BioLite. Energy everywhere.

June 27, 2012 in Appropriate Technology, Biotech/ Biofuels

Brooklyn-based BioLite has developed a cookstove technology that provides heat and electricity, fueled simply by wood or found biomass.  Targeting both the 3 billion people in the world that cook using open fires on a daily-basis, as well as the market of hikers and campers far from ovens and electricity, BioLite provides an efficient, clean, safe, and easy  access to energy.  Everywhere.

BioLite’s patent-pending technology is based on a thermoelectric generator that converts waste heat into electricity (see also Alphabet Energy) to

  1. power a fan that feeds back to the fire for more efficient combustion (better combustion = less wood to be burned = less smoke and overall better efficiency), and
  2. provide electricity for small electronic devices like mobile phones and LED lights.

BioLite’s flagship technology designed for outdoor adventure, the BioLite CampStoveTM, is a compact, clean, and safe off-grid cooking alternative to petroleum fuel stoves.  The stove is the size of a water bottle, and in addition to replacing bulky (and dirty) stove and fuel equipment, the CampStove also provides 2-4W of electricity to charge your small electronic devices (20 minutes of iPhone charging provides about 60 minutes of talking time).  Though solar chargers are awesome, the CampStove replaces the need, and even offers the advantage of being able to produce electricity at night when the sun is not shining (as long as you have some twigs to burn).

The BioLite CampStove is available for pre-order for $129, and even if you don’t consider yourself to be “one with nature”, the CampStove could be a very useful investment in case of storms and power outages.

An offshoot of the CampStove, the BioLite HomeStoveTM is designed for the three billion people in the world that cook using open fires, a practice which is dirty, dangerous, and expensive.

The BioLite HomeStove, as compared to existing cookstoves, consumes 50% less wood, reduces smoke emissions by 95%, and generates electricity to power LED lights (and therefore replace kerosene, another dirty and expensive fuel) and mobile phones.

After pilot tests in Uganda, Ghana, and India in 2011, one of the main remarks was, “where did the smoke go?”.

The economics are not entirely clear (re. what is the upfront cost of the HomeStove as compared to existing stoves?), but in addition to providing a cleaner and safer cooking alternative, the HomeStove significantly reduces “operating” costs, by halving fuel costs for the consumer and completely replacing kerosene and mobile-charging costs  (savings for an average family in India will amount to about $72 per year).

BioLite plans to begin mass distribution of the HomeStove by the end of 2012 and over the next 5 years, BioLite is committed to reaching 1 million people in India and Sub-Saharan Africa with their highly innovative and appropriate technology.

Really interesting technology, great dual-market approach, and a bunch of young and passionate people.  Check out this video for a (maybe better) explanation of BioLite and its mission.  Right on!