Envirofit: Retrofit Engine Kits To Reduce Southeast Asia's Pollution
Those ubiquitous two- and three-wheelers of South and Southeast Asia — which contribute massive amounts of pollution in the region — could be on the way to getting a green makeover. Envirofit, an independent, non-profit company established at Colorado State University in 2003, is now working to develop and distribute affordable retrofit kits that will improve the fuel efficiency of two-stroke engines, commonly used in many of the two-wheeler taxis and three-wheeler auto-rickshaws in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other parts of South Asia.
Traditional two-stroke engines emit an amount of pollution equal to 50 modern automobiles using four-stroke engines. Originally developed for snowmobiles, the direct injection technology of the kits has been now adapted so that the retrofit system eliminates the carburetor and fuel is instead introduced directly into the engine cylinder, thus conserving more unburned fuel. According to Envirofit, the kits could cut fuel consumption from 35 to 50 percent and decrease the emissions of a two-stroke engine by 90 percent — translating to not only reduced pollution but also cost-savings for ordinary taxi-drivers.
Currently, Envirofit is working with local partners and smaller, sustainable start-ups in the Philippine cities of Vigan and Puerto Princesa to install and service a projected 2 million kits. With an Asian Development Bank estimate of 100 million two-stroke vehicles in Southeast Asia alone, there is an enormous market for the kits, but the challenge is to find ways to make it "extremely well-engineered and affordable" for the typical Filipino taxi-driver who earns US $3—5 per day, says Dr. Bryan Willson of Envirofit. Through micro-financing, they hope to make it less cost-prohibitive.
In June, the retrofit kit project received recognition in the area of clean transport and mobility from the World Clean Energy Awards in Basel, Switzerland. Given to acknowledge efforts to bring innovative and efficient renewable energy strategies into the mainstream, Envirofit hopes that the international kudos will give retrofitting a boost of credibility when they showcase the kits in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India later this year.
::Worldwatch Institute, ::Envirofit