About this project
Our site: www.pedal-power.com
The bicycle is one of the most ubiquitous and indispensable technologies ever developed. It is efficient, elegant, environmentally friendly, fun, healthy, inexpensive, and user-maintainable. It is a human scale means of travel that increases our range and speed ten-fold — yet we only use its core technology for transportation even though it is suitable for performing a multitude of tasks.
For the past five years, we have designed and built stationary pedal-powered machines (dubbed “dynapods” by Alex Weir). In addition to several custom dynapods, we have developed two core products: 1) the Big Rig, a multifunction machine with a built-in seat and work surface, and 2) the Pedal Genny, a more portable, single function machine (see below).
Why a Kickstarter? Our machines are built by hand in our spare time and are expensive as a result. Our hope is that someday they will be as economical and widespread as the bicycle. To take a step towards affordability, we’re going to open source the designs of our machines. Our goal with this campaign is to raise a small amount of funding to enable us to produce high quality, open-source build plans with dimensioned drawings and step-by-step instructions.
We'd love your support in this effort. :-)
The Goal and Scope of our Kickstarter Campaign
In a perfect world, you'd be able to buy a pedal-powered machine at your local bike shop for a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, mass production is the only way to get there and that’s a little ways off.
A faster and cheaper method of distribution is to make open source build plans. High quality plans will make the machines more accessible to anyone, anywhere. We estimate that it'll take a month of full-time work to produce the plans.
We are a couple of best friends from college that have always been interested in making things. Andy is an engineer, entrepreneur, and bicyclist. Steve is a programmer and entrepreneur. We both live in rural upstate New York where we work with our farmer friends who grow us amazing food. Andy's day job is working for a nonprofit agricultural institute in Essex, NY and Steve's is working on an internet startup in Burlington, VT.
After several years of talking about human powered vehicles and other bike geek dreams, our current pedal power efforts began in the summer of 2008.
We have designed two main machines. The first is our Big Rig: a multifunction machine which can power nearly anything that uses a v-belt pulley (or chain) and requires less than 1 horsepower (people can generate about 1/3 horsepower with peaks up to 1HP). We have used the Big Rig to drive an electric generator, water pump, air compressor, a hydraulic press (in this case a log splitter), and various types of food processors. It features a built-in, adjustable seat and work surface. The electric generator and/or water pump can be mounted on the frame.
The video below shows several examples of tasks it can perform:
Our design goals for the Big Rig are:
- create a human power platform which can be used for various tasks.
- provide good ergonomics so the user is comfortable and has use of his or her hands.
- deliver high performance -- it should feel like riding a bike.
- enable the use of mechanical power directly via a belt or chain.
- make it easy to switch between functions.
- make the machine user-maintainable.
We sell the Big Rig base unit for $2000 plus shipping. The optional electric generator kit is an additional $400. A battery power pack can be added for another $150.
The Pedal Genny is our smaller, single-function machine. It can be configured to generate electricity or for other mechanical uses. Our design goals for the Pedal Genny are:
- make a less expensive and more portable machine.
- maintain a high-performance pedaling experience with a flywheel and full-size cranks.
- create a machine that can be applied to various tasks, with the focus on just one task at a time.
The Pedal Genny base unit sells for $650 plus shipping. An optional seat can be added for $450. The electric generator kit is an additional $400.
The Scale of Human Scale Energy
Although we consume a ton of it, we can't generate very much energy ourselves. On average, an adult can generate about 75 watts for 2 hours. That equals 150 Watt-hours which is enough to power a laptop for 3-6 hours or a phone for 30-40 hours. That electricity can be incredibly valuable in places (off the grid) or situations (blackouts or emergencies) when you would otherwise have none.
However, compared to electricity on the grid, human generated electricity is very expensive:150 Watt-hours from your local power company would cost about 1.8 cents (based on a the national average of $0.12/KWh).
Of course, human power goes beyond electricity and the primary reason why pedal power is so useful is because 2 legs can generate 8 times more power than 1 arm with considerably more endurance. For routine tasks that otherwise would require a lot of effort by hand, using pedal power can be a tremendous boost in efficiency.
For the machine rewards ($350 and up), please note that shipping is not included. This is so that we don’t have to charge the most expensive shipping rate to everyone. The Big Rig ships freight, weighs 140lbs, and is roughly $500 to ship to California from our workshop in Upstate New York. The Pedal Genny ships UPS, weighs 45lbs, and costs roughly $100 to ship to California.
Delivery times will depend on how many people have purchased a machine before you. If you have any questions about delivery times, please contact us. The Pedal Genny takes one day to build and the Big Rig requires three days.
We also have 4 Farm to Plate meals planned, one each in the following locations:
- Essex, NY
- Burlington, VT
- New York, NY
- Berkeley, CA
The exact times and places are to be determined. Each meal is limited to 10 spots and will include a discussion afterwards about pedal power led by the two of us.
Please contact us with any questions.
Should we surpass our goal, here’s a roadmap of things we’d love to accomplish:
$35,000 -- engineering and design for belt driven machines. Bicycle chains are easy to maintain but generate a lot of noise. It is particularly noticeable indoors.
$75,000 -- designing and building an electric and electronic system to deliver consistent, clean AC and/or DC power as well as monitor the generator, battery and overall system.
$500,000 -- a big step to changing the world of local and human scale energy would be the ability to do a full production run of our machines with a manufacturer. The efficiencies gained would significantly reduce the cost of our machines.
Thanks for Your Support
There are a billion bicycles in the world today. One day, we hope to see every household charging phones, milling grain, or pumping water with pedal power. By using your own power rather than plugging into the grid, you’ll gain a better understanding of your energy use, reduce your ecological footprint, get some exercise and have some fun. :-)
Thank you for your contribution and spreading the word.
With a Lot of Help From Our Friends
Many thanks to:
- Jori Wekin
- Nate Peracinny & Jacob Barber
- The Blood Family, the Evans Family and the Wilkinsons
- Full & By Farm -- Chrissy Raudonis, James Graves, Sara Kurak
- Glassbottom Brewery -- Evan Wiliams & Ezra Bloom
- Maglianero Cafe -- Corey Goldsmith & Alex Lavin
- Steve Conant and the Crew at Conant Metal & Light
- Nat Kelner & Brian Sirkia
- Courtney Grimes-Sutton
- Eli Nadeau
- Chris Davis & Albert Childs
- Farm Hack & The Greenhorns -- Dorn Cox, Severine von Tscharner Fleming
- Our Farming Friends at:
- Essex Farm
- Juniper Hill
- Mace Chasm
- North Country Creamery
- Reber Rock
University of Vermont Dept of Engineering
Professors: Mike Coleman, Mike Rosen
2011 SEED Team: Alex Kozlowski, Amanda Machamer, Sean Martin, Sam Quinn, Yadu Yadushailasimha
2012 SEED Team: Minela Beric, Michael Gibson, Stan Kaeding, David Zhang
Middlebury College & Middlebury Solutions Group
Michael Claudon, MariAnn Osborne, Kara Montbleau
St. Lawrence University Adirondack Semester
Cathy Shrady, Doug Soholtz, Emma Carlson
Hannah Drummond, Jonathan Williams, David Bell
- MIT D-Lab -- Libby MacDonald, Gwyn Jones
- Manufacturing Solutions Inc -- Garret Hirchak
Influences & Other Cool Pedal Power People
Engineers, Makers, Problem Solvers:
- Alex Weir, blog & cd3wd.com
- David Butcher, los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen.html
- MayaPedal, mayapedal.org
- Global Cycle Solutions, gcstz.com/
- Job Ebenezer, technologyforthepoor.com/
- The Full Belly Project, thefullbellyproject.org/Products/UniversalChassis.aspx
- David Gordon Wilson, Author of Bicycle Science and editor of the journal, Human Power http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/bicycling-science & http://www.ihpva.org/hparchive.htm
- Tamara Dean, Author of The Human Powered Home, http://www.thehumanpoweredhome.com/
- James McCullagh & the Rodale Press, editor and publisher of Pedal Power in Work, Leisure and Transportation, http://www.amazon.com/dp/0878571787
Risks and challenges
For the primary goal of this campaign, i.e. producing open source build instructions, there are no significant risks. We have built many of our machines based on designs done in a CAD program. All we need is the time to document the entire build process and produce the drawings and instructions.
For the rewards that are actual machines, there are some common manufacturing risks such as supply chain disruption and limited capacity. Additionally, because our machines are built by hand there is the possibility of variation in the design though every machine will be inspected and subjected to quality control.
To mitigate these risks, all our major components have multiple suppliers. Our building capacity is roughly two machines per week. If, by some chance, we exceed that capacity, we have had been in touch with a local contract manufacturer who can produce several dozen machines a week.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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