5-hour energy founder Manoj Bhargava will distribute 10000 stationary bikes throughout Indian villages in March 2016. One hour of pedaling will equate to an entire day of electricity for household lights and basic appliances.
Bhargava is a bit of a mystery man. He grew up in an affluent home with servants in India, but his family struggled financially after coming to the United States when he was 14. He worked odd jobs and got academic scholarships. Bhargava dropped out of Princeton University after a year because he was bored and relocated to the mountains of India where he lived as a monk for 12 years. He eventually returned to the United States.
At age 51, Bhargava created Innovations Ventures LLC and launched 5-hour Energy in 2003 and made his fortune selling 5-Hour Energy drinks in gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S. By 2012, retail sales had grown to an estimated $1 billion.
Today, Bhargava is a businessman and philanthropist and says he has more money than he needs, about $4 billion more to be precise, and has pledged 99% of his net worth to improving the well-being of the world’s less fortunate.
“If You Have Wealth, It’s a Duty to Help Those Who Don’t,” Says Bhargava
Bhargava aims to revolutionize electricity for those who live without constant and reliable access to power, and promises these bikes to be an affordable investment for Indian families.
“This Is the Cheapest, Most Practical Way of Getting Electricity Throughout the World,” Bhargava Said.
Bhargava, hasn’t stopped at bikes and is working on ways to make saltwater drinkable at a new $120 million plant in Singapore, massage bed-like devices aimed at enhancing blood circulation, and securing limitless amounts of clean geothermal energy using a graphene cord.
While geothermal energy is already widely used in some countries, including Indonesia and Iceland, Bhargava takes a novel approach. Rather than using steam mixed with chemicals to bring the heat to the surface, Bhargava would instead pull it up with a graphene cord. He notes graphene, stronger than steel, is an incredible conductor of heat.
“You don’t need to burn anything…Once you bring [heat] up, you don’t change any of the infrastructure,” Bhargava says, explaining that utilities could simply distribute it instead of coal, oil, or natural gas.
Its estimated this type of geothermal solution could replace up to 85% of today’s fossil fuels. Bhargava says “maps show half of the world has plentiful underground heat, and since graphene cables could run horizontally, they could route it to the other half as well.”
“Make a Difference in People’s Lives, Don’t Just Talk about It.” Says Bhargava
But, will his bike really work? Will people want to pedal for power? At $100 per bike could they even afford it or even have room for it in their homes?
It Holds “Huge Potential and Opportunity for Rural Households,” Says Ajaita Shah, Ceo of Frontier Markets, a Company Selling Solar Lamps and Lighting Kits in India.
“It’s so simple that we think we can make it for $100 … A bicycle repairman anywhere can fix it,” Bhargava says in an interview.
Pedaling the bike turns a turbine generator that creates electricity, stored in a battery. The first 50 bikes are already being tested in 20 small villages in the northern state of Uttarakhand before a major roll-out in March 2016.
Bhargava says the bikes will be made in India but doesn’t give details.