batteries here will largely be powered by solar, while even once they’re no longer suitable for use in a rickshaw, Audi says their ‘remaining power can be used for stationary applications’, such as LED lights. 

Elsewhere, the project is aiming to work particularly close to women, strengthening the job opportunities available due to easier travel.