Founders of Earlham College startup to continue quest for Hult Prize in Portugal

The founders of a new business startup from Earlham College will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, this summer as semi-finalists for the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition for social good.

EVO, short for Electrical Vehicle Optimization, is a venture by sophomores Zohaib Asif and Parsa Mallik and juniors Loukik Nanda and Diprekshya Maharjan. Together they are working to transform the electric vehicle industry by boosting the lifespan of the lithium-ion batteries that power them. 

“Battery degradation is a problem that is hindering the mass adoption of electric automobiles and is contributing to landfill waste in a way that is not sustainable,” said Asif, a business major from Pakistan and EVO’s chief executive officer. “Our idea could help solve a big problem and offer a solution for the marketplace.”

Demand for electric vehicles has increased in recent years and is expected to continue into the next decade. Recycling the lithium-ion batteries that power them, however, is complicated because they contain hazardous materials.

“Replacement batteries cost upwards of $20,000,” said Nanda, a business and data science double major from India and the team’s chief marketing officer. “We are offering an affordable alternative that is also reliable and sustainable.”

EVO is using campus laboratories to determine if they can restore capacity in used lithium-ion batteries from drones.

“Battery degradation is caused by not completely discharging a battery before recharging it,” said Mallik, a computer science major from Bangladesh and EVO’s chief operations officer. “We are trying to run a cycle that completely discharges a battery at a certain amount of current and resistance that can bring back the battery’s capacity.”

Parsa Mallik presenting for Team EVO.

“Battery degradation is caused by not completely discharging a battery before recharging it. We are trying to run a cycle that completely discharges a battery at a certain amount of current and resistance that can bring back the battery’s capacity.”

Parsa Mallik

The team punched their ticket to Portugal after winning the quarterfinal Hult Prize competition on campus sponsored by Earlham’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity (CEIC) and the campus chapter of Net Impact. The CEIC pays for all airfare and accommodations associated with the trip.

“We’re really excited to go to Lisbon to pitch our idea on a global scale,” said Maharjan, a business and quantitative economics double major from Nepal and EVO’s chief financial operator.

“We’ll be competing against larger universities — Yale won the Hult Prize last year — but Earlham has really equipped us with the knowledge and resources we need to compete against them.”

The team credits Gene Hambrick, senior executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity, for bringing the team together and supporting their big idea.

“Gene offers a class called the ‘Ennovation Lab,’” Asif said. “It’s not a knowledge-based class. It’s a project-based class. We do pitching and business modeling and I get a lot of feedback and mentorship from him. He’s really motivated me to take part in this kind of stuff.”

Beyond the thrill of competing internationally, Nanda says his journey in entrepreneurship has opened up new possibilities for a career outside Earlham.

“I never thought about entrepreneurship or going into business for myself before coming to Earlham,” Nanda said. 

“The friendships and relationships we’re building right here on campus have been so valuable and close to my heart,” he said. “There is nothing better than working together to solve a big problem that the world is facing.”

Earlham students have been competing annually for the Hult Prize since 2016 and took home the $1 million grand prize in the College’s first year of competition. 

“Our students are a perfect fit for the Hult Prize,” Hambrick said. “They care deeply about the world and are committed to using their education for the betterment of society.

“Team Evo is another example of how Earlhamites are challenging the status quo.”

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About Earlham College 

Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion foster a collaborative learning community that inspires and motivates students with transformative opportunities and experiences so they can become catalysts for good in a changing world. Located in Richmond, Indiana, Earlham is one of U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 national liberal arts colleges and offers one of the top 20 classroom experiences in the nation, according to the Princeton Review.

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EARLHAM ALERT:
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.