There are more than 37 million motor bikes registered in Vietnam. Very few riders know how to check oil and even fewer know when it’s time for an oil change. Most of them don’t even bother, they just ride until the bike breaks down.
The Oil Meter
A simple invention that keeps life moving forward
- Hong Kong
Vietnam went into a motorbike buying overdrive between 1996 and 2005, buying over 14 million bikes. Bikes that once bore the burden of development fractured their own lifeline – now they are old and they pollute.
To address this problem, policy makers plan to implement stricter smoke emission standards and by 2030 stop issuing permits for motorbikes – harsh measures in a country that uses motorbikes for everything. While official estimates put the total number of bikes at 45 million, there are millions of outdated bikes on the narrow streets of Vietnam. And old bikes don’t usually get discarded, but find their way into smaller cities, towns and villages.
The real causes of pollution are due to engine oil and bike maintenance. Skilled mechanics could keep these bikes running forever, but the real environmental damage and toxic emissions are caused by the lack of a timely oil change – because most of the bikes have an outdated oil indicator light, and even some of the new models don’t have them.
In a tropical country mechanical parts rust faster, causing overuse of engine oil. While oil brands like Castrol and Total communicate proper oil changes every 1000 kilometers, the average Vietnamese rider would change oil only after 3000 kms or more. Clearly, the business opportunity is that more oil changes mean selling more oil, and the social opportunity was huge.
Our solution is a permanent and scalable idea that found its way even to the smallest bike repair shop – an idea that could thrive in the tough tropical weather of Vietnam and that everyone could understand and made perfect motoring sense.
The Oil Meter was re-created for a tropical rural country: weatherproof, rust-proof, durable, and cost-effective. It needed very little mechanical tools.
Call it frugal innovation, a low-cost solution or social innovation, it serves one purpose – to physically alert every rider about oil change.
The Oil Meter is simple science – when oil volume drops, the oil cap pops.
The projected impact will go beyond Vietnam – the goal is to make the Oil Meter available to other countries that rely heavily on motorbikes, like India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and others.
The 100cc motorbike is the lifeline of the business and transport industry in developing countries. There aren’t many solutions available in the market for old bikes and poor people are often forced to scrap their machines because they wear out faster due to the lack of maintenance. By saving some of these bikes from further damage and mechanical breakdown, it not only makes economic sense but also reduces levels of pollution in motorbike congested cities.