Ever been caught without electricity and in need of a way to get your mobile phone or laptop powered up? One possible solution might be the Ideso PowerPac, a mini-generator system that utilizes pedal power to juice up a portable battery.
Unlike dynamo systems that mount to a bike to generate power during an outdoor ride, the PowerPac is like a turbo trainer, but one that stores power to a battery. It recently won a Red Dot Design Award for Best of the Best for 2012.
“This is in effect a trainer ‘with benefits,’ said Marc Ruweil, founder of the South African product design consulting firm. “You get something out of your training routine - besides getting fitter of course.”
The device features two housings that contain the required components, with the larger housing split into a front and back cover that contains the permanent magnet DC generator and the charge controller. There is also a smaller battery housing for the 12V battery that offers a capacity of 11Ah,a DC to AC inverter and various energy output options including 22V AC, 12 DC and 5V DC USB.
The PowerPac can get fully charged up in about 80 minutes of average pedaling, and the energy can be stored to the battery. Unlike modern turbo trainers, the PowerPac doesn’t offer varied resistance.
“At this stage, the resistance can be changed purely by changing your gears,” Ruweil told BikeRadar. “Faster tire speed equals a faster rotating generator which will then offer greater resistance and an increased power output and charging rate.”
However, picking up the pace might let you burn more calories but won’t get the device charged any faster.
“The battery can only be charged at a certain rate,” Ruweil added. “If you pedal like Mark Cavendish in a sprint, the electronics will discard the additional energy in order to protect the battery.”
And while this device could be a godsend to someone whose electricity has gone out because of a storm, this isn’t really the primary objective for Ideso to address those needs.
“We need to be realistic about how much power one can really generate like this,” Ruweil admitted. “This is not really meant as an emergency unit. A petrol or diesel generator would be much more suitable. Naturally, it could help for a while, but you could never supply all your electricity requirements for a household by pedaling your bike.”
But for the developing world where every little bit of juice helps, as well as those who want to burn some calories and get something back the PowerPac could be something very useful.