Envirofit International Ltd., a non-profit corporation that develops new solutions for global challenges and disseminates technologies originated at Colorado State University, has been named in the latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review as one of 10 innovative technology companies that create global social change.
The prestigious scholarly journal listing adds to the international recognition of Envirofit and Colorado State’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, which addresses and provides solutions for chronic health and environmental issues affecting billions of people throughout the world.
The Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory together with Envirofit developed a bolt-on, direct-injection retrofit kit for carbureted two-stroke engines that are major polluters in many Third World countries. This technology drastically reduces pollution to within acceptable environmental standards while improving fuel economy more than 35 percent. This easily installed, direct-injection retrofit technology is initially targeted to the tens of millions of tricycle taxis that dominate the roads in many Third World countries. The taxis are critical to the social structure in providing economical transportation for the working class and providing income for millions of tricycle taxi driver families.
The deadly pollution from these inexpensive, yet polluting vehicles kills thousands of people annually in areas of Southeast Asia, Africa and South America.
"We’re humbled and honored by the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s inclusion of Envirofit with such a quality group of companies," said Ron Bills, Envirofit chairman. "Our proven technology drastically reduces air pollution and improves fuel economy and tricycle taxi driver income. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The retrofit kit easily pays for itself in less than one year in fuel economy alone while at the same time improving health and social conditions."
After an extensive study and evaluation period, the Envirofit technology has also recently been endorsed by the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, a program developed by Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, Bills said.
"Envirofit is an excellent example that the research coming out of Colorado State provides real, applicable solutions to global problems ranging from the environment to sustainable energy to infectious disease," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost. "Discoveries at Colorado State save lives around the globe – whether that’s by developing mosquito-resistant netting or contributing to a healthier, sustainable environment via cleaner engines. We’re proud of the difference the Colorado State faculty make in our world."
In November, Envirofit was named one of the top five environmental laureates by Silicon Valley’s Tech Museum of Innovation – only one of 25 technological advancements recognized out of a pool of 647 from 80 countries.
Stanford chose its top 10 from the 25 companies named by the Tech Museum of Innovation. Envirofit was one of three U.S. companies of the 10 Stanford listed.
"Who creates gadgets to change their world?" wrote John Voelcker, author of the article that appeared in the summer 2006 issue. "The 10 social entrepreneurs profiled in this article do. But they don’t just invent gizmos … They also ask hard-nosed economic questions that help them understand their products’ distribution, adoption and maintenance."
Of Envirofit, he wrote, "If the trial goes well in the Philippines, it will offer a model for the rest of Asia and other countries throughout the world."
The Stanford Social Innovation Review aims to highlight people, places and things that improve the world.
Late last year, Envirofit signed its first major agreement to retrofit 3,000 two-stroke tricycle taxi engines in Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage city in the northern Philippines, with cleaner, more efficient engines. The innovative retrofit technology will reduce harmful emissions from two-stroke engines by up to 90 percent and reduce fuel consumption by more than 35 percent.
That solution could dramatically reduce air pollution in many other developing nations.
"Envirofit has left the realm of the purely theoretical and is now actively making important contributions to environmental, economic, health, and social conditions in the developing world," said Brock Silvers, chief executive officer of Envirofit. "Our Vigan Tricycle Retrofit Program has generated the intense interest of city governments throughout the Philippines, and we expect to announce several potentially large-scale projects in the near future. The recognition of Envirofit’s efforts and potential by the Stanford Review is both a tremendous honor and an important validation of our success to date."
Numerous technology transfer opportunities and partnerships have emerged from the engines lab at Colorado State – one of the reasons northern Colorado is a statewide leader in the development of clean and renewable energy solutions. In May, economic development leaders announced the creation of the Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, a clearinghouse that connects entrepreneurs and major power users with researchers and government officials, encouraging innovation, new job creation and investment in the region.
As part of those efforts, the Colleges of Business and Engineering at Colorado State have formed a new center to create more companies like Envirofit – companies that license technological advancements created at Colorado State to address the great global problems, including the health and welfare of the Third World. The Global Innovation Center for Energy, Health and the Environment focuses on the developing world’s chronic environmental needs that often do not capture the attention of relief organizations.
Within the Philippines alone, there are more than 1.3 million motorized tricycle taxis powered by smoky, two-stroke cycle engines. Harmful emissions are so concentrated that many citizens wear masks and walk through the city with rags held to their noses and mouths to filter the air. The World Bank study estimates that within the Philippines’ four largest cities, particulate emissions result in more than 2,000 premature deaths, 9,000 cases of severe respiratory illness and more than $430 million of associated economic losses every year.
In response to these issues, Colorado State began engineering practical solutions for these types of air pollution problems in the engines lab, which relies on undergraduate students as well as graduate students to help with research.
"Two-stroke engines are recognized as a primary contributor to pollution and health problems in the Philippines and many developing nations, but the vehicles powered by these engines are also key to business and social structure," said Bryan Willson, director of the university’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. "We want to address the Philippine government’s desire to reduce vehicle pollution and citizen desires to keep tricycles legal."
The next project of the Global Innovation Center is underway, currently targeted at Nepal: to develop and market an improved cookstove that reduces indoor air pollution and also generates electricity for lights while it is being used. In the developing world, indoor air pollution from fuels such as wood and dung is the leading cause of death for children under 5 and the fourth leading cause of premature death for women.