There could soon be a lot more bikes, and electricity, in India. That’s because Bhargava, whose popular energy drink line made him a billionaire, has created a stationary, battery-pack-equipped bike that he said could be used to power the millions of homes around the world that have little to no power.
Manoj Bhargava, is the founder of the company that makes the popular energy-boosting supplement 5-hour Energy. He is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and instead of spending that money on luxury items or a lavish lifestyle, he’s focused on making a difference in the world, in part by tackling some of the pressing issues of our time, most notably energy and water. Bhargava has pledged 90% of his wealth to charity and research via the Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett-led Giving Pledge.
Could his bike really work? Will people want to pedal for power? Could they afford it or even have room for it in their homes? It holds “huge potential and opportunity for rural households,” says Ajaita Shah, CEO of Frontier Markets, a company selling solar lamps and lighting kits in India. She says she’d like to test the bike with her rural customers.
“It’s so simple that we think we can make it for $100 … A bicycle repairman anywhere can fix it,” Bhargava says in an interview. Pedaling turns a turbine generator that creates electricity, stored in a battery. The first 50 bikes will be tested in 15 or 20 small villages in the northern state of Uttarakhand before a major rollout in the first quarter of next year. He says they’ll be made in India but doesn’t give details.
[Wendy Koch/National Geographic ]
After Bhargava struck it rich with 5-Hour Energy a decade ago, he funneled charitable donations to hospitals in India, but found himself frustrated that his philanthropy was making little impact on poverty and root causes of related health issues. To do more, he launched Stage 2 in 2011 on his campus of 10 nondescript buildings and followed that up two years ago with a joint-venture research operation of about 20 people, called Renew Group Private Ltd., in Singapore.
The Free Electric bicycle-based energy device has been engineered at Stage 2. Preproduction of about 50 models is under way now, and Bhargava said expects full production of about 10,000 units begin during the first quarter in India, which he see as the first major market for it.
[Tom Walsh/USA Today]