Friday, March 07, 2008

Backup Power and Chinese/Indian Products

I was recently trying to find Freeplay Energy’s “FreeCharge Weza” (foot cranked generator) and came across the Xantrex XPower Powerpack 1500. Sad as it may be, I was drooling over both of these things as Kabul is the land of intermittent (and quite often no) power. But then it occurred to me that whatever is available in the states for a kings ransom (which is then doubled by shipping costs) can quite often be found in India and China for a 1/4th of the cost (and admittedly 3/4th to 1/20th of the quality).

My organization has a few solar panels setup on the roof of one of our buildings and I found out that they were made in India and our engineer informed me that they were about 1/3rd the cost of the European equivalent. I have noticed at least one shop in Kabul (and I am sure there are more) that deals mainly with alternative energy generation such as windmills, solar panels and I am sure a few other things. It would probably be worth checking the place out to see if they have slightly cheaper power packs (would be nice if I could keep my computer and our satellite modem going a bit longer when the power craps out [and for all you electronics engineers out there, yes, I have a UPS and two US made [for 240v systems] surge protectors so even if I got an Indian battery gizmo and it decided to melt down I don’t foresee my baby [aka laptop] having any problems)

To further illustrate pricing in India and the US I was looking for the medicine “Immetrex” which is *insanely* expensive in the US (proof that the US pharmaceutical industry is legalized robbery) because I had run out and life with a migraine is pretty miserable. I found out from an expat that a reasonably priced Indian equivalent could be found in Afghanistan and my staff did in fact find some of these tablets for about $2.50/tablet. Two bucks for a pill may sound like robbery but in reviewing my options with my folks we quickly came to the conclusion that (if they work, which they seem to) the Indian pills at $2 a pop was worlds better than the $4/pill it would cost in the US and that is $4 *with* insurance, its like $200 for a pack of 9 tablets w/o insurance). I can understand companies wanting to make some of their money lost through R&D back but sometimes the prices are just insane.