Unifying Nutritional and Electrical World – Part 1

Indian towns and cities have short commuting distances, 80% of trip lengths are of less than 10 kms, which are ideal for cycling. Numerous benefits would accrue to the environment if the Indian population chooses to move along the direction chosen by the Netherlands (cycles) rather than the USA (cars)...

Bicycling addresses the health of two major entities – (a) Mother Earth and (b) Millennials and Gen Z.  The wildlife population has dwindled down to 31% over the past 48 years. There is an urgent need to take action to reverse the biodiversity loss and keep global warming to 1.50C. Simultaneously, the health of the Millennials and Gen Z is fast deteriorating due to a sedentary lifestyle. Young boys and girls are observed to be sitting for long periods watching television, or playing on their computers or mobile phones.

Though environment and health have emerged as the new drivers that support cycling, in India, these drivers have been constrained due to various factors such as cycling unfriendly environment and absence of cycling infrastructure in our cities. As a result, the new generation considers cycling as old fashioned and have migrated to other modes of personal transportation (see Figure 1). The advent of solar bicycles – the only powered vehicles that generate their own energy for self consumption – is about to change this. A silent but disruptive revolution is in the making. In its endeavour to promote sustainable and inclusive mobility, Baroda Electric Meters Ltd.  (BEM), under the guidance of Centre for Apparent Energy Research, has diversified into assembly of solar bicycles.

Figure 1: Unused bicycling paths near Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar…

In the Netherlands, cycling is a way of life and used by everyone from the age of 7 to 70. With a population of 17 million, the Netherlands constitutes just 0.2% of the world’s population, yet has 23 million bicycles (2.3% of the 1 billion bicycles in the world), with an average of 1.3 bicycles per person. Every year, approximately 1 million new bicycles are sold; half of them are electric-assisted bicycles.

We need to motivate the policy makers to create safe cycling infrastructure on a large scale while regulating the use of other private motorised vehicles. Additionally, subsidies and microfinancing options need to be offered only to the sustainable vehicles – namely, simple bicycles and solar bicycles.

Figure 2: Hovenring – Exclusive Roundabout for cycles between Eindhoven and Veldhoven (The Netherlands)…

Solar Bicycle eliminates the need for fossil fuels –  it is truly sustainable unlike Electric Vehicles EVs. In India, EVs are primarily charged at night with fossil fuel based energy and hence cannot be considered a sustainable mode of transport.   Solar Bicycles are the lightest of all powered vehicles and are also the most efficient. Weighs less than 30 kgs. Solar Bicycles are also the lowest cost powered vehicles – `25,000, inclusive of GST. Solar Bicycles support three modes (1) Manual Pedalling, (2) Pedal Assist (pedalling assisted by solar power) and (3) Throttle (powered by solar alone) – unlike any other high powered 2 or 4 wheeler vehicles.

Figure 3. Solar Cycles – manufactured and sold in Anand, Gujarat, India…

The carbon footprint of a solar cycle is zero units. It is not the carbon footprint of the solar cycle that matters but the carbon footprint of the car (with Internal Combustion Engine – ICE) or an e-car that it displaces when one chooses to ride a solar cycle instead of driving the car.  Solar Bicycles can save lakhs of crores of rupees through reduction in crude oil / fossil fuel imports. Solar Bicycles are also a very cost effective way to stay fit and healthy and can save lakhs of crores of rupees in health care costs for tackling obesity alone. Numerous other health benefits have also been well documented.

Solar chargers for the Solar Bicycles have been indigenously designed by BEM, which is also the first company to manufacture and sell solar bicycles on a commercial basis – worldwide for the first time.

Neither the State Government, nor the Central Government are giving any subsidy to Solar Cycles. On the other hand, EVs of all kinds – 2 wheelers and 4 wheelers – are offered subsidies.

Moreover, the Net Metering tariff mechanism for Solar RoofTops offered by State Electric Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) to the respective electric utilities is unfair. This  mechanism is unable to discriminate between a prosumer who charges his EV at night consuming fossil fuels, from another who charges his EV using his own solar generation;  each pays `0, when ‘netting’ is zero. Together with ‘Solar Installation Subsidy’ and ‘EV Subsidy’, the market is heavily distorted to an extent that has made solar cycles difficult to survive. On the other hand, in the US, more than 16 states swapped successor tariffs for retail rate net metering in 2018, for a fair and environmentally friendly regime.

Clearly the policies and tariffs in India are unfair. In the interest of public health and the environment (1.50C) they need to be corrected. One way to correct them is by bringing in public awareness in India. We aim to achieve this by publishing a series of articles. This is one such attempt.

In this article, we take a look at the basic units of energy- watt-second, joules and calories and try to clear the distortion and confusion generated by the ‘Nutrition world’ (calories) with the help of the stable and accurate ‘Physical Science world’ (watt-second or joule). Thanks to solar cycles, these two disconnected worlds are getting closer for the first time in history.

Physical Science World

Work and Energy

Let us go back to school and recollect Physics. Energy is the quantitative property that is transferred to a body or physical system, recognizable as work performed and in the form of heat and light.

Work and energy are interconnected. When a force applied to an object produces a displacement, work is done. Energy is the capacity to do the work. Energy can exist in various forms – potential, kinetic, chemical, thermal, nuclear, electrical and is named accordingly. Power is the work done per unit time.

Energy is a conserved quantity—the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed.

The unit of measurement for energy in the International System of Units (SI) is the joule (J) and is the same as that for work. The name of this international unit is kept in honour of James Prescott Joule, a British physicist whose works contributed to the establishment of the energy concept. In terms of other SI base units, 1 J = 1 kg (m/s)2 and dimension is M L2 T −2.

Other units of energy are kWh, BTU, calorie, eV, erg, foot-pound.

1 electron-volt = 1.6×10−19 joule

1 erg = 10−7 joule

1 watt-second = 1 joule    (1)

1 (large, kilogram, nutritional) calorie=4184 joule (2)             1 (small, gram, thermochemical) calorie = 4.184 joule        (3)

The commercial unit of energy is 1 kWh. One kilowatt-hour is defined as the amount of energy consumed by a device in one working hour at a constant rate of one kilowatt. The relationship between commercial and SI units of energy is:

1 kWh=1000 W x 1 h=1000 (J/s) x 3600 s=3.6 x106 J    (4)

Hence, one unit of electrical energy (kWh) is equal to 3.6 megajoules.

The newton-metre (N-m) is the SI unit of torque  (or moment) and is less commonly used as a unit of work or energy though it is dimensionally equivalent to the more commonly used SI unit of energy, the joule (J), to avoid misunderstandings when a torque is mistaken for an energy or vice versa.


Power is the rate with respect to time at which work is done. It is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In older works, power is sometimes called activity. Power is a scalar quantity.

In the International System of Units (SI), the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. The SI unit of power is watt (W). When a body does work at the rate of 1 joule per second, its power is 1 watt. In SI base units 1 watt = 1 kg X m2 X  s−3 and its dimension is  L2MT-3.

Horsepower is another common unit of power. In the British Imperial System, one horsepower is the power necessary to lift a total mass of 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute. The electrical equivalent of one horsepower is 746 watts in the SI, and the heat equivalent is 2,545 BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour.

1 electrical horsepower = 1 hp (E) = 746 W

Another unit of power is the metric horsepower. One metric horsepower is needed to lift 75 kilograms by 1 metre in 1 second.

1 metric horsepower = 1 HP = 735.5 W                               There is scope for an error, though minor, if we confuse between the electrical and metric horsepower units. Luckily they are getting outdated, and it would be best to avoid the horsepower units and stick to the SI unit – watt (W).

Nutrition World

Work by Humans and Machines

All living organisms constantly take in and release energy. Human civilization requires energy to function, which it gets from energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy. The earth’s climates and ecosystems have processes that are driven either by the energy the planet receives from the Sun or by geothermal energy.

When work is done by humans they get their energy from food and when work is done by machines, they get their energy from fossil fuels.  When a human rides a solar bicycle (machine), we get to equate the work done by humans and machines.

               To be continued


[1] Joe Schwarcz, How is the caloric value of food determined, McGill – Office for Science and Society – Separating Sense from Nonsense, Sept. 2018 https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/nutrition/how-caloric-value-fooddetermined
[2] Wikipedia for definitions; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie
[3] James L. Hargrove, History of the Calorie in Nutrition, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 12, December 2006, Pages 2957–2961, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.12.2957
[4] ALLISON MARSH, How Counting Calories Became a Science, IEEE Spectrum, 29 DEC 2020, https://spectrum.ieee.org/howcounting-calories-became-a-science

Vithal N. Kamat has a Doctorate in Artificial Intelligence from the University of New Brunswick, Canada as a Commonwealth Scholar in 1996. He completed Masters in Control and Instrumentation from IIT Bombay. His current role – reviving a sick industry as a Managing Director of Baroda Electric Meters Ltd. Current interest lies in exploring ways to replace the Human-centric Judiciary with an AI Judiciary, to replace the 24-hour clock with Ghati clock, and to replace ICE vehicles with solar vehicles…

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