Operation Electrickery: The Rickshaw Run Sounds Stupid, Deadly, and FunThe Adventurists want you to drive an electric rickshaw without dying so you can save the world.
- Words Gary J Boulanger
- Images The Adventurists
Would you consider taking on the world in a glorified lawnmower? British enviro travel guide leader Tom Morgan and his team have. Morgan absolutely gushes over the thought of improving the mighty rickshaw, and has a master plan.
The Bristol, UK enviro travel guides known as the Adventurists — self-proclaimed ‘generators of odysseys and chaos’ — vouch to make the world less boring.
‘Our planet used to slap us about the face-cheeks with iron fists of adventure every day. Maps had edges to walk off,’ their’ credo proclaims. ‘Whole continents lay undiscovered. But now, the entire surface of the Earth has been scanned by satellites and shoveled into your mobile phone, tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite.
‘We live to find ways to make the world a bit more difficult. To bring chaos into our over-sanitized lives. To create adventures where you don’t know what will happen tomorrow or if you’ll even make it. Because we think there’s no greater moment than those seconds as you leap into an abyss of uncertainty and disaster.’
Corradine D’Ascanio designed the Vespa scooter before bringing the Piaggio Ape to market in 1947. Twelve years later the design was licensed to a then little-known Indian company called Bajaj. That year the Indian government gave them a license to sell ‘em, and what originated in Italy spread via India to the world.
The Rickshaw Run was created when Morgan fell in love with the ‘glorified lawnmowers’ while touring India. The first edition launched in December 2006 from Kochi, Kerala and snaked its way up to Darjeeling, West Bengal. Nobody knew if it was even possible, but Morgan was determined.
Since these humble beginnings, the Rickshaw Run has grown into a 3-wheeled beast. There have been more than 35 editions, and literally, tens of thousands of people have gathered at the altar of Rickshaw from all corners of the globe.
Whole continents lay undiscovered. But now, the entire surface of the Earth has been scanned by satellites and shoveled into your mobile phone, tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite.
Morgan & Co. wanted to support something that would actually save the world a bit. Then it hit them ‘like a well-polished brogue to the nuts: we must save every rainforest in the world so future generations have somewhere to get stuck…and can also breathe. Not because we’re tree hugging sandal weavers, but because the world would be shit without them.’
The Adventurists choose Cool Earth as its official charity, who Morgan believes is doing an incredible job protecting more rainforest than the UN and all other nation-states on Earth–they are quite literally saving the world.
Since 2013 all participating Adventurists have protected over 9 million trees in the rainforest, which equates to about 9.4 million tons of CO2. That’s roughly offset the carbon produced by every single two- and three-wheeled vehicle in the entire world for a whole month. So the tiny bit of emissions Adventurists produced has been offset tens of thousands of times over.
“That’s mind-explodingly great,” Morgan said. “But it’s obviously better if we also produce no emissions in the first place. We love adventure and it will be somewhat shit if we turn the world into a boiling firepit with no animals left to eat us.
“Rickshaws are awesome,” he added. “Their three-wheeled prowess on the dirt tracks of adventure needs no sugar coating. They’re shit uphill. They fall over easily. They break down. The suspension is rubbish, the rain floods in… blah blah blah; you’ve heard all their magical plus points before. But they have one downside: their 2-stroke wonder engines are crap for the environment.
“So to make sure we do even more to save the world we’ve been hatching this plan for some years now.”
Morgan and his merry Adventurists plan to accomplish three main objectives:
Electric rickshaws exist of course. But Morgan feels it would be a waste of materials to pick up something new. The plan? The Ultimate Electric Adventure Rickshaw will be based on his existing fleet of classic rickshaws designed in 1947. They’ll be pulling out the old engines and replacing them with `spiff-jazz’ electrical motors.
“We won’t do our whole fleet in one go because getting the conversion right will take some trial, error, catastrophe and research,” Morgan explained. “Hence the call for electro-pioneers. We’re also teaming up with a notable Indian University to help refine the design. Our first prototypes are being built very soon and these will form the sort of basic platform from which future evolution will grow.
“Each time we run the adventure we’ll convert more and more of the fleet to electrickery.”
We love adventure and it will be somewhat shit if we turn the world into a boiling firepit with no animals left to eat us.
According to Morgan, rickshaw Wallas are the heroes of every Indian town. “They keep the people of the sub-continent moving,” he said. “They’re also generally not very well off. It’s a tough business to make a living from and the margins are shit. An electric rickshaw is five-times cheaper per kilometer (or more with a rooftop solar panel). All of that is money they can take home to their family.
“So every time we run the Rickshaw Run we will be using some of our participants’ entry fees to convert local Walla’s rickshaws for free,” he added. “How many rickshaws we can do each time will depend a little on the cost of the eventual kit we settle on.”
When you commit to a Rickshaw Run the Adventurists ask you to raise at least £500 for charity.
“This goes directly to the charity you’re supporting — not us — so your friends know their pennies are going to a great cause,” Morgan explained.
Morgan knows what you’re thinking: ‘hang on smug-face, an electric rickshaw won’t break down as much, so it won’t be an adventure.’ But he would reply (smugly) ‘that’s where you are wrong. Its electric-ness means it essentially breaks down all the time when it runs out of battery.’ Participants will be finding ways to charge from all manner of random people’s houses and plug sockets.
“It’s like genetically programmed in adventure chaos,” he added. “Plus the brakes are still rubbish, they are still as comfy as having piles and they still fall over round corners. So in fact these are even more stupid.”
Morgan’s world-moving name for this is Operation Electrickery.
“If you can’t already tell, I’m pretty excited about this,” he said. “I love the Rickshaw Run and electricity makes it more ridiculous and better for the world. Double win in my books.
“Next up is getting teams to India with no emissions. While this plan is not ready to go, it is in the works and it is fucking stupid.”The Adventurists