What do schools in India, tablet computers, and electric racing cars have in common? Well, a lot more than you might think. A new social enterprise has set out to tackle the issue of power cuts in schools by powering computers and other gadgets using recycled electric car batteries.
For many people in India, power cuts are an ordinary - if very inconvenient - part of daily life. In fact, in New Delhi this May, India's energy minister was left sitting in the dark while his press conference about how well the country had been doing in tackling power cuts was hit by a power cut. But the situation is less amusing when it comes to the issue of children's education, with many schools in India plagued by constant power shortages.
Technology and digital tools are opening up exciting new pathways to learning in India, and that technology has become much more accessible in recent years too, with many schoolkids using the 20 USD Indian Android tablet. Cheap computers like these are great tools for learning, but lasting only 30 minutes after a full charge, and with some schools going without electricity a large amount of the time, many devices end up not being used at all.
The social enterprise Totus Power is hoping it can change all that. Set up by an electrical engineer, Totus Power has developed an affordable and eco-friendly alternative: power packs that are as small as a water bottle but powerful enough to replace 10 lead-acid batteries (which are huge and toxic), and made from the recycled batteries of electric racing cars. Using the battery from just one electric car, Totus Power can supply a school with up to 60 units, which can be used by hundreds of kids: letting them charge and use their tablet computers, and also power lamps so they can keep studying after the sun goes down.
And as well as helping out teachers and their pupils, by recycling the power packs which might otherwise end up as landfill, Totus Power's innovation also tackles the serious issue of the growing amounts of toxic waste caused by discarded electronic devices and their batteries. Electric car batteries start to degrade after about six to seven years, making them unfit for use in vehicles - but they still have about 70 per cent of their original capacity, meaning they're perfect for charging consumer devices like laptops, tablets and phones.
To see the man behind it all explain how it works and how the idea came about, check out the video below: