A lot of mathematical calculations, some engineering skills, and a lot of passion are what the Srinagar-based Bilal Ahmed has used to make the first solar-powered car that moved around in Srinagar on Monday to the amazement of the locals.
Father of two – Yosha, 3, and Maisha 7, this Srinagar teacher is awaiting help in getting cheaper Lithium batteries that could eventually increase the efficiency of his car. He wishes to set up his car manufacturing unit to be named YMC – Yosha Maisha Car, after his children.
Speaking to Awaz-the Voice from his Srinagar home, Bilal, 40, said, “I was always driven to innovations. My first innovation was LPG safety automatic stopper and I did it at a time when there was no artificial intelligence available to everyone in today’s Android mobile phones.”
He has a patent registered in his name for the LPG safety device and also for his latest innovation.
Bilal Ahmed with his Car
Hailing from the picturesque town of Tangmarg in central Kashmir, Bilal Ahmed’s family moved to Srinagar in 2005. Due to turmoil in Kashmir, Bilal got admitted to Gausia engineering college in Bengaluru, Karnataka, and completed his B.Tech in civil engineering. “I loved Bengaluru and didn’t want to return home,” he said.
His natural flair for mathematics has made him a star in his college days. “I would help students and even give tuitions to seniors and juniors in mathematics while I was in college and school. I simply love mathematics,” he said.
He has even coined an acronym for his passion MILE – Mathematics is the Lifeline of Engineering – and he once ran a coaching center under this name in Srinagar.
Bilal’s amazing solar car is the result of 11 years of dreaming, hunting for components, especially batteries that is the most expensive part of such a vehicle, and his pledge to make an affordable luxury car for the common man.
Sajid Yousuf Shah, Founder and CEO of media group The Real Kashmir News, posted this video of Bilal Ahmed's car on Twitter:
Meet Bilal Ahmad a School Teacher from Sanat Nagar Srinagar #Jammu and #Kashmir who innovates solar car.— Sajid Yousuf Shah (@TheSkandar) June 20, 2022
The innovative car made by him works on solar energy and has solar panels all over the surface. @narendramodi, @anandmahindra. pic.twitter.com/sPd9mHygSV
He had worked as a lecturer in engineering colleges in Srinagar, and run his mathematics coaching center rather successfully but the yearning for innovation in him was unleashed when he got an opportunity to work as a project associate for the Gyan Cell of the University of Kashmir. “We had a wonderful man in our Director as G M Bhat, who unfortunately passed away during the Covid pandemic. He has encouraged young people with their innovations. There are several innovations, especially from Anantnag (South Kashmir) that happened during his time and for which the innovators have got patent rights as well.”
Bilal’s other memorable stint was as a teacher in Army School, Akhnoor, Jammu. “This is the best school in J&K and I loved working there as a mathematics teacher.” He still gets a thrill while speaking of how he was selected for the job in the Army school among 29 other aspirants.
Bilal Ahmed bought a second-hand Nissan car from a former civil servant in Jammu. “He was physically challenged; his both legs didn’t work and the car was customized to his special needs,” Bilal said.
Suddenly Bilal thought of adding a customized feature for disabled people in his dream car. However, his biggest motivation for making a solar car was the idea that fossil fuels are going to be over by 2050 and there will be a lot of stress on this resource across the world after 2030.
“Kashmir is not a traditional market for spare parts: I would visit kabaris (trash collectors), workshops in Jammu, asked help from people on social media to get parts for my dream car,” he said.
Bilal Ahmed with his car at his home in Sannat Nagar, Srinagar
His biggest challenge was the choice of the battery. Ideally, Lithium batteries are the most powerful and suitable for optimizing the performance of solar cars. However, these have to be sourced from China and are very expensive.”
Bilal was in touch with a lot of people on the Internet. “Finally a solar battery manufacturer Mr. Murugun of Chennai helped me with batteries.” Bilal Ahmed even visited Chennai in search of batteries and managed to get pocket-friendly and customized batteries for his car.
"Cars like Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW are just a dream for a common person. Only a few people can afford it while it remains a dream for others to drive such cars and roam in them. I thought of something to give a luxurious feel to the people as well," he said. His car is an automated Japanese model and with solar power, its running cost has come down.
He says his car will run at the optimum speed and for a longer period with a better battery. “Lithium batteries are lighter and very powerful.” He says. Bilal Ahmed was happy to receive a congratulatory call from the NIT Srinagar. “I am expecting more support. I wish to get connected with India’s top auto bloggers,” he says.
(With Inputs from Basit Zargar)