It may not be ideal for all countries (including the UK in July this year), but solar powered devices are starting to gain some serious momentum in India.
Vodafone Essar, the Vodafone subsidiary that’s a major mobile phone supplier in India, has launched its latest eco-friendly, solar charging handset. With an extended solar battery, the VF247 is aimed at users in rural communities where the electricity supply is unreliable.
In fact the phone, which will be available shortly, doesn’t need huge amounts of sunlight, it can apparently be charged in a room under normal daylight. It also comes with standard mobile phone features including an FM radio, colour screen and torch light.
It’s not the first or only solar charging phone. A number of other companies have offerings, notably Samsung, and others are looking at alternative and more flexible energy sources for mobiles. But Vodafone Essar has a presence across India, with almost 110 million customers in the country, so it’s certainly in a position to spread the use of the technology. (According to CleanTechnica.com there are more than 500 million mobile phone subscribers in India, a number which is expected to double by 2015).
As we reported earlier in the year, there is already a push under way from the Indian government to convert the country’s mobile phone towers from diesel generation to solar power. As solar towers spread into rural India, so will the demand for solar phones.
But it’s not just phones, the Indian Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, has announced plans for a touch-screen, iPad-type laptop device that can also run on solar power.
The device, with a £23 price tag, is planned for launch next year. It apparently runs Linux and uses a memory card, rather than a hard disk, and will support web browsing, video conferencing and word processing. It is expected to be initially introduced to higher education institutions.
There’s not much detail on the solar-powered aspect, though, which suggests there’s still work to be done. Much will depend on the manufacturer and apparently several global players are interested, at least one from Taiwan.
It remains to be seen whether this gets of the ground, though, an earlier plan to introduce a cheap laptop by the Indian government came to nothing. But if both solar phones and laptops do take off, India could well become a leading player in green ICT.