Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Innovate or Die Pedalpower Contest

OK, so I ride my bike to work … when the stupid place calls me in (but enough about me) … so what else can I do to human-power my life?

This is the topic of the “Innovate or Die” pedalpower contest. (h/t to Sarah van Schagen at Grist)

And boy-o-boy do they have a slick announcement video …

(its even better full-screen, if you click through the link, and I suppose if you have all the modern Web 2.0 whiz bang stuff … I doubt it would have the same impact using Lynx over a text terminal link)

… of course, some of the applications seem to exist primarily as a reminder of how efficient a bicycle is as a transport solution … I’ll take a look, after the fold.

The example system is a system for running a laptop from a stationary bike … and as you can see:

Innovate or Die Sample Video



… this is a fairly useless invention … setting aside the Rube Goldberg approach of generating DC power to convert to AC power to convert to DC power to run the laptop, if you have to pedal continuously at that intensity, you are not going to get much useful done with that laptop.

… and so far, the submissions to the YouTube group do not live up to the wonderful graphic of pedal power turning the world …

The GLOBAL COOLING The Electrical Stepper ride. “E” STEPPER

… as several of the comments on YouTube point out, is reinventing the bike except less practically. Now, Get naked for the mean clean green machine, a pedal powered washing machine, is not a unique invention, but more useful … a step up for those currently washing clothes by hand, but unlikely to take over the washing machine market in high income countries any time soon.

Of the submissions so far, the most innovative of the lot seems to be the electric bike trailer, and I’m not 100% sure how it falls into the pedal power category, and of course there is no finished prototype yet, but the information sidebar says:

This bike trailer with electric assist will be powered by brake regeneration, pedal regeneration, and solar power. It will be able to be slept in with an extendable trailer. Currently in production. …

Anyway, as you can see, the contest is still wide open. The contest requires making a YouTube video, so it would not, in fact, be surprising if the winner was something less impressive than some of the work at Humboldt State University’s Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, which you can browse under its Pedal-Power page, including pedal powered computer, kitchen blender, television, washing machine, saws, drill press, grinder, and belt-sander.

If you were innovating a PedalPower device, what would it be?

Looking at the complexity of the drive train for the washing machine in the video clip above, I find the idea of a spring driven washing machine appealing, with the pedaling done before the machine is started. After all, a big part of the benefit of a washing machine is the ability to do something else while its washing.

It strikes me that almost all of the pedalpower ideas I can come up with are really only for off-the-grid applications. Other than the obvious application of transport cycling, is there a real application for pedal-power that could in fact gain a niche, and do some real good in that niche?

For example, would it be possible to get rid of one of those terribly polluting small engines by designing a pedal-power wood chipper for pruning waste? How would that work … pedal a spring to full tension, get off and push the limb into the chipper?

Well, as you can tell … I think that its one hell of a clip introducing the contest, but while I can see why a bicycle company would want to advertise “saving the earth one pedal stroke at a time” … and I can see how there can be some substantial benefits for a remote location that is off the grid … for me, it raises questions rather than answering them.

Waddya reckon?

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3 comments

    • BruceMcF on November 10, 2007 at 9:00 pm
      Author

    Quadrupedal pedaling might, in fact, be the road to getting that off the grid laundromat up and running.

  1. Hook an exercise bike up to a generator and hook the generator up to the power grid. As long as the meter is fitted to run backward for things like solar, you might as well run it backward with your exercising as well. I make it sound trivial, but I know that there would be challenges involved because the power output of a human on an exercise bike can be so uneven and sporadic. Well, that’s just a challenge for the engineers to use capacitors and/or batteries to smooth it out to an acceptable degree for the grid.

    This would have the added benefit of giving people a real (if small) incentive to exercise – work off your power bill and your beer belly at the same time! 😀

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