One way of providing electricity to parts of the world that still have no access is to give them the means to generate it themselves. That's the approach being taken by Billions in Change. Its Free Electric bike lets users produce electricity by pedalling.
Billions in Change was founded by Manoj Bhargava with the aim of "positively impacting humanity." It seeks to develop and distribute its own inventions that can help to provide solutions to problems in the areas of water, energy and health.
Using pedal power to generate electricity is not a new idea, of course, but Billions in Change says it has been able to refine the concept. "Energy-producing bikes are not new, but before Free Electric there wasn't anything that produced enough electricity to power 24 light bulbs, a fan, a phone and tablet charger at the same time," the group states on its website.
The Free Electric was conceived about three years ago. The initial prototype didn't work, but the design has undergone iterative development until a working version was created. Bhargava tells Gizmag that each working part of the bike has then been refined to be made as simple as possible.
The machine is made out of standard bicycle parts, some weights, an alternator and a 12-V battery. It was designed using these materials so that it could be maintained or repaired by a bicycle mechanic anywhere in the world.
In the interests of simplicity, again, there is only one gear. This spins a flywheel, which turns a generator, which, in turn, charges the battery. The bike is said to be easy to pedal with little little trade-off between ease-of-pedalling and productivity. In order to achieve this, an optimal gear setting was configured by engineers at Billions in Change.
Billions in Change says the the Free Electric is able to yield enough electricity to serve one home with clean electricity for 24 hours, although that depends, of course, on what is being powered. The organisation says that it is continuing to refine and improve the efficiency of the bike and so cannot provide any specific output figures currently.
There are two versions of the bike. A simple version for poorer countries will cost around US$250. A more sophisticated model aimed at wealthier countries where electricity might drop out as a result of a natural disaster, for example, is priced at $1,200-$1,500.
Manufacturing of the two versions will begin early next year, with preorders expected to open afterwards.
The video below provides an introduction to the Free Electric project.
Source: Billions in Change