Markets in Everything: Refrigerators $69 to $15k
Possibly the world's cheapest refrigerator, the $69 ChotuKool refrigerator above is being taken for field testing in rural India (it's scheduled for release in March 2010). The portable, top-opening unit weighs only 17 pounds, uses high-end insulation to stay cool for hours without power and consumes half the energy used by regular refrigerators. To achieve its efficiency the ChotuKool doesn't use a compressor, instead running on a cooling chip and a fan similar to those used in computers, so like computers it can run on batteries. It's engineering credentials are further boosted by the fact that it has only 20 parts, as opposed to more than 200 parts in a normal refrigerator. The ChotuKool was co-designed with village women (a "reverse engineering of sorts,” according a spokesman for the manufacturer) to assure its acceptability.
The quality and quantity of power these people have access to is very poor and consequently the country has very little development happening in rural areas. The power situation in rural India cannot be fixed overnight and until it is, products like this are needed to make people's lives a little better. Effective refrigeration in rural areas can help people extend their access to not only food, but also essential drugs.
Possibly the world's most expensive refrigerators, the LG Internet Refrigerator pictured below has the coolest set of features ever seen in the kitchen. It is a 730 litre, stainless-steel, side-by-side fridge, with an in-built computer which can be accessed via a 15-inch touch-screen LCD monitor mounted on the fridge door. Users can watch TV, listen to MP3 music, take and store digital photos, make a video phone call, use the fridge as a message board or surf the web.
It also has VCR and DVD ports, a microphone and speakers. Information about food in the fridge can be stored and a map of the fridge allows the owner to keep an inventory of what foods are in each section and how long they have been there. It's biggest advantage will be its functionality as a food management system. It also has an inbuilt hard drive and modem, so that the appliance can be 'connected' by simply running a phone connection into it. $15,000 is the anticipated RRP when it's released later this year.