Could pedal power solve the world’s energy crisis?

Stationary bike claims 1hr ride can provide household power for an entire day

Pedal power is what unites most of our readers here at BikeRadar, and yet it could soon be something to unite the world against what is seemingly an inevitable energy crisis.

That’s because Manoj Bhargava, a wealthy businessman and entrepreneur has pledged to provide India with 10,000 stationary bikes, each of which is set to be used to generate and store electricity that can then be used to power homes. In his words: “This is the cheapest and most practical way to get electricity throughout the world.”

The bikes – which according to Bhargava can be made for $100 – put riders in a similar seated position as a recumbent, and pair a simple, mechanical bicycle drivetrain to a flywheel. This flywheel turns a generator, which in-turn charges an onboard battery. 

One person pedaling for a single hour on one of these bikes can generate enough energy to power a home’s lights and basic appliances for a day, according to Bhargava. As vague as that sounds, and even if that is an exaggerated figure (here's how much pedal power it takes to toast a slice of bread), it’s still a mighty impressive concept.

It also one that's been designed as a reliable alternative for those in remote areas with intermittent access to power. Of course, this product doesn't only have potential in poorer countries – just imagine having a turbo trainer session that would actually save you money..

The free electric bike in action:
The free electric bike in action:

Suddenly those tedious turbo sessions you've been doing could save you a whole lot of cash…

Manoj Bhargava is the man behind the plan, and he’s an extraordinary individual. An entrepreneur and inventor, Bhargava is believed to have a net worth of over US$4 billion and is best known as the founder of 5-Hour Energy, the company behind a popular caffeinated ‘energy shot’.

What separates Bhargava from most wealthy entrepreneurs is his exceptional generosity. Known as the Free Electric hybrid bike, this project is one of many that forms the Billions in Change movement, founded by Bhargava. It aims to "build a better future by creating and implementing solutions to serious problems facing the world in the areas of water, energy and health". Back in September 2012, Bhargava joined The Giving Pledge and said he would give 99 percent of his wealth to charity.

The bikes are set to roll out to India next year but in the long run two different versions of the Free Electric will be available – the first produced for richer countries, and the second for poorer nations. The Free Electrics destined for poorer nations will be cheaper, with pricing subsidised by the more expensive options sold to richer nations.

For more information on the Free Electric bike check out the video below or visit the Billions in Change website to see a full documentary on this and other great ideas.

Billions in change solution: free electric overview
Oli Woodman

Senior Writer, UK
With more than 10 years of experience riding mountain bikes, Oli knows the good from the bad when it comes to gear. He's a total bike nerd and loves few things more than fettling with spangly riding bits. Also, he seems to have a talent for crashing hard but emerging unscathed.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Loamy singletrack
  • Beer of Choice: Corona
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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