Kenyan Entrepreneurs’ Bike Powered, Phone Charging Dynamo


(from the BBC)
(from the BBC)

In an inspiring bit of can-do from southern Africa, two electrical engineering students at Kenya’s Nairobi University have built a cellphone charger that uses energy generated from riding a bicycle.

Cellphone use in Kenya has gone from 200,000 in 2000 to 17.5 million today. But in a country with intermittant electricity, Kenyans routinely pay the equivalent of $2 to charge their phones — in a country with  per capita income of $1600.

The two cash-strapped students, Jermiah Murimi, 24, and Pascal Katana, 22, built the prototype of their charger from whatever was at hand.

“We took most of [the] items from a junk yard – using bits from spoilt radios and spoilt televisions,” Katana told the BBC (sic). The end product is a small box that can fit in a pocket.

Kenyan bikes are sold with a device that powers lights on the bike from the motion of the wheels. The device transfers that power into charging phones.

Katana and Murimi say the device fully charges a phone after about an hour of riding. They plan to sell them for 350 Kenyan shillings, or about $4.50, and hope to begin mass-producing them with the help of their university (they’ve only made two so far).

The charger should be especially useful for rural dwellers, where electricity is sparse, and distances are often covered by bicycle.

Motorola, and others, already make bike phone chargers, which, they note, will be most useful to people in emerging markets — like Katana and Murimi’s. Maybe Motorola will buy them out.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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