From Rural Karnataka to Flying Cars: Kaushik Rajashekara, Environmental Innovator, Sees Hope in Electrification

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Professor Kaushik Rajashekara—“Raja” for short—hasn’t forgotten wherever his travel began.

“I was calved successful a village,” says Raja—Devarayasamudram, successful the Karnataka authorities of southwest India.

“You know, Indian names are each precise long,” helium adds.

Raja did not turn up rich. His begetter had to enactment successful a municipality astir 60 miles away, truthful helium was usually distant from home.

Raja’s begetter could hardly work and write. His parent was illiterate—all the much crushed for Raja and his older brothers to enactment hard successful school.

“My parent ever made definite I was fig 1 successful the class—that was each she understood,” Raja says.

He speaks frankly astir wherefore helium studied physics, chemistry, and mathematics: to get a bully job, you request a bully education.

“Even today, the Asian communities successful the United States privation to marque definite their children are highly educated and go an technologist oregon a doctor,” helium says. “Parents propulsion them to beryllium similar that.”

“At that time, I was not reasoning astir the contribution,” helium adds.

After graduating from 10th people successful his village, Raja moved to Bangalore, oregon Bengaluru, for assemblage astatine Bangalore University. He yet earned degrees successful electrical engineering, including a Ph.D., from Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science (IIS).

But Raja wasn’t a perpetual student. In betwixt and during his studies, helium gained invaluable acquisition successful the backstage sector.

“People bash their master’s, past they bash their Ph.D., past they instantly go a professor,” Raja says. “They don’t cognize immoderate applicable aspects—where it is applied, and what is the value of the research. If you enactment successful industry, you get an thought of, ‘Where are these things useful?’”

Epoch Times Photo Kaushik Rajashekara (courtesy Kaushik Rajashekara)

After immigrating to the United States, Raja went connected to General Motors/Delphi Technologies and, later, Rolls-Royce. At those companies helium worked connected everything from aboriginal electrical and hybrid vehicles to substance compartment vehicles to electrical and hybrid electrical aircraft.

In 2012, helium returned to academia. After a stint astatine the University of Texas astatine Dallas, helium joined the University of Houston, located successful what helium calls the “energy superior of the world.”

In 2021, helium was awarded the IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies, “for contributions to the advancement of proscription electrification technologies for the simplification of emissions and for improving vigor efficiency.”

Criticism of electrical vehicles often highlights the debased ranges of galore existent batteries arsenic good arsenic the lengthy charging times.

Skeptics besides constituent retired that specified batteries mostly trust connected toxic uncommon world metals, which are inactive primarily sourced from China done environmentally damaging mining projects.

Raja, the manufacture veteran, is optimistic that these problems tin beryllium solved, oregon astatine slightest mitigated, successful time.

“Cars are coming that tin spell for 500 to 600 miles [on a charge],” helium says, noting that interior combustion engines took much than a 100 years to scope maturity.

“Now radical are looking astatine antithetic types of batteries, similar lithium sulfide—that has an vigor density doubly the lithium-ion battery,” helium adds. “Over the years, scope volition not beryllium an issue.”

Raja points retired that new, Uber-like companies connection mobile electrical conveyance charging, letting you store astatine a market store oregon a promenade portion your car is charged successful the parking lot.

He is besides optimistic astir probe aimed astatine recycling batteries to minimize contamination and the request for large-scale mining—for example, by reusing aged car batteries for vigor retention successful the electrical grid.

He likens worries astir the scarcity of uncommon earths to past fears of highest oil.

“We were each talking about, ‘We are moving retired of oil.’ But afterward, horizontal drilling came from the United States!” says Raja. “So, it tin change—with the caller technologies coming, and the caller ways of uncovering resources, I don’t deliberation we volition person immoderate problem.”

Raja’s optimism extends to flying cars and aerial taxis—an involvement of his for the past 15 years. He thinks these technologies would payment the situation by reducing postulation congestion and avoiding large-scale roadworthy improvement successful places specified arsenic Africa.

Such craft could, helium hopes, revolutionize question the mode compartment phones revolutionized communication, peculiarly successful processing countries wherever getting a landline was not easy.

Flying cars, the taxable of intermittent probe and speculation since the 1950s, tin besides punctual skepticism. For 1 thing, however bash you support the vehicles from colliding with each other?

Raja proposes a thought experiment:

“Assume that determination are nary vehicles connected the roadworthy and that everything is successful the sky. Now 1 time you determine you privation to spell connected the road. The archetypal happening you’d inquire it, ‘How tin you enactment vehicles connected the roadworthy erstwhile truthful galore humans are surviving there? And rivers are there—and mountains are there.’ You could ne'er marque immoderate conveyance spell connected the roadworthy if you inquire similar that.”

He thinks the technologies successful emerging self-driving cars could beryllium adapted to flying cars, reducing the likelihood of collisions oregon different mishaps.

Raja is nary lone biology warrior. He has mostly worked successful groups, and helium sees his achievements arsenic the culmination of galore radical who helped him get wherever helium is today—another village, larger than the 1 wherever helium grew up.

Moreover, helium is nary activist.

“I americium not a Sierra Club subordinate oregon immoderate of those things—I conscionable thatch my students the value of the situation and however the planetary warming is affecting the world,” Raja says.

While helium does not expect his students to hold with everything helium says, helium hopes they volition spot the urgency of the existent situation—and proceed to innovate.

“We request to bash something,” helium says.

Nathan Worcester

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Nathan Worcester is an biology newsman astatine The Epoch Times.