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

NEW DELHI, Aug 29 (Reuters) – As India’s capital New Delhi prepares for winter – and the accompanying season of acrid smog – the government is promoting a filter-equipped motorcycle helmet and a fan in the back which he claims can remove 80% of pollutants.

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

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

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“In a home or an office, you might have an air purifier,” said Pathak, an electrical engineer. “But the guys on the bike, they have no protection.”

His company therefore 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 port.

Sales of the headset began in 2019 and tests on the streets of New Delhi by an independent lab confirmed that it can prevent more than 80% of pollutants from entering users’ nostrils, Pathak added.

A 2019 test report seen by Reuters shows the helmet reduced levels of lung-damaging PM 2.5 airborne particles to 8.1 micrograms per cubic meter from 43.1 micrograms at the ‘outside.

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

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

Each helmet sells for 4,500 rupees ($56), nearly four times the cost of a regular helmet, putting the device out of reach for many cyclists in India.

Since the 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) weight is heavier than existing devices, Shellios teamed up with a major manufacturer to develop a lighter version from a thermoplastic material rather than the fiberglass, a step that will also reduce the cost.

The new version should be out in a few months.

Pathak said the company has also attracted 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.

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