I am a graduate from UCLA's Institute of the Environmental and Sustainability, with a concentration on Environmental Engineering. I am currently work with electric vehicles and the production of campaigns to increase awareness to the general public through various means.
The concept of converting or retrofitting a vehicle to allow for vegetable oil and biofuel as a fuel source is not new. However, utilizing it with solar panels and ultra lightweight vehicles such as the Tuk-Tuk is a rather ingenious idea. Usually, the concern for solar, especially for a vehicle, is lack of available sunlight, e.g. at night, cloudy day etc. But I find it very cool that the retrofit essentially covers all different situations and possibilities to use power from different sources. Is there a dominant power source? Or is there a combination in usage?
If this project and testing proves to be effective, I would if automakers should take notice of this concept. Regenerative braking and biofuels are already in a good number of vehicles. But the question is always solar. There is the possibility of using nanotechnology in order to coat the paint of the vehicle with a thin but efficient photovoltaic layer. But that's for another time.
Personally, the biggest question that gets overlooked, and it will surprise a lot of people, especially the general public, is what the life cycle emissions of the green taxis compared to conventional ones already in place in India. For example, it is arguable to say that a Land Rover is greener than a Toyota Prius, when you take in consideration the nickel mining in Canada, transport to Europe for nickel refining, transport to China for manufacturing, transport to Japan for manufacturing/assembly, and finally transport to North America for sale. And that is before considering the wear and tear and getting rid of the 30+ pound nickel battery in the Prius.
I think it would be very interesting if a life cycle analysis and efficiency analysis were done for this project.