Bike Generator

In my thesis class this week, we spoke about how many people have limited access to electricity. Indeed, a quick Google search confirmed that an estimated 25% of the world population has no access to electricity (mostly in rural areas of the developing world).

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to design a system that provides sustainable electricity cheaply, without relying on any infrastructure.

I based my system on wind-up flashlights. The mechanism is quite simple. You turn a crank that spins a DC motor at high speed, through a series of gears. By spinning the motor, you generate DC power which you can then use directly or store in a rechargeable battery for later use. I used a similar mechanism in my Zoeprojectoscope; it was quite easy to set up and worked very well.

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The idea for my Social Design project is to build a stationary bike that generates electricity. It looks just like an exercise bike, but has a much different purpose. The bike would ship disassembled, but including all parts, instructions, and tools necessary to put it together. By building the bike themselves, the users would have a better understanding of how their machine works and how to fix it if it ever breaks. Because the mechanism is so simple, it is not likely to break easily. It can also be built very cheaply: some structural material like wood or metal, a bearing for the pedals, and a DC motor. The most expensive part would be the rechargeable battery, but that is optional in the system. The battery is also the component that is most likely to need replacement first, so the circuit will be built in such a way that the battery can be bypassed (and the energy generated is used on the fly).

This is obviously not going to generate enough electricity to power a refrigerator, but it should be enough for less power-hungry items like lights, a radio, etc.

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