India’s state-funded helmet promises ‘fresh air’ in battle on winter smog


NEW DELHI, Aug. 29 (Reuters) – As the Indian capital, New Delhi, prepares for winter — and the accompanying season of sharp smog — the government is promoting a motorcycle helmet equipped with filters and a rear fan that it says is 80% can remove pollutants.

Government agencies have pumped thousands of dollars into Shellios Technolabs, a startup whose founder Amit Pathak began working in a basement in 2016 on the helmet, which he calls the world’s first of its kind.

That was the year of the first headlines about the foul air that makes New Delhi almost unbreathable from mid-December to February as the severe cold traps dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from burning crop waste in nearby states.

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“In a home or office, you could have an air purifier,” says Pathak, an electrical engineer. “But the guys on the bike have no protection at all.”

So his company designed a helmet with an air purification unit, equipped with a replaceable filter membrane and a fan powered by a battery that lasts six hours and can be charged via a microUSB slot.

Sales of the helmet began in 2019 and tests on the streets of New Delhi by an independent lab confirmed it can keep more than 80% of pollutants out of users’ nostrils, Pathak added.

A 2019 test report, seen by Reuters, shows the helmet reduced levels of lung-harmful PM2.5 particles in the air to 8.1 micrograms per cubic meter from 43.1 micrograms outdoors.

India’s Ministry of Science and Technology says the helmet “provides a breath of fresh air for motorcyclists”. That may not come a moment too soon in a country that was home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities last year.

Pathak sees a big opportunity amid the annual demand for 30 million helmets, but declined to reveal its production or sales figures.

Each helmet retails for 4,500 rupees ($56), or nearly four times the price of a regular helmet, effectively putting the device out of reach for many riders in India.

Because the 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) weight is heavier than existing devices, Shellios has partnered with a major manufacturer to develop a lighter version of a thermoplastic material instead of fiberglass, a step that is also will cut costs.

The new version is expected to be released in a few months.

Pathak said the company had also sparked interest from Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

($1 = 79,8210 rupees)

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Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Additional reporting by Anushree Fadnavis and Sunil Kataria; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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