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Powering rickshaws with solar energy

SOLshare is working to reduce emissions and boost incomes in Bangladesh.


The Earthshot Prize celebrates climate innovations with the potential to transform communities all over the world. And as an Earthshot Prize Global Alliance Member, we’re proud to support its winners and finalists.

With its game-changing idea for power-sharing in Bangladesh, SOLshare, was selected as a finalist for the 2021 Inaugural Earthshot Prize in the 'Fix our Climate' category.

Now, it’s upgrading Dhaka’s fleet of electric rickshaws. A team from Deloitte has supported SOLshare’s growth and its plans to develop a more sustainable transport system.

Did you know that Dhaka is dubbed ‘the rickshaw capital of the world’? Or that Bangladesh is setting impressive standards for renewable energy with one of the world’s largest domestic solar energy networks?

Two seemingly unrelated facts. Or rather, they were, until Earthshot finalist SOLshare found a way to connect them, bringing benefits for local communities and the environment in the process.

Access to affordable, renewable electricity in Bangladesh began widening in 2003, when its government led an innovative solar-power initiative, establishing an off-grid solar network.

By 2014, Bangladesh had installed around 2.8 million solar energy home systems. But only 70 per cent of the energy generated was being used.

“There’s only so much energy home systems can store,” says Dr Sebastian Groh, co-founder and CEO of SOLshare. “Once the battery is full, energy and money are wasted.”

Realising the potential for millions of homes collecting solar energy to use this excess power, Sebastian had the idea for SOLshare. The world’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) energy exchange network, it would essentially create solar-energy microgrids, so households could sell power to others, generating income while connecting more people to affordable, constant renewable energy.

“We created a platform that connects and harnesses these lost resources, connecting thousands of households and microbusinesses into solar P2P microgrids,” Sebastian continues.

“To tackle energy poverty and reduce carbon emissions, the world needs new thinking. We’re helping Bangladesh become world leaders in innovative solutions to fight climate change, showing how the most vulnerable countries affected by it are taking action.”

Dr Sebastian Groh

Co-Founder & CEO of SOLshare

“It’s a privilege to support SOLshare’s solar-powered mobility scheme. It’s a fantastic idea that’s already making a huge positive impact on Bangladesh’s communities, environment, and economy.”

Jamie Hamilton

Partner at Deloitte UK

Connecting rickshaws to the solar network

With huge potential to expand the idea and its benefits, SOLshare turned its attention to the backbone of its transport system – Bangladesh’s electric three wheelers.

Too often caught in a poverty trap, rickshaw drivers have depended on slow-charging, lead-acid batteries, powered by a national grid affected by daily outages that sometimes occurred multiple times a day.

“A lot of people see these vehicles as a burden to the national grid, but we want to turn them into an asset,” explains Salma Islam, head of projects, fundraising and communication at SOLshare.

Many drivers spend all day driving, then come back and sleep in rickshaw garages, while their rickshaws are charging, before going back out again.

By using SOLshare's existing Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology stack and adopting its battery-leasing model, called SOLmobility, drivers can maximise working time and income. So SOLshare began upgrading Bangladesh’s electric three wheelers with smart tech-integrated lithium-ion (LI) batteries, which can be powered from solar energy in Bangladesh.

“Everything we do is rooted in data,” continues Salma. “The smart LI batteries capture real-time data that our analysts use to create visualisations on the battery’s state of charge, distance driven and the amount of carbon emissions being reduced.”

The next goal for SOLshare is to turn rickshaws into a ‘virtual power plant’. Using two-way chargers, electric vehicles (EVs) will be able to feed leftover energy back into the national grid, further improving circularity and helping Dhaka move towards its climate targets.

Making a difference

To support Dhaka’s start-up scene and innovative Greentech solutions, Deloitte worked with SOLshare as a consulting partner.

“Using our experience in battery economics and end-to-end supply chain management for automobile and energy organisations, we were well positioned to help deliver a road map for the rickshaw project and supply-chain analysis for the products needed,” says Matt Juden, a senior manager at Deloitte.

Teams from the UK, Bangladesh and China collaborated to help SOLshare secure the large-scale LI battery supplier it needed and to launch a direct-to-consumer ecommerce service for rickshaws garages to lease LI batteries to the drivers.

A year later, SOLshare has collaborations with 40 charging garages across Bangladesh and 110 EVs running on the new longer-lasting, faster-charging smart tech integrated batteries. Drivers have been able to earn up to 30 per cent more while their charging costs have gone down by 40 per cent.

“Deloitte helped us to figure out our business model, giving clarity on how we could manage stakeholders and map the supply chain, as well as how we could take SOLmobility to market,” continues Salma.

“We wouldn’t have been able to scale our idea and launch the offering as quickly without this support.”


Earthshot Prize 

Started by founder and president Prince William and supported by environmentalists including Sir David Attenborough, the Earthshot Prize has been supporting game-changing climate innovations since 2021.

As implementation partner for the Prize, hundreds of Deloitte sustainability experts independently screen the ideas submitted by a diverse group of nominators each year.

“We rigorously assess entries to find inspiring, impactful and innovative solutions,” says Katherine Lampen, lead Earthshot partner at Deloitte. “We’re looking for what Earthshot describes as ‘magical disruptive wildcard solutions’.

“True Earthshot solutions are innovations that present an opportunity to change the systems we rely on for everyday life to become more sustainable. SOLshare is a fantastic example, providing the blueprint for an alternative, sustainable approach to urban transport. This type of practical innovation aligns economic outcomes and sustainable outcomes and is what makes Earthshot’s mission to repair and revive our planet by 2030 so powerful.”

“And as a Global Alliance Member, teams in our advisory and consulting business supported so many of the other winners and finalists – including Coral Vita, Notpla, 44.01, and Sanergy,” adds Katherine.

“The Deloitte team’s work with SOLshare is a brilliant example of how our people’s wide-ranging skills can amplify the impact of these ideas. That’s what Earthshot continues to be all about: coming together to support innovators and game-changing solutions all over the world, while making the biggest impact we can for our planet.”

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