As India’s capital New Delhi prepares for winter — and the acrid smog season that comes with it — the government is promoting a motorcycle helmet equipped with filters and a fan on the back that it says can eliminate 80 percent of the contaminants to the person breathing inside.
- The Indian government is backing a motorcycle helmet equipped with air filters and a fan for cyclists affected by the country’s heavy smog.
- India’s cities are among the most polluted in the world, and New Delhi’s air is at its worst from mid-December to February.
- The manufacturer of the helmet is focusing on producing a lighter, cheaper version to make it accessible to the mass market.
State agencies have pumped thousands of dollars into Shellios Technolabs, a startup whose founder, Amit Pathak, began work on the helmet in a basement in 2016.
That was the year of the first headlines about the stale air that makes New Delhi almost unbreathable from mid-December to February, as the bitter cold traps dust, vehicle exhaust and smoke from burning garbage. crops in nearby states.
“Inside a house or office, you could have an air purifier,” said Pathak, an electrical engineer.
“But the guys on the bike don’t have any protection.”
So his company designed a helmet with an air purification unit, equipped with a replaceable filter membrane and a battery-powered fan that runs for six hours and can be charged via a Micro USB slot.
A 2019 test report seen by Reuters shows the helmet reduced levels of lung-damaging PM2.5 airborne particles to 8.1 micrograms per cubic meter, from 43.1 micrograms outside.
Affordability, the next big hurdle
India’s Ministry of Science and Technology says the helmet offers “a breath of fresh air for cyclists”.
That may not come too soon in a country that last year was home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities.
Pathak sees a big opportunity amid annual demand for 30 million helmets, but declined to disclose its production or sales figures.
Sales of the helmet began in 2019. But each helmet retails for 4,500 rupees ($82), or nearly four times the cost of a regular helmet, putting the device out of reach for many cyclists in India.
Since the weight of 1.5 kilograms is greater than that of existing devices, Shellios has teamed up with a large manufacturer to develop a lighter version, made of a thermoplastic material instead of fiberglass, a step that will also reduce the cost.
The new version is expected to come out in a few months.
Pathak said the company has also attracted interest from Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.