Human energy to bring power by the pedal

Human energy to bring power by the pedal

Manoj Bhargava, founder of Billions in Change, calls up two words as the stars of his show. Energy, water. He reminds us what may be obvious but often ignored. They hold the key to other things that keep the poor, well, poor. Energy and water hold the key to health and to livelihoods.

Bhargava has been making news with one of those main characters, energy. He said in the video that half the world either lacks electricity or has it only for two to three hours a day. It's not just a matter of being able to tune into a favorite TV program but of lighting and heating a home, studying after dark, storing food, preparing food without burning wood or coal.

Energy, he said, is a great equalizer. And his goal has been to look for "that one thing that will lead to benefits that are across hundreds of things."

His "that one thing" in this instance has been human mechanical energy to create energy. His video introduces his bicycle.

Free Electric, as it is called, has you pedal for an hour—to get electricity for 24 hours.

(He told Business Standard in October, "A standard electricity-producing bicycle can power one bulb as long as you are peddling it; the bulb goes out once you stop peddling. Our device can power 24 light bulbs, a fan, a phone charger and a tablet charger at the same time.")

How it works: A person pedals a hybrid bicycle. The bicycle wheel drives a flywheel, which turns a generator, which charges a battery. Pedaling for one hour yields electricity for 24 hours.

The Free Electric is made with standard bike parts. Bhargava told Gizmag that each working part of the bike was refined to be made as simple as possible. Added to these standard parts are some weights, an alternator and a 12-V battery, said Gizmag.

The name Billions in Change intimates the group is asking people for money. They are not asking for money but asking people to support via telling others, including officials. "We have the technologies to change the lives of billions of people. With your help, these technologies will be adopted and implemented quickly."

What's next? Singapore's newspaper, TODAY said that "in India, Mr. Bhargava will begin in March to manufacture and distribute an electricity-generating bicycle for poor households."

Business Standard said Bhargava plans to produce 10,000 units of the electricity-producing bicycles in India by March for people in need, especially in rural areas.

Does this all sound familiar? There have been other attempts to pedal for power. The Billions in Change recognizes they are not the first to think up energy-producing bikes. They said, however, "before Free Electric there wasn't anything that produced enough electricity to power 24 , a fan, a phone and tablet charger at the same time."

They will make two versions of the bike, one version for people in poorer countries; that bike will be priced lower than the second version and will be made just for , they said. A more sophisticated version, they said, will have a few more bells and whistles, including a lithium-ion battery and more aesthetic features, "and will be priced based on the market."

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Dec 20, 2015
Buy a Buffalo; It gives Milk.
Train it to Pedal it for 4 hours a day!
OR 24 houses can buy one! 1 hr per house!

Dec 20, 2015
Though they don't look like it, I presume the bank of light bulbs shown in the video are leds rather than incandescents.

The author doesn't mention where the energy is going to come from to operate the generating system. One hour of pedaling takes a lot of energy which has to come from high calorie food eaten over and above what the operator would normally eat just to function for the day.

Dec 20, 2015
It can power a 42 Watt bulb for 24 hours or 24 42 watt bulbs for 1 hour. Divide and conquer, split peddling amongst family members so that each person can peddle for 10 min and the men 15 min. It is intended to empower the poor, not to prevent death. It could easily tip the scale if adopted by government. But they would need to chip it with a few accessories; a long lasting bulb, a peltier device for heat and cold production and a water pump and with a lifetime filter. This last could be achieved as follows. Imagine a tall water bottle filled with sand with a gap at the bottom for water to drain and go into a boiling unit powered by peltier. This invention can give a taste of luxury to all that are poor and surviving. In addition, the device would need to be foldable; visits from the wicked should be expected and one must be able to hide the device otherwise its a waste of money /7 product. Should all these challenges & costs be met, this would be the most important innovation

Dec 20, 2015
@eric96 - 24 bulbs at 42 Watts each is just over a 1000 Watts. Even if the generator is 100% efficient, that is a LOT for a bicyclist - champion bicyclists on the 'tour de France' typically only manage to maintain around 350 Watts over periods of an hour or more.

Where this might have value is with a few-watt LED bulb and the cell-phone charger. If an ordinary bicyclist could put out 200 Watts for 15 minutes and the generator/battery were 80% efficient, that would still provide 40 Watt-hours.
That's enough to charge 3 typical cell-phone batteries PLUS run a 120W LED (equivalent to a 25W incandescent bulb) for 8 hours to do homework or sewing, etc.

That's much more practical, but even so it would be better to have a bicycle or two per village and people bring their own batteries.

Dec 20, 2015
Wow, it's rare that I see something on here that makes me say "that's retarded". But this one does.

Because poor people really have the time and energy required to pedal a bicycle for an hour just to turn the lights on.

You know what would actually help poor people? A solar cell and a rechargeable battery. That way, the MACHINE does the work, giving you MORE TIME to do your own thing instead of LESS.

Let's imagine that the cyclist puts out 100 watts for 1 hour. The solar cell equivalent is something like 20 watts for 5 hours. That's not a big solar cell either. It might even be cheaper overall than the assembly for a big ass bike.

Retarded, just retarded. Sorry if I've offended anyone, but really that's the only word to describe this.

Dec 20, 2015
@axe - agreed that the way the article is written it is not practical, and also that most of the time a solar cell will make more sense.

But let's compare a bike for a village with a solar cell, with and without rainy season and with and without a battery.

Even a 10W solar panel will give you your 100 watt hours per day in a sunny area if you turn it manually a few times a day, and that's only about $10. The bike costs more than $10, and it takes a half-hour of fairly vigorous pedaling to do the same, so at first glance the bike is FAR worse.

But a bike shared by 20 families replaces $200 of solar panels, which is getting close to even if you value time at almost nothing. And there are two cases where the shared bike has an advantage:

1) without a battery solar doesn't light the evening, whereas one person pedaling can light a village-worth (about 40) 4-watt LED lights, which are bright enough to study or work by in a pinch.


Dec 20, 2015
- continued -

Of course a single car battery cancels the time-of-day advantage, and in a sunny area the advantage shift back to solar.

But there are quite a few areas of the world with poor people living off-grid in areas with much sun, at least for a few months a year (the amazon, central Africa, parts of India, south-east Asia. In these areas the $10 solar panel will generate 5x to even 10x less energy during a day as in a sunny area. Larger panels cost a bit less per Watt, but it will still take somewhere $750 to $1500 of panels to replace a shared bicycle.

So yes, as a general rule solar will beat even a bike shared by a village, but there actually are a few cases where it could make sense (although I'll bet that a small wood-fired Stirling engine attached to the generator would kick human-powered cycling in most of those cases...).

Dec 20, 2015
Ever read some of that mid 1970s energy crisis stuff in magazines? This looks like a lot of the same silly nonsense. It starts with a simple premise then someone slips a decimal point somewhere and then all sorts of wild conclusions result.

Dec 20, 2015
"although I'll bet that a small wood-fired Stirling engine attached to the generator would kick human-powered cycling in most of those cases"

Ah, I like this idea very much. You could probably produce small stirling engines for the same price as the bike. You could make it so it could use either concentrated sunlight (like reflected from sheet metal) or heat from a fire. That way it could run day or night.

Dec 20, 2015
@axemaster: Yes, and when you need heat for cooking on a sunny day (or for water purification, etc.), the solar concentrator can heat a cooking pot directly. So your power sources are interchangeable and your power uses are interchangeable - that's pretty sweet.

Stirling engines do tend to be bulky per kiloWatt, but the power we're talking about here is small enough that the engine should be pretty manageable. And the Stirling engine's ability to use any heat source is key in an application like this...

Dec 21, 2015
" Yes, and when you need heat for cooking on a sunny day (or for water purification, etc.), the solar concentrator can heat a cooking pot directly."

Giving people in these regions solar concentrators has been tried before - and it failed. The problem was that, traditionally, in these regions the warm meal of the day is consumed late in the evening when solar concentrators don't work.

The tradition arises because it gets cold in the evenenings/at nights there, too. So they need fires to keep warm. And with fuel for fires being precious it makes sense to combine heating and cooking. (Read: even if one were to shift the tradition and give them solar concentrators they'd still be using as much fossil fuels or wood as they do now)

So the approach in the article makes a lot of sense because it decouples energy production from consumption times.

Dec 21, 2015
Just buy his small energy bottle. That Does it!

Dec 21, 2015
@AA - the approach in the article is to pedal a bicycle and store the energy in a battery. When it comes to heat, the only person getting warm is the one pedaling the bicycle - I'm sure that you don't expect someone to generate enough electricity to replace the warmth of a fire!

IF the solar concentrator were just for cooking, I would agree that in most cases the long-cooking items like soup that could be heated during the day would not be enough of the cooking to make it worth while. But the concentrator was suggested for the electric power, and heating water (for cooking or for water purification) was suggested as an alternate use when one has the concentrator anyway.

If one needs heat, a stirling engine is going to make even more sense at night, and then the concentrator makes even more sense for power during the day if wood is scarce ...

Dec 21, 2015
"So the approach in the article makes a lot of sense because it decouples energy production from consumption times."

Yeah, they definitely aren't going to produce enough energy to cook a meal by pedaling a bike.

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