Nokia Brings Bicycle-Powered Mobile Phone Charger to Developing Markets

Last month, Nokia unveiled a bicycle-powered phone charger, which can be attached to any bicycle and is powered by the pedaling motion of the rider. The charger works with all Nokia phones carrying a standard 2mm power jack. Designed specifically with the developing world in mind, the charger was introduced by Nokia in Nairobi, Kenya, where mobile penetration is expected to reach 66.7% by 2013.

“To begin charging, a cyclist needs to travel around six kilometers per hour [four miles per hour], and while charging times will vary depending on battery model, a 10-minute journey at 10 kmh [6 mph] produces around 28 minutes of talk time or 37 hours of standby time. The faster you ride, the more battery life you generate,” explained Nokia in a statement.

The entire kit contains a dynamo which is attached to the bicycle wheel, a plastic phone holder to secure the handset, and a plastic bag in case of rain. The Bicycle Charger Kit will hit the Kenyan market late this year, running at $18, according to the product’s data sheet.

John Nichols, Head of Marketing at Nokia UK called the tool “the perfect piece of kit for those that care about the environment,” but the pros go far beyond eco-friendliness. The charger will have a massive effect in developing countries, where bicycles are often the most used means of transportation. As Kachwanya explains (I’ve edited to clear up translation errors):

“The bicycle mobile charger is a solution badly needed in the rural places in Kenya. Despite the best efforts at rural electrification, electricity is still a foreign thing in many rural places and mostly found along major roads, some schools, and government offices. But as we know mobile phones penetration in Kenya is a phenomenon, the same is true with the use of bicycles. For that, the bicycle mobile charger is the perfect kind solution needed.”

The economic value is clear. In rural Kenya, people often travel great distances to stores which charge $2 to power their phones for them. With this alternative source of power, Kenyans can avoid long trips to city centers and save money they’d otherwise be spending on charging handsets. Moreover, this innovation “could lead to sustainable micro-business development” for some rural Kenyans, who could use the charger “to carve out a means to earn a living,” says Ian at the official Nokia blog.

Already a leader in the developing world’s mobile markets, Nokia has its eyes set on further mobile innovations. Nokia VP Alex Lambeek has already hinted that the company plans to bring similar phone-charging devices to markets where motorcycles are heavily used. Also, slated to be released concurrently with the charger are four new, lightweight, affordable mobile phones directed for developing markets with little access to electricity. One phone’s battery has an estimated six-week standby time.

Nokia isn’t the first to bring kinetic phone charging to the marketplace. Motorola and Dahon have introduced similar products before, and a couple Kenyan students actually created a device like this from junkyard scraps a year ago. But Nokia has a firm stronghold on the mobile hardware market in Africa, giving this piece of mobile technology a promising outlook in terms of the impact it could have in the region.