In bygone days, a bicycle dynamo struggled to generate enough energy to power a weak headlight for the lonely cyclist riding home on a dark night. Back then it was the only electronic application that a cyclist needed because dynamos were first invented when riders still made calls from public telephone booths or stopped to read a map for directions. But a new bicycle dynamo system called PedalPower+ can help recharge the arsenal of battery-powered accessories modern cyclists’ rely on for communications, navigation and entertainment - on the fly.
Devices like GPS units, mobile phones, digital cameras, MP3 players and mobile phones require 5V up to 600mA, DC input to recharge them. And if you’re out on the road when they go flat, generally it’s been too bad. Until now.
“Our range of products gives you a complete recharging system by generating energy while riding your bike and using that energy to recharge your devices while on your journey," said PedalPower+ managing director and the product’s inventor, Nicholas Kidd. "The excess energy that is generated by cycling can be collected and stored to charge devices at the end of the day after a long ride."
Kidd said he came up with the idea for PedalPower+ after much discussion and brainstorming.
“Originally, I had an interest in energy and saw some hand dynamo torches which looked a bit painful. Through brainstorming we came up with the bicycle idea to collect the energy, and then thought about applying it to the bicycle market, thinking about what could riders do if their phones and GPS units went flat,” he said.
The problem with AC power
“Dynamos give out an AC current and to charge a phone, MP3 player or GPS you need a DC unit. It’s easy at home with a wall unit because the current is constant, but not from a bike’s dynamo where the current varies greatly depending on the speed you are going. You need to be able to invert that current and regulate it in a way that doesn’t burn out expensive equipment when riding fast. It took us about three years to get it right,” Kidd said.
“We’ve found a way to regulate the currently, making sure the voltage is consistent for phones and GPS units and, regardless of how fast the rider travels, the PedalPower+ can’t go past that maximum safe level.”
At the heart of the unit
The PP+ has a storage unit called the V4 that is charged via the dynamo and in turn charges devices connected to it in a regulated manner.
“The V4 has four sockets and can output a total of 500mA which means it can output 125mA per device per hour, which can either extend the interval between devices’ battery charges or, for some devices, they will never go flat,” he said.
He added that most riders charge their camera batteries or phones overnight from the V4 battery which will then trickle charge through the dynamo during the following day’s ride.
Kidd said that most dynamos in the past wasted a lot of energy by creating heat but added: “All our components are cold to the touch; practically all the energy is captured to the maximum efficiency.
“We’ve tested that technology to over 100,000km (around 60,000 miles) on the bench - which is no different to on the road - up to 100kmh to 1kmh (60mph to .5mph) to the equivalent of three times round the world without one single hiccup."
Kidd says other companies have since contacted him with the view of using his PP+ Universal Hub Dynamo Cable with their dynamos because the PP+ has the intelligence built-in, meaning it will work with most other dynamos. The company has a more expensive dynamic hub generator unit as well, which is aimed at the hardcore rider.
Installing the intelligent cable takes around five minutes, while the hub dynamo needs to be installed in a bike workshop because it needs re-spoking – and takes around 30 minutes. “By using our patented, small, modern technology, we have solved several major issues that enable a bicycle dynamo to be used to recharge small electronic devices safely.”
According to Kidd the PP+ cable is perfectly suited to AC dynamo hubs from Sram, Shimano, Schmidt, Suntour, Novatec and other manufacturers, meaning it can be used as a simple retrofit for those riders who already have hub generators.
PP+ also has a portable solar panel that attaches to recharge the V4 unit.
The solar panels are designed for stationary use and will give some charge, but to charge the V4 unit from flat takes around seven to eight hours in good, constant sunlight.
Units are available online and the website has a good introductory video on the home page.
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