Dr Jino Joy Thomas has travelled through a path that no one has taken until now; he can be credited with discovering a technology that could convert a traditional internal combustion engine into an electric one.
Electric bike with a gear
Usually, electric scooters have a battery pack and a motor. However, Jino's bike has a gear system too and that is its standout feature. He has used a standard TVS 100cc Victor bike for the conversion.
In one look it is difficult to make out the changes. If you discount the solar panel, it is a regular TVS Victor. Look at the engine and you will get to know it is electric. Jino uses the bike for his daily commute to the campus. Initially people refused to accept it was an electric bike, says Jino. When they found that the bike makes no noise and does not emit anything, they started noticing.
In a standard electric scooter, a battery pack that weighs around 40 kg is used. But the lithium ion battery made by Jino weighs a paltry 10 kg. Such a battery could easily cost Rs 75,000 in the market, but Jino designed the pack on his own, cutting down the expenditure to just Rs 35,000.
The battery has been mounted inside the fuel tank of the motorcycle. The pack has been split into two so that they could be fixed easily and fit properly. A 3-ampere adaptor is used for charging. It takes eight hours to fully charge the battery and costs just Rs 15. If a 10-amp adaptor is used, the charging will take only two hours. A single charge will provide the bike a range of 50-60 km. The battery pack can be augmented to increase the range if need be. The battery capacity was capped at 40 amp hour so that it can fit easily inside the fuel tank, says Jino.
A standard Victor weighs 117 kg; even after turning electric with the extra battery the weight has not increased. This has been done by removing the engine cylinder unit, the silencer and other such components. The engine was replaced with an electric motor. There are no other changes; the chassis was not strengthened or cut. In fact, there is not much to differentiate it from the standard Victor.
In order to reduce the load on the motor, Jino introduced the gear-clutch mechanism. The battery also gets recharged while braking. A 2 hp 3-phase BLDC motor has been used in the bike. Since it is a brushless motor, maintenance would be low. RPM is rated at a maximum of 3,000.
Jino has retained the four-speed gearbox of the Victor. Using the gear mechanism, Jino overcame the speed restriction posed by the limited 3,000 rpm of the motor. The Victor can achieve a maximum speed of 70 kmph. Gear changes and clutch operations are similar to a standard bike. The electric motor is smoother than the petrol unit. The motor offers high torque, which means frequent gear changes are not needed. There are no major changes done to the gear ratio too. Jino has deployed a three-clutch system to reduce the load, which also smoothens and cools down the motor. The motor operates only when throttle input is given.
Jino started the project in 2015, submitted it by 2018 and received his PhD in 2019 from CET Engineering College, Thiruvananthapuram.
He has spent a total of Rs 50,000 on the project. The motor itself cost Rs 8,000. If he had chosen to buy from India, the cost would have gone up, says Jino. Hence, he bought the motor and other necessary components (controller, throttle) from China. The battery cell was bought from Delhi. He has mated a solar charging system too to the bike. The battery has a life of three years or 5,000 recharges. The solar system cost Rs5,000-Rs6,000.
Motor-less electric bike
If the first bike has an electric motor to power it, the second one has a standard internal combustion engine and battery. But the fuel is not petrol but the battery powers the engine. Jino has bypassed process of combustion of a fuel in the engine and converted it into an electric one. The piston is not driven by the energy produced by the burning of fuel but electric power. The board and circuit controller mechanism needed for this was developed by Jinu himself. The cylinder kit made way for the electric cylinder kit, which itself was as cumbersome task, says Jino.
If you compare the IC engine with the electric powered engine, maintenance will be low, says Jino. The total expenditure required to convert an IC engine to an electric engine will be around Rs 40,000. Out of this the battery would alone account for Rs 35,000. This bike too has a four-speed gearbox. Jino took more than a year to develop this bike. He has applied for patents for both the vehicles.
Jino was guided by Dr Ushakumari, former electrical engineering department HoD at CET College, in his projects. She was also his research guide. Jino is the youngest of the two children of Joy Thomas and Thresyamma of Idukki.