Shawn Frayne is an inventor and innovator with a passion for creating simple technological solutions that can significantly improve lives in emerging markets. As a student of Amy Smith’s D-Lab at MIT, Shawn participated in initiatives focused on creating useful technologies for rural Haiti, and joined a team that developed inexpensive cooking-charcoal for use in developing countries. In 2006, Shawn founded Haddock Invention, a technology incubator with a focus on clean technology in emerging markets. In 2007, he spun off Humdinger Wind Energy, a company providing innovative wind belt technology. Through his experience and understanding of underserved populations, he developed several new products related to solar water disinfection, eco-friendly packaging, food preservation, and wind power generation.
The electrical grid around the world is expanding each year, reaching more communities and enabling families around the world to power their daily needs. However, many remote communities around the world today still remain disconnected from the electrical grid, costing families missed opportunities to grow their micro-enterprises and connect with the outside world. Despite advances in alternative energy sources, many families cannot afford solar and other power systems.
To power their everyday needs, families rely heavily on expensive and inefficient single-use batteries, which can power appliances to bring light and communication to their homes. Appliances such as flashlights, radios, and mobile phones enable students to study at night, micro-entrepreneurs to access crucial market information to better sell their products, and families to stay connected to those that have left to work in the cities.
However, single-use batteries (typically zinc-carbon or alkaline batteries) are extremely damaging to the environment and human health when improperly disposed, as the heavy metals and chemicals leak into the surrounding environment and enter our bodies through water and soil.
The Coho Solar team, including co-founder Sarah Bird, with extensive experience in launching businesses in emerging markets, developed a line of products to specifically address the energy problems they found in rural communities. Coho Solar designed a solar-powered battery charger set that is sold to small convenience shop owners in off-grid areas. The shop owners in turn rent out the charged batteries to their customers, replacing the sale of single-use batteries. Shop owners can also sell innovative Coho battery-run appliances that until now have only been designed to use grid electricity, such as home lighting systems or mobile phone chargers.
Coho Solar products significantly improve lives of the battery users, vendors, and the community at large. For the families that traditionally use single-use batteries, switching over to rented Coho batteries can save families 50% of their battery expenses (due to lower costs of renting Coho batteries and increased performance), enabling them to put more of their energy expenses toward other basic needs such as food, healthcare, and education. More importantly, families can take advantage of Coho’s innovative household appliances such as home lighting systems and mobile phone chargers (appliances typically draw energy to the grid, but have been re-designed to run on batteries) to further improve their living standards, increase income generation opportunities, and provide a better study environment for children.
Small shop owners can also significantly increase their income by replacing their existing battery sales with charged Coho batteries, which can increase their battery profits by at least five times. Shop owners can also sell Coho appliances, which will not only create a new income stream, but also increase demand for the solar-recharged batteries.
In addition, Coho’s nickel-metal hydride batteries can be recharged 500 times and are fully recyclable, therefore reducing the amount of disposed single-use batteries and the amount of toxic waste that is dumped into the surrounding environment.