Zolair Energy

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Zolair is a micro-electric utility providing clean, affordable energy solutions for the developing world.

Zolair logo


Headquarters Vancouver, BC, Canada
Established 2014
Impact Areas Namibia, Southern Africa
Type For-Profit
Energy Sectors
Business Model Types
Staff Size 6
Annual Budget $1,500,000
Major Funders Private investors
Awards 2006: Second Place Top 100 Technology Company in South Africa

2008: Energy Globe Award, Namibia

2009: Tech Museum Innovation Award

2010: Santa Clara Social Benefit Incubator

2010: Africa Award for Best Rural Electrification Solution

2012: World Quality Award for Innovation, Paris, France

2012: Ashoka Fellow




Zolair provides wireless energy activation for basic energy 24/7, from anywhere, anytime, for anyone, and high ROI for investors. Zolair Energy purchased a shareholding in Zolair and the use of the know how and technology developed by AEDC in South Africa. Zolair developed a new business model in order to reach a wide target market with global potential by selling energy in kilowatt-hours through the use of zinc-air fuel cells.



Energy Products/Services

  • Zolair Energy uses a pay-as you go, manually rechargeable zinc-air fuel cell product to provide electricity to consumers.
  • Customers purchase energy vouchers and then use them to activate the fuel cell via SMS at any time or location.
  • Once activated, the fuel cell can provide up to 4 kWh or 320 amp hours of electricity for lighting, cell phone charging, appliances like color TV, fridge/freezer, electric sewing machines, haircutters, computers, printers, copiers , or other uses.
  • The PILA 1 unit is equipped with an inverter to create AC, 12 volt DC, and USB outlets, allowing for the powering of different types of devices and electrical appliances.
  • Energy payments can also be crowd funded, sponsored by friends, family, and people in industrialized nations.
  • Zolair will establish a network of service shops that take care of installations and accessory sales while also serving as education and community centers with Internet access. Each service shop is modular, portable, and can serve up to 500 households per month.

Target Market

  • Zolair targets people at the base of the pyramid in Namibia and Southern Africa who do not have access to a reliable source of electricity. A later roll out into Asia and South America is envisaged.
  • Zolair’s product is ideal for rural markets due to the fact that it is portable and can be activated anytime, anywhere.
  • It is ideal for disaster management, recreation, outdoor use and UPS systems.


Zolair Energy

Revenue Streams

  • Prepayment for electricity usage.
  • Sale of complimentary accessory products such as lights and mobile chargers, color TV’s, fridges and freezers, sewing machines, copiers, inverters hair cutters, battery chargers etc.
  • Partnerships with mines and companies under their CSI programs, creating rural electrification for villages around their businesses of operations that have no basic energy.
  • Sale of franchise rights to specific countries/areas.

Value Proposition

  • Zolair’s system provides customers with clean energy at a lower monthly operating cost than using candles or paraffin.
  • This improves customers’ quality of life, health, education, and creates sustainable local jobs.
  • It also reduces carbon emissions and has no impact on the environment because it generates no waste.

Problem Addressed

  • Non-grid communities in Namibia and Southern Africa have limited options for basic reliable energy.
  • Paraffin candles are expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy.
  • Home batteries must be taken to town to be recharged every few days.
  • These communities typically have unemployment rates of around 80%, leaving little disposable income for investment in better solutions.
  • Zolair’s fuel cell solution is cheaper and better than other micro grid solutions.  For example, it would take $252 and $396 to operate a 2kW Honda and 4kW ONAN generator for 180 hours (about 30 days’ equivalent usage) respectively.  Zolair’s fuel cell would cost just $60 to operate for the same amount of time.
  • Many areas need energy solutions that create sustainable employment, disposable income and better education for children.
  • Zolair addresses energy needs in a comprehensive way by providing electricity in a form that can be used for much more than just lighting.

Where They Are Now

Impact to Date

  • 4,000 people benefitted through projects by AEDC.
  • Power provided in 2 X villages 1 Megawatt per month.
  • 680 Tons of CO2 displaced per year.


  • 2014: Zolair established, bought all rights from AEDC, development of a new and improved business model. ( pay as you go energy by selling KW hrs. in incremental payments, wireless activation). Filed 2 new patents.
  • 2014: Received first seed financing.
  • 2015 (projected): Implementation of project in Namibia with 2000 PILA1 energy units to fine tune wireless activation and communication technology.
  • 2016 (projected): Expand into South Africa.

Growth Plan

  • During deployment in Namibia, Zolair will focus on fine tuning the wireless technology system and demonstrating profitability.
  • Zolair will set up a network of service shops and educational centers and train local technicians, creating jobs and improving livelihoods in the process.
  • After establishing themselves and refining their business model further, they will scale to new locations throughout Southern Africa, and then the world.

How They Deliver

Product Sourcing

  • Zolair produces its fuel cells in Canada and South Africa, a facility in Namibia is planned.


  • The product is delivered to customers through service stations.
  • The fuel cell itself is leased to customers, they only pay for on-demand energy usage.


  • he product’s affordability comes from its pay as you go nature. Households only pay for the electricity that they use rather than purchasing solar panels, batteries or generators.
  • Crowdfunding can be used to pay for electricity; either by family, friends, or charitable individuals who live in industrialized nations. That way, communities and individuals can be empowered to receive basic energy to use it for home industry to create disposable income.
  • Zolair is safer, more environmental friendly and more cost effective than using small generators for electricity generation.


  • Zolair has been able to raise the first seed capital in Canada.


  • Zolair seeks to use its new, more scalable business model as a launching platform to scale to new locations and create new markets.
  • Zolair will implement 80,000 units in the next 5 years in Namibia and Southern Africa, and then scale to other countries in Africa.
  • Eventually, Zolair hopes to reach global scale, with the entire base of the pyramid as their target market.



  • Zolair is focused on reaching a large number of customers with its new business model.
  • Zolair will supply more and more people with reliable basic energy, available 24/7 in order to empower communities, create job opportunities and improve education.




  • Description: The product is a rechargeable, portable zinc-air fuel cell that generates electricity from the decomposition of zinc to zinc- oxide. The fuel cells in the PILA 1 unit create 12V, DC, a inverter creates AC, and USB port outlets can charge a multitude of devices.  The fuel cells are linked to a solar panel and controller in order to become a hybrid energy system that operates on demand 24/7.
  • How is it used: The Pila 1 unit is distributed from the service stations, is activated via mobile phone or prepayment cards anytime, anywhere. This unlocks the flow of electricity, allowing the fuel cell to be used to power appliances and electronic devices.

Technical Data*

Energy production  4000 watt-hrs. (320 amp-hrs.)
Open voltage minimum, no load 15.7 volt DC
Short circuit current, no load 12 amp
Operating voltage at 30 watt load 14.3 volt DC (2.5 amp)
Maximum short-term draw 50 watt (4.2 amp)
Energy draw, constant, 30 watt 100 hours
Energy draw, constant, 15 watt 260 hours
Energy density 7 times more than a lead-acid battery
Energy availability On demand, 24/7
Discharge rate 2% per month
Weight 9 kg
Maintenance  Check electrolyte level every 6 weeks if not used daily
Operating temperature -60 degrees C to +70 degrees C

*Figures for 20 degrees C, at 1,430 meters above sea level.

PILA 1 fuel cell

Pila 1 demo unit activated an switched on

Zolair’s PILA 1 fuel cell, with a telephone for size comparison.

Online Resources

Contact Information

# 200, 37780, 2nd Ave. Squamish, BC. V8B-0B2

Box 1061, Squamish Main, V8B-0A7

604 849 0792