Sri Lankan Entrepreneur Wins UN Environment Startup Prize

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March 25, 2018 – A Sri Lankan engineer who has developed an affordable conversion kit to allow tuk tuks to run on electric power has won a US$10,000 grant from UN Environment.

As a winner of the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge in the Low Carbon Mobility category, Sasiranga De Silva will also receive business and marketing training from global experts, and pitch to win an additional US$10,000 prize to bolster his business.

UN Environment’s Director for the Asia-Pacific region, Dechen Tsering, said, “The transport sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Electrifying our transport options is the kind of solution that will make an enormous impact on air quality in Sri Lanka and other countries across the region. We are thrilled to support innovation like Sasiranga’s initiative.”

The Sri Lankan government recently banned the import of polluting two-stroke tuk tuks due to their low efficiency and high greenhouse gas emissions. Yet 300,000 remain on the roads, with many families relying on the income they provide as taxis.

De Silva’s solution will allow tuk tuk drivers to convert their vehicles to an electric powertrain that will generate zero tailpipe emissions. Charging can be done at home through regular wall sockets, and the powertrain will offer a 100-kilometre range. The government of Sri Lanka is offering low-interest loans in order to stimulate these conversions. De Silva hopes that his kit will offer more choice for drivers looking to reduce their environmental impact and save money. De Silva estimates drivers can save up to $950 per year from reduced maintenance and running costs.

De Silva said, “Climate change is a global threat that can only be overcome with collective effort. As an engineer, I am obliged to do my part to ensure a sustainable and a healthier future for the generations to come. By decarbonizing the transport sector, we can make a major difference. I appreciate that UN Environment is helping me increase my impact.”

About Sasiranga De Silva

Sasiranga De Silva is a lecturer at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Motratuwa Sri Lanka. His research interests include renewable energy, sustainable transportation to autonomous vehicles. He has held positions in government and private organizations in developing regulations and standardizing the transport sector. Sasiranga is also an automotive engineering consultant with his advice in demand both in Sri Lanka and internationally.

About the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge

The Asia-Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge aims to mobilize and support young people with business ideas on how to foster energy-efficient, low-waste and low-carbon lifestyles.

12 winners each receive a US$10,000 to support their business venture focusing on one of three different categories: low carbon mobility, plastic waste and energy efficiency.

This is an initiative funded by the Ministry of Environment Japan, as part of SWITCH-Asia’s Regional Sustainable Consumption and Production Policy Advocacy Component, the Asia-Pacific Regional Roadmap on Sustainable Consumption and Production and One Planet.  This initiative is carried out together with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, The Thai National Science and Technology Development Agency and Sasin Entrepreneurship Center.