At a time when excess energy consumption, as a result of recharging of the electric vehicles, is taking a toll on the power grid outside the metropolitan cities, three dynamic changemakers – Gopal Kumar Mohoto, Tauseef Anwar and Ahmad – have come up with a revolutionary solution to the problem.
The trio formed Cassetex, a solar-powered battery swapping service, for electric three-wheelers.
Even though Bangladesh has been applauded for electrifying more than 1.5 million of vehicles, which are eco-friendly, it turns out that it is not a very sustainable solution.
These vehicles are putting stress on the national power grid as they consume a huge amount of electricity to store energy in their rechargeable batteries.
"In small towns, the distribution of electricity is weak. If 60 to 70 percent load on the power grid comes from electric vehicles, it disrupts power supply to households and workplaces. Many environmental and social organisations have been organising awareness-building programmes in this regard. Our energy infrastructure has not been developed to that extent or is efficient enough to take the load of this big sector," said Tauseef Anwar, chief business officer of Cassetex.
Considering the problem, the three founding members of the company developed the idea that they need to bring a sustainable solution to this issue.
"Because of poor charging technology, our energy gets wasted. We planned on increasing efficiency in power infrastructure without changing the demand. So, we wanted to shift the load of recharging the electric vehicles to a solar powered charging system," he said.
Cassetex offers solar-powered cassettes which can be swapped. It takes one and a half hour to charge each cassette. The system can shift the whole power supply to electric vehicles completely off-grid and it is a self-generating system.
Three-wheelers can run up to 200 km in a single charge with this solar-powered battery, while the range remains as low as 120 km for a normal lead-acid battery.
"This may also increase the income of the drivers or owners. The current batteries available in the market use lead-acid technology whereas the automotive solar-powered batteries, manufactured by Cassetex, are cost-effective. The capacity of each cassette is 3 kWh. For each kWh, the charging fee is Tk5. So, the total charging fee for a 3kWh battery is Tk15 and the swap fee is Tk55 and the total cost is Tk65 per swap," said Tauseef.
Another advantage of these batteries is that they can be recycled.
"The current battery technology is 100 years old which uses lead-acid. The same technology is used for UPS and other household batteries. It only has a one-year life cycle, after which it is dumped. After dumping, there is no other use of it except for recycling for scrap, which increases the frequency of such recycling processes," Tauseef points out.
However, the automotive battery that Cassetex is manufacturing has an eight to nine years lifecycle. But after this period, it can be used for another 10 years for static application as in it can be used for power supply to lights.
Eighty percent of this automotive battery can be extracted. These can be used in a new battery.
"We are hoping to reach a 90 percent recovery in a couple of years. We don't have this technology to extract. We have to send these batteries to the manufacturers abroad who extract the parts."
Cassetex is still in its pilot stage. Its first station is in Rangpur. The team has a plan to expand its station throughout the country.
Bangladesh has been acclaimed globally for setting up solar homes. The automotive batteries can be charged from solar homes which would generate income of the solar entrepreneurs as well.
Cassetex designs the battery and imports the cell from abroad.
"We don't have the raw materials or scientific capacity to develop the cell," Tauseef said.
The Cassetex team believes 62,000 stations are required to recharge more than 1.5 million electric vehicles.
Recently, this green startup bagged the first prize in the seventh edition of ClimateLaunchpad 2020, a competition that awards and encourages climate entrepreneurs with global innovative green business ideas.
The local organiser Gen Lab of Climate LaunchPad had organized a two-month programme. They mentored and advised the entrepreneurs.
Regarding the exciting win, Gopal Kumar Mohoto, the chief technology officer of Cassetex, said, "The ClimateLaunchpad 2020 event was a very unique process because we learnt and competed alongside teams from more than 50 countries. It's very rare for a new Bangladeshi company to get such a huge recognition on a global platform. I am personally very humbled by this award, and now I know that we now have to work harder to turn this into success, and once again portray Bangladesh positively in the global sphere."
This service of Cassetex is truly designed for the masses of Bangladesh. So, the dynamic team wants to expand its service to one small town at a time.
"Transport is a very critical aspect of people's lives and we have to approach it in a very thoughtful and technically sound manner. Every locality has a different characteristic, and each will have to be included in the implementation process, and we hope to be successful by taking the bottom-up approach."
As long as the end-users' demands are carefully met, Mohoto thinks that the benefits of this service will be accepted by all and that will help us rapidly expand into the whole country.