ENTERPRISES & START-UPS

CONTENTS ► Burning blue to go green 46 ► How hydrogen generator works 47

Sh75,000
Approximate cost of installing one hydrogen generator Apple makes a tech statement with new iPad — Page 48

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ECO-INNOVATION

Burning blue to go green
Childhood playing mates turn a hobby of dismantling engines into an innovative full-time business
By Aamera Jiwaji oxygen, this technology adds hydrogen as a catalyst, which helps to burn the fuel more efficiently such that less carbon is produced by the car. The hydrogen generator is a technology that is being developed in the US, Germany and Asia, and in Africa in Nigeria and South Africa, but it was not available in the East African market until May 2011 when Geroy Green introduced it. George Karanja (left) and Roy Muriuki shares ideas while performing a computer test. the generator extracts the hydrogen. “The first car I tested it on was my mother’s,” says Mr Muriuki, “but since then we have tested it with a security company, a tour operator, a transport company and a training institute. And we have proven each time that the hydrogen generator increases the mileage that you receive per litre, by between 20% to 60%.” The variation in percentage correlates to factors such as the age of the car, maintenance, how many kilometres the car has done and the owner’s driving habits. “The concept is green because of the impact on the car’s carbon emissions,” Mr Muriuki says. “Carbon is released in a car when fuel is not being used efficiently. But with the hydrogen generator, all the fuel is being burnt which means carbon emissions are reduced and fuel cost is lower. The horsepower of the vehicle increases and engine life improves. In addition, maintenance costs reduce over time.” The hydrogen generator works according to economies of scale. The “more you drive, the more

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ike most boys, tinkering with cars was a favourite pastime for Roy and George while growing up in Mombasa. They would spend hours after school and over the weekends dismantling engines, putting them back together and discovering the ins and outs of how a car works. At the time, neither they nor their parents knew that the hobby would develop into a business. Today, they are passionate owners of Geroy Green (Geroy, as in George Karanja and Roy Muriuki), which offers eco-friendly solutions. It started after high school and they have spent three years researching. “There are many products out there which claim to enhance the way an engine works like V-power, plasma spark plugs, metallic catalysts,” Mr Muriuki says. “We wanted something where you will feel the change immediately. So what we have developed is a fuel that increases the mileage of a car.” The solution is a 6-inch-by-8 box that can be fitted into any combustible engine in two hours and which increases a car’s mileage by at least 20%. While current cars in the market combine fuel and | Nairobi Business Monthly MAY

THE SOLUTION IS A 6-INCH-BY-8 BOX THAT CAN BE FITTED INTO ANY COMBUSTIBLE ENGINE IN TWO HOURS AND WHICH INCREASES A VEHICLE’S MILEAGE BY AT LEAST 20%
The generator works on hydrogen on demand technology, which means that it switches on and off with the car and creates hydrogen as and when needed. There are no hydrogen tanks installed in the car, just a distilled water reservoir from which

you save.” And so the market that George and Roy are targeting consists of fleet and logistical companies because of their higher usage of cars and the probability that their saving on fuel will impact more dramatically on their annual costs than a person who uses their car only to commute to work. One challenge, however, is the attitude that they have encountered from the market, even though the gadget is ISO certified and they offer a warranty of one year. “There are pessimists out there,” Mr Muriuki says. But through the ISO certification and by partnering with credible institutions like the Kenya Polytechnic, Geroy Green is attempting to assuage doubts. Other institutions that Geroy intends to approach include governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the environmental field because of the ability to radically reduce a person’s carbon footprint. “Carbon is a toxic,” Mr Karanja says. “It causes cancer and severe respiratory problems. And it causes global warming. A 30% reduction in carbon emissions is substantial. And we have tested this with a 12-year-old car at the Kenya Police Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit. Reducing carbon emissions has to be an initiative that starts with us and hopefully spreads across Africa.” A second challenge that the duo has encountered is cost. One hydrogen generator, including installation, costs approximately Sh75,000, which means that for an average size fleet company that has 100 cars, the required investment is Sh7.5 million. George and Roy are realistic about the hurdle. “There are things you don’t plan for. Sometimes you have to get into that shark tank to figure out what to do,” says Mr Muriuki. To deal with this they offer the hydrogen generator for an initial payment of Sh20,000 including installation, and after a three-month trial, a monthly installment of Sh4,000, and a full maintenance package for the car. With a 10-year life span on each hydrogen generator, and the ability to transfer it to another car, they are confident of its success. They are taking their marketing campaign to Mombasa where a lot of the larger transport companies are based. They have also entered into an agreement with the Kenya Polytechnic to manufacture the generators in their student workshops. With the slower uptake, they have diversified their product offering within the green theme. “We asked ourselves what can bring us a steady income and support us while we market our main product?” The answer was fireball briquettes. These are black circular balls that are a substitute to charcoal. Made from a mixture of sand, grass and a natural binder, they are dried in the sun for six hours before being used. “Kenyans love nyama choma (roast meat),” says Mr Muriuki, adding “our natural briquettes produce the same amount of heat as charcoal but last longer.

FACTFILE

How hydrogen generator works
Hydrogen generators can either be powered by hydrogen or ones that make hydrogen. One is powered by hydrogen will use the gas or a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity for use by the generator. A generator that produces hydrogen will do so through either by using electrolysis processing or water, or the extraction and reformation of pure hydrogen from chemicals like sodium borohydride, ammonia, methanol or gasoline. The water electrolysis method produces little waste, while the extraction and reformation process creates numerous byproducts that must be disposed of or recycled. Whether the hydrogen generator is using water or extracting and reforming hydrogen from other chemicals, the basic principle of the generator remains the same. The source liquid or chemical is placed in a container with two metal plates. The plates are then “charged” (either through the introduction of electricity or through a chemical reaction) causing the elements of the source to separate into H2 and a byproduct that is not used by the generator. The H2 is then removed from the container.

The hydrogen engine, which increases a vehicles mileage by 20%. It can be fitted within two years.

They have been tested and we are now supplying them to restaurants, schools and institutions in Nairobi.” With an initial investment of Sh10,000 in the briquette business, Geroy Green is now raking in Sh2,500 a day – enough to finance their team of four and their marketing plans for the hydrogen generator. The hydrogen generator was a response to high fuel prices; the fireball briquettes answered the crackdown on cutting trees. They plan to develop more green products that offer cheaper and more efficient solutions. MAY Nairobi Business Monthly |