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Generating electricity the hard way

published, Mar 7, 2011 3:04am
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During the recent Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, the Smart Energy team got a chance to check out the Future Spark pedal power demonstration. This is a remarkable piece of engineering, and I had the pleasure of spending some time talking to it's creator before turning my legs to the challenge.


I love things like this, as they help uncover the invisible , and this one particularly as it's done with sweat and muscle, something that is unforgetable.

created on: 03/07/11


The contraption has over 12 pushbikes lined up, side by side each with it's own electricity generator. Its based on two teams whom face off in an energy challenge, to see who can make the most energy, and perhaps boil a kettle of water? It's hooked up with a grid connect inverter and heaps of onboard energy magic that makes really pretty graphs of the energy output from the pushbikes.

It's not built as a generation facility, but to demonstrate to normal people just how much energy it takes to make some electricity.

created on: 03/07/11

Now, I am a push-biker, while not Lance Armstrong, I can comfortably ride 30, sometimes up to 40 kilometres on various daily commutes, meetings and other general business. So I have an idea of various pedal powers, e.g. Flat out! Moving along, and what's sustainable over a period of time.

So the seat was adjusted, the bike mounted and the fastest gear selected. As a large gentleman, the first thing I noticed was the bike was quite small, however my feet were on the pedals and I set about reaching a Moving along mode, a pace while no slow, fast enough to be maintained for a good hour or so.

Moving along power output: 90 watts
my daily household minimum...

Then it was time to crank up the drivetrain, to Flat out! The whole bike shuddered as my fee spun around and around the cranks, legs going up and down. The heart rate increasing, rapidly. I held this for as long as I could, probably 45 seconds before I had to slow down...

Flat out! power output: 380 watts
not even enough to power a modern Plasma TV

After that, time to de-puff. Slow down and settle into a rhythm of what could easily be kept up all day.

Sustainable power output 35 watts
perhaps enough to power a Macbook air?

So what's the take out?

If we had to pedal our electricity, we couldn't. Electricity takes an incredible amount of input energy to generate, and this machine helps make it visible.




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We think we 'know' this stuff until we're made to live it. I would've expected the bike to generate heaps more power. Thank you for this surprising eye opener. Best regards, P. :)

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