A new look on two well established and proven concepts (bicycles and pneumatics) to help you commute faster and with less effort.
Introducing Piston Pedal Power -The bike that helps you pedal
Cycling popularity has grown significantly in the last decade. New York City, has added protected bike lanes. This simple act has increased cycling by 60% and relieved congested streets(1). Many cities around the U.S. are copying that model(2). That is why electric bikes have increased in popularity. In fact, electric bike sales have doubled in one year, 2012 to 2013, to 159,000 units sold(3). Europe is even more obsessed, 1 in 10 bikes sold is an electric bike(4). However, the drawback of an electric bike is the hefty price tag and often substantial weight. Analysts predict the market share for electric bikes to continue to grow. So good news potential backers! If there is a proven market for heavy and expensive E-bikes, there should be a market for cheaper and lighter pneumatic assist bicycles.
Although pneumatics and bicycling have been around for a long time, my invention capitalizes on a specially designed piston, making old concepts new again. The patent pending design uses an expandable seal, or “flap” to create a temporary air chamber. The flap expands and then retracts, creating little friction. This benefits the rider by adding assist without an increase in effort. The assist mathematically translates to an additional 50 watts of power. Considering an average recreational cyclist expends about 100 watts of power while pedaling this increase in substantial.
The design uses a standard bike frame so the bike will perform and pedal like a regular bike. But this bike allows you the option of getting additional power from the 20 ounce removable compressed air tank attached to the frame. The high pressure tank is used in the sport of paintball, allowing a simple design by using already dried and compressed air. If you use the assist continually you would have about 20 minutes of assisted pedaling. However, constant and continual pedal assist is not my vision for this design, let me explain:
I think most would agree that hills are the worst part of cycling. My goal is to get people on bikes, and increase the joy of cycling. The advantage of my design in a light weight frame with a limited boost allows the rider to enjoy pedaling most of the time, but offers an extra bit of help for tough sections. For me, that means commuting to work without the sweat, but on the trip home the pedal power is all mine.
I believe that there is a market for my design for the following reasons:
1. Portability: This design modifies a standard bike frame. There is no heavy motor or battery combination. This design has a unique crankshaft and a 20 ounce removable compressed air tank. The approximate additional weight to a standard bicycle frame is around 7 pounds. Many electric bikes weigh as much as 80 pounds making moving them in and out of vehicles or up and down apartment or office stairwells challenging.
2. Affordability: The piston uses simply designed plastic parts. The crankshaft can be produced affordably in mass quantities, although the initial tooling price is costly. The bottom bracket would be that of a unicycle, ensuring a readily available common parts. The compressed air tanks are used in paintball and are readily available and reasonably priced. The cost to refill the air tank will run the air assist bike owner about $4-$6 depending upon the retail establishment.
3. Power Assist: Maintaining a design that is similar to a traditional bike allows the rider to still enjoy pedaling. This optional power without excessive weight will benefit the rider by taking the pain out of the hill, but still allow him or her to easily ride around town unaided. Timing is another noteworthy benefit of the power assist. The pistons apply maximum torque when the rider is applying minimal torque. Specifically, with the pedals in the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions, one of the pistons is at full power. This will seamlessly mesh the human and machine elements so that it should be unnoticed by the rider.
4. Sustainability: Getting more people on bikes and out of cars is good for the planet. There are no hazardous emissions from compressed air.
GOALS OF KICKSTARTER:
- Confirm interest in the product
- Invest in development of final prototype $8,000
- Purchase full utility patent $6,000
The funds pledged will support building a third version prototype and acquiring a utility patent. My 2nd version prototype is not functioning 100%. I failed to keep the chain in line with the rear cassette. I am working with Rich Adams, an experienced builder of hand-made frames, http://bicycleframes.com, to create this final design. He has quoted me at $5,000 due to the uncommon bottom bracket would require new tooling for his build jig. I also have an estimate for $1250 to produce a professional one-off crankshaft, machined from a solid block.
My piston motors work very well, but I would like to optimize the design further. For instance, I would switch the all-thread and industrial suction cup piston for 3D printed parts. Just like Thomas Edison can tell you the 1000 ways not to make a light bulb I can tell you 20 ways not to make a flap. Inventing is trial and error; notable inventors capitalize on their errors. I hope to do just that. The Kickstarter funds will assist me to continue to refine the design.
Last fall I received a provisional patent, however, that is only good for year and I think this design has a place the bicycle market. To acquire a full utility patent with attorney costs I have an estimate for $6,000. I will continue to work at my day job as mechanical engineer, and spend my evenings and weekends honing my design.
Perhaps you have seen these New product introduction flow charts:
I am somewhere in the research and develop state since I don't have a complete prototype that I can fully test and I can certainly optimize the design.
- Launch Kickstarter
- Apply for utility patent
- Start building prototype version 3
- Trim weight off air motors using more 3D printed parts
- Get crankshaft machined from solid block
- Order needed parts for complete prototype version 3 build
- Decide on final logo design.
- Order T-shirts and stickers with killer logo design for backers
-------Below are the logos that backers will vote for----
- Send out T-shirts and stickers for backers
- Call backers
- Receive version 3 prototype frame and build up bike
-This moves me to testing phase of the product development chart
- Take bike to coastal/ warm area to get more public feedback and have people experience the bike
- Finalize any remaining designs for production
March/ April 2015:
- Make handmade final production version
-This moves me to analysis phase of the product development chart since I have made any last minute improvements by this point. These handmade versions will serve as pilot bikes that can be tested long term to learn about any fatigue or wear issues that might arise.
- Assemble and send to backers
- Collect data from pilot bikes
- Seek manufacturer
Risks and challenges
My daily engineering work brings parts into production all the time. Each project has its own unique set of obstacles, Piston Pedal Power has several challenges:
Manufacturing the prototype frame will be its own challenge since bikes are built from the bottom bracket up. Working with Rich Adams, an experienced builder, will minimize unseen challenges. Taking time to tweak the design from prototype to hand-built production models ensures it will be right. It is very important to finalize the design through physical validation to keep from ordering 500 of the wrong part.
I assume there will be some road blocks to adding a pressure vessel to a bicycle. I have heard that just building a complete bicycle brings its own set of challenges with government mandates. I have very little patience for red tape, I will probably need a lawyer to find these challenges and get around them smoothly.
I'm good at design and prototype manufacturing so if this projects turns away from that and more into a business (which would be GREAT) then I would seek talented people to grow the business.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)