EGG-energy brings power to Africa with battery subscription service

Jan 12, 2010 by Lisa Zyga weblog
EGG-energy offers a battery subscription service for African households that lack access to the power grid. Credit: EGG-energy.

(PhysOrg.com) -- By applying the NetFlix model of movie swapping to batteries, a team of researchers and students from MIT and Harvard is hoping to provide electricity to thousands of homes in Tanzania. Their start-up company, called EGG-energy, offers a battery subscription service where individuals can return a used battery and pick up a fully charged one when needed, about every three days. The strategy not only provides a safe, clean source of energy for basic needs such as lighting, radios, and cell phone charging, but it should also save customers up to 30% on annual energy costs.

EGG-energy identified the need for the idea by looking at some statistics: Although 80% of the population of Tanzania lives within 5 kilometers of a transmission line, only 10% has access to electricity. In numbers, the company's market consists of 30 million Tanzanians who currently rely on kerosene lamps and AA batteries, yet live within walking or busing distance of the grid.

To solve this "last mile" problem without building additional power lines to every home, EEG-energy's plan is to have the people come to the power. A customer pays $27 for a one-year subscription, and 40 cents when swapping a used lead-acid battery for a charged one. Upon subscription, the company wires the customer's home for lights, cell phones, and radios, and provides the first fully charged battery.

EGG-energy's 12V batteries are about the size of a brick, and would not add too much of a burden for most people, who regularly carry groceries along the same routes. Battery distribution centers would be located in high-trafficked areas, such as along local bus routes or near grocery stores, so that people could stop by on their way to or from work.

One of the benefits that EGG-energy is advertising is the potential financial savings. The company explains that the average target customer spends about $5 per month on kerosene and $3 per month on disposable batteries, for a total of $96 per year. Using EGG-energy's service, with eight swaps per month, the annual cost would be about $65, representing a $30 savings.

Besides financial advantages, using rechargeable batteries is cleaner and safer than lighting kerosene lamps, helping to reduce carbon emissions.

So far, EGG-energy has set up one distribution center in rural Tanzania last November, and has signed up its first 60 customers. The company hopes to expand much more in 2010, especially in more urban environments. It currently faces several challenges, such as working with locals to promote the service and to franchise the distribution centers, as well as securing funding.

Explore further: Team improves solar-cell efficiency

More information: EEG-energy Facebook page
via: Earth2Tech

Related Stories

Battery Wrapped in Solar Cells Recharges in the Sun

Mar 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Although you can buy solar charging devices for rechargeable batteries, it would be even more convenient if batteries had built-in solar cells. Sitting in sunlight, the battery could then ...

Solar Cells with LEDs Provide Inexpensive Lighting

Nov 09, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Of the 1.5 billion people in developing countries who do not have electricity, many rely on kerosene lamps for light after the sun goes down. But now, researchers from Denmark have designed ...

Increasing Electric Car Battery Performance

Sep 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers have found that by replacing conventional graphite electrodes with silicon nanotube electrodes, lithium-ion batteries can store 10 times more charge.

New battery technology announced

Sep 07, 2006

The U.S.-based Uniross Batteries Corp. says it's created a technology that will outlast standard alkaline rechargable or disposable AA/AAA batteries.

Recommended for you

Team improves solar-cell efficiency

7 hours ago

New light has been shed on solar power generation using devices made with polymers, thanks to a collaboration between scientists in the University of Chicago's chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular ...

Calif. teachers fund to boost clean energy bets

7 hours ago

The California State Teachers' Retirement System says it plans to increase its investments in clean energy and technology to $3.7 billion, from $1.4 billion, over the next five years.

Idealistic Norwegian sun trappers

13 hours ago

The typical Norwegian owner of a solar heating system is a resourceful man in his mid-fifties. He is technically skilled, interested in energy systems, and wants to save money and protect the environment.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jonnyboy
not rated yet Jan 12, 2010
Seems like a workable concept as long as you have a reasonably stable and safe environment in which to operate. Good job !!!
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2010
they could have sold them solar panels
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2010
What does it tell you about ourselves that people in Tanzania can power every electrical need in their house with a brick-sized battery for several days?