After many trips to India and different parts of Asia over the years, American adventurer, entrepreneur, and environmentalist, Adam Rice, was struck by the challenges that faced the overcrowded, third-world countries he often visited. Besides the typical issues of sanitation, proper housing, and clean drinking water, he recognized that one of the biggest challenges facing inner cities like Mumbai and Bangkok was an effective means of transportation for its growing populations. This got him thinking about the challenges in his own adopted country of Germany, and what lie ahead for the future.
Since the 1950s, many parts of Asia and Africa have addressed their short-haul transportation problems through the widespread use of the traditional 3-wheeled “Tuk Tuk”, also known as an “auto-rickshaw”. The tuk tuk (whose name is derived from the sound it's engine makes) is small, lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to drive and navigate through the typically crowded streets of major metropolitan areas.
There are currently more tens of thousands of tuk tuks on the streets of Mumbai alone. Their small profiles take up less space on the roads, and their lower weight causes less wear-and-tear to pavement, thereby lowering expensive infrastructure costs. They're also a magnet for tourists due to their high novelty value, but are revered by the locals alike as a cheap way to get around.
Although it seems to be the perfect inner-city transportation medium, the main drawback to the traditional tuk tuk is that its 2-stroke engines are highly inefficient users of fuel: up to 40 percent of the fuel and oil goes out of the exhaust pipe unburned. This exhaust is packed with oxides of carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, hydrocarbons and fine dust - all toxic contributors to air pollution. In Bangkok, it is estimated that 2-stroke engines contribute to 47% of pollution particles in the air (source: www.nowpublic.com, Jan. 3, 2009). They are also a major contributor to noise pollution, often registering at over the 95db mark.
With many harrowing rickshaw rides under his belt, Adam wondered, however, if the tuk tuk couldn't provide a solution for the growing transportation issues facing European cities, but in a more eco-friendly fashion. After hearing German Chancellor Angela Merkel declare that "it is Germany's goal to become the world leader in electric mobility," he recognized that the future lies in finding a partner to create an electric version of the tuk tuk. One that would create no emissions, run silently, and fit with Germany's future goals.
In early 2010, Adam found that partner in the Dutch company Tuk Tuk Factory. After having a similar vision in 2006, and importing tuk tuks from Thailand which had been converted to CNG (compressed natural gas) in order to address a shortage of transportation between Rotterdam and the beach resort of Renesse, their engineers successfully created an electric version of their tuk tuks which had a range of 80km and a top speed of 50km/h.
Using this technology, Adam founded eTukTuk Berlin in May 2010, which is the first fully electric, eco-friendly special event, promotions, mobile marketing and tour company in Germany. In February 2011 the eTukTuk GmbH was founded.