ISLAMABAD: The government had promised to import small hybrid cars – 1,000 cc to 1,200 cc – but the multi-billion dollar monopolists prevailed. This year’s budget had no hint of hybrid cars to conserve energy.
Whether the Japanese-made hybrids make it to the Pakistani roads or otherwise, the road-scape of the country is set to change for the better. Air-conditioned, equipped with a GPS tracking system and strong, all-weather frame are just a few characteristics of your next travelling companion. The new made-in-Pakistan cars and commuter vans will run on anything but hydrocarbons.
Yet it won’t be a typical solar-driven car too. The next generation hybrid can consume an assortment of energies, some which you won’t even be able to name. Besides solar, the long list of its fuels includes kinetic, organic cell, pneumatic, magnetic generator and even external electrical or battery charging. The man behind the idea is no MIT-graduate but an engineer with no fancy degree or alumni. Aslam Azad has made his name in the field of air conditioning. Sans an elaborate marketing team, the Shaikhupura native has pioneered in designing and manufacturing of energy saving central heating system since 1997 using brand name ‘Economia’.
He drives to his office in first prototype Eco 1. The doorless two-seater is so unassuming to be boasting its promise of the future. Parked next to brand new SUVs and sedans, this yet un-branded car still makes a statement. While its neighboring vehicles turn into ovens, the ‘new hybrid’ refuels itself. “I have used the best possible battery which charge faster while providing higher outut,” explains Aslam, while clarifying that the standard batteries can’t run a car like his invention to longer distance and faster speeds.
Like it or not, long queues of CNG-starving cars may fade into a dark memory of the past. This all is for real, subject to a few ifs and buts. True to his claims, Aslam’s office is a true clean energy geek. His office is wired with a solar power generation system while diesel generators’ signature howling rips through eardrums in the capital’s ugly business sector, bizarrely called Blue Area. Though ‘Economia’ has launched three models of his Eco cars for booking online, the vehicle is due next year. Matching the performance and safety specifications of any imported or locally-made 1,000 cc car, the smallest Eco 1 is priced four times less than its competitors.
“We are working to improve its speed from 60 kilometers but there won’t be anything you’ll miss in this vehicles,” Aslam promises in his polite and low-profile demeanor. He is eyeing to produce 1 million taxis to act his brand ambassadors while saving money and reducing the nation’s oil import bill. “This makes excellent business sense and the sky is the limit for us,” he explains. So far, high on rhetoric but low on vision commercial banks have shied away from working with the inventors of Economia.
Aslam believes in respecting patents, thus everything in the country’s first next generation hybrid car will be genuinely original. “Had this not been the case, I would have brought the cars on our road say five years ago. Respect for intellectual property rights helps you a long way in innovation and business both,” he passionately elucidates. The Japanese made coasters or commuters vans plying between the twin cities and elsewhere in the country have a more promising competitor from the public’s perspective. The 12-seater alternate resembles a golf-cart but has greater leg and head room than the most vans ‘serving’ the people.
He plans to build public waiting areas along the Metro route with dual purpose of being electric charging station for his solar hybrid cars or taxis. Some 30-odd taxi stands-cum-waiting areas will be constructed on busy point like Kulsoom Plaza, Shaheed Millat, NIC Building, Centaurus, PIMS, 9Th Avenue Junction, Karachi Company, Peshawar More, Industrial Area, IJP Junction Faizabad etc. Aslam plans have a network of franchises across the country, offering training, sale and spare part services. “The owner will receive one-day training to drive and maintain the car while serving and repair won’t be possible with our un-certified mechanics,” he explains the rationale behind the decision.
The smallest of his cars’ range has proven many road tests by expert engineers and scientists. While its solar cells can stand a revolver shot fired from 10-meter distance, the vehicle can carry a load of 1,200 kg. “It’s going to be a roaring success. I can confidently tell you so,” said COMSATS Rector Dr S M Junaid Zaidi after driving the car during an expo in Islamabad. Thanks to positive reviews the car, which is not final version but a prototype, has received so far, it’s just the beginning, says ambitious but patient Aslam.
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