Never curb your creativity - you might change people’s lives

Anand Bhisey: Associate Professor

Centre for E-Learning & Development Communication
Your idea might lead to a pioneering invention or discovery!

When studying for our Diploma in Electrical Engineering more than 30 years ago, me and my classmates used to discuss many things technical.  One topic we discussed extensively one day was a battery-powered two-wheeler.  A company had launched one, but the attempt had failed.  One reason was that the vehicle did not look good and was uncomfortable to ride - the rider had to keep his feet awkwardly on the battery, placed under the foot-board.  Another reason was that petrol was not all that costly then, and there was very little awareness about the need to conserve fossil fuels and to use renewable energy.

We, with our nascent technical knowledge, concluded that the manufacturer had basically only replaced the engine with a DC motor (the other modification being placing the battery under the foot-board, of course).  The delivery mechanism - the mechanism to transfer motion from the motor to the wheel - remained the same, that is, through a chain, like in a conventional motorcycle.  This was another drawback, because it made the system inefficient.  It does not matter much in a petrol vehicle, because the rider has many points where he can refuel.  However, it became a negative point for the new vehicle, because it consumed the charge in the battery faster, and the rider had to drag the vehicle to a place where the battery could be recharged.  This could mean a short or a long trudge, depending on where the rider could recharge.

Hub motor

Our group deduced that using the conventional delivery mechanism was a bad idea.  So what could be done?  With our newly acquired knowledge of DC motors and electrical traction (the system of supplying electrical power to train engines), we came up with an idea - use the hub of the rear wheel itself as the motor.  The axle could have a small rotor, and the hub could be the stator - in other words, a "hub motor."  That way, the loss of energy in transferring motion from the motor to the wheel could be reduced, leading to greater efficiency and comfort, we thought.

Going a step further, we also thought of having regenerative braking for the vehicle.  This would prolong the gap between two instances of recharging the battery and alleviating, albeit to a limited extent, another inconvenient feature.  Regenerative braking means reversing the polarity of the motor so that it behaves as a generator, giving power back to the system from where it was drawing power earlier.  This is used commonly on train engines to conserve power, when the train is coasting along at some speed (the driver changes to mechanic braking when the train slows down to a speed of 15 kilometres per hour).

We grinned from ear to ear for having come up with the concept.  The next day, however, ‘wiser sense’ prevailed: we thought the whole idea was a figment of our juvenile imagination and impractical, and forgot all about it.  We finished our studies and went our separate ways.  I went on to become a journalist.

Imagine my shock when about two decades later, when the head of a company that had launched battery-operated two-wheelers told me during an interview that the motor was part of the rear wheel, encased inside a water-tight hub - a ‘hub motor’!  It was the very concept that me an my classmates had discussed!  Worse, the company had a worldwide patent for it! We had not worked on our concept further - we could have at least applied for a patent or done something like that.  I called up my classmates and told them what I had just come to know, and all we could do was sigh with regret, drawing consolation from the fact that we had been about 20 years ahead of our time.

The moral of the story?  Never curb your creativity.  You never know when you might come with some idea that will bring about a major change in the lives of people.  After all, the telephone, the motor car, the aeroplane and the computer - things that we take for granted today - would not have existed if someone somewhere had not dreamed of such a thing.  Imagine if Alexander Graham Bell had given up his idea of developing a device to talk over a wire, or the Wright Brothers had abandoned their concept of a flying machine!  The world would not have been what it is today, right?

So, if you have an idea, discuss it with your parents, teachers and guide; evaluate if it is workable, try to get it copyrighted or patented.  Who knows, your idea might lead to a pioneering invention or discovery!


*****
Associate Professor – Anand Bhisey is a media professional with nearly three decades of experience in newspapers, news channels, internet and e-learning sectors. He has contributed to major media outlets like The Independent, The Pioneer, Maharashtra Herald, The Hitavada, Dainik Bhaskar, The Sunday Observer and rediff.com. He has been a visiting faculty for news reporting, editing, page-making, QuarkXpress and new media at RTM Nagpur University’s Department of Mass Communication and affiliated colleges, and for Business Communication at the International Institute of Fashion Design (iNIFD). He is a UGC-NET scholar

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