The number of successful start-ups in Kenya is a clear indicator of the wealth of knowledge that remain untapped. Paul Waweru invented an electric motorcycle from recycled laptop batteries.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
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Paul Waweru is a mathematics, physics and computer studies teacher at Mwihoko Mixed Secondary School in Ruiru, Kiambu County. The maths teacher was born and raised in Ol Kalou town has always had interest in electronics since he was a child. He would dismantle any electronic gadget curious to know why and how they worked.
“My mother can attest to how I destroyed many radios and television sets at home. In fact, I only stopped when I became a boarder in high school,” he told the Standard.
After completing his secondary education at Kalou Secondary school, he joined Kenyatta University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree specialising in mathematics and physics.
Inventing an Electric Motorbike
Waweru’s interest was sparked when an electric motorbike he had acquired broke down after its five batteries collapsed. As a physics teacher, he started thinking of an idea to solve the battery problem by himself.
“After several experiments, I built the first prototype, which I then tested and it worked beyond my expectations, moving for over 50 kilometers,” he explained during an exclusive interview with KTN News.
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He connects over 190 laptop battery cells which he arranges in layers to form a square pattern. He imports some equipment from China including BMS which preserves the battery. The battery takes approximately 3 hours to be fully charged which can cover between 50 and 60 kilometers depending on the driver’s speed. According to Mr. Waweru, the power used by the motorcycle is approximately 4 electric units.
“When the battery is almost full it takes 2 units, when it’s halfway it takes 3 units and when it is empty it takes up to 4 electric units to be fully charged. It is not a must if you use the electric power, this battery can be charged using solar power,” he explained.
Waweru explained that his invention will make a great difference in terms of eradicating air pollution caused by vehicles using petrol or diesel. Unlike other motorbikes, the electric motorcycle is silent which also means that it reduces noise pollution. Waweru believes that if his invention is taken up, it will help reduce the crisis of fuel shortage in Kenya. The invention has seen him receive support from Zetech University which has given him a place to research and showcase his invention.
In 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, Waweru developed an automated hand washing device that was powered by electricity.
“I began thinking of other ways I could power the device besides using electricity because electrical power is not always reliable due to blackouts,” he explained during an interview with the Standard.
During this time, his laptop broke down and he decided to disassemble the battery to see what was wrong. He then discovered that the battery contained lithium-ion cells. He researched and found out that if a laptop battery ceases to work it is probably just one cell that has collapsed. He tested the cells to determine their state and most of them worked perfectly. Paul Waweru used the cells to power the hand washing device which lasted up to a week before it could be recharged.
Having discovered that the cells worked, the math teacher began making portable power banks using recycled containers such as uninterrupted power supply (UPS) casings.
“I started by making small power banks, then gradually ventured into larger sizes that could even power TVs and computers. I figured being a Physics teacher I could use my knowledge to make these products without any training,” he explained.
At his home, he uses his innovation to light his house and other appliances without relying on electrical power. He recycles laptop screens which he uses to make light bulbs.
Waweru has now moved his operations from his house to establish Eco-Power Company, a recycling firm which he uses to implement his trials. The company develops different portable power backup devices which are capable of powering small to large electrical appliances such as computers, laptops, television sets, lights, music systems, cameras and mobile phones. The company’s products range between Ksh10,000 to Ksh25,000.
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