Bengaluru student wins Oxford award for effort to make portable energy affordable

The technology developed by her resembles a power bank that can be charged using either a solar panel or an electric grid, both embedded in the device itself. "Once charged for 6 to 8 hours, it can provide an output of 75Wh, with the ability to run three devices simultaneously," Prerna Wadikar said.

Prerna Wadikar, a student who hails from Bengaluru, has won the Vice Chancellor’s Social Impact Award at the University of Oxford. The recognition was for her work in making portable energy access more affordable by developing a technological model using a lithium-ion battery.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Wadikar said her experience of working in different sectors before signing up for an MBA in the varsity last year had motivated her to contribute towards lives hit by the Covid-19 crisis. “It was evident that micro-entrepreneurs were hit the most by the Covid-19 crisis as their survival then and chances of swift revival were meagre in times of uncertainty. This led to a thought that a push for making energy accessible in an affordable manner would help several street vendors and hawkers in India and in other parts of the world to accelerate their livelihoods to an extent,” she said.

The technology developed by her resembles a power bank that can be charged using either a solar panel or an electric grid, both embedded in the device itself. “Once charged for 6 to 8 hours, it can provide an output of 75Wh, with the ability to run three devices simultaneously,” Wadikar explained.

She also highlighted that the device was less than 500 grams heavy and that a daisy chain of 10 such units could even generate power to run a small refrigerator.

Wadikar, who began her career as a distribution marketing professional in the Karnataka capital, has worked in different sectors within and outside the country, expanding the outreach of her background in technology and public policy.

“This idea first came to me during my work in India and then in Ethiopia and Nigeria where pushcart vendors are very common. While electric charging is possible in most parts of India, the solar panel was developed keeping in mind the other countries where power supply interruptions are rampant,” she said.

Now at its pilot phase in Varanasi, Wadikar hopes to ensure that the device reaches other countries as well to be used for more purposes. “This device has a utility potential beyond pushcart vendors to providing energy access to power small lights in schools, at mobile hospitals, and to assist people running other small businesses as well,” she added.

Wadikar hopes to scale up her product and her social enterprise named Jeeva Global to offer support to micro and nano entrepreneurs, mostly deprived of government support, to help them better their livelihoods in the days to come.

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