Have you ever been at the gym and looked around at all the exercise machines and the people using them and wondered, “wouldn’t it be great if we could convert all that energy into electricity? It could power the whole building!”
Manoj Bhargava has.
The newest invention marketed by his company, Innovations Ventures LLC, is called “Free Electric”: it’s a recumbent bicycle that is hooked into a generator.
Pedalling for one hour will provide your home with electricity for twenty-four hours. No pollution, no relying on the grid, no electric bill.
But that’s not why Mr. Bhargava is so excited about this innovation.
More than anything, it is a secure source of electricity for three billion of the world’s population who has little or no electricity in their communities. (1)
He feels that it will empower the poorest of the world to learn, grow, and become more active members of world society.
How it works is very simple.
Pedalling the bicycle turns a wheel that converts the kinetic energy into electrical energy, storing it in a battery. It has been engineered so that one hour of pedalling will generate enough electricity to power a home (lights, fan, charging electronic devices, etc.) for a full day. The bicycle itself was designed to be simple, using standard parts that any bicycle mechanic could maintain. There is only one gear.
Free Electric bicycles are now being distributed in India in a pilot program. The cost: $250. “We’re not looking to make a profit, so that’s what we’ll sell them for as well, if not for less.”
On Bhargava’s website, Billions in Change, he provides a program update:
“We’re seeing that Free Electric provides more than just electricity. It also enables independence, flexibility, new opportunity, and better quality of life. Free Electric can generate energy at any time of day or night, regardless of whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. And if the battery runs down, all someone needs to do is jump on the bike and pedal. With Free Electric, a household that’s semi-connected to the grid no longer needs to synchronize its energy usage with when the utility company intermittently sends power. Free Electric is energy on-demand. Finally, Free Electric helps make kerosene lamps and the dirty, dangerous fumes they emit a thing of the past, which means better health in both the short- and long-term.” (2)
The potential for this invention is staggering.
For developing countries, it’s life-changing. One can imagine vast reductions in illiteracy, disease, and any undertaking that requires access to information—which is everything. Bhargava says in the Free Electric video, “Everything requires energy. Energy is the great equalizer. The real thing is to get the poor out of poverty and one of the basics is energy. Electricity is one of the greatest enablers there is.” (3)
In the First World, imagine being able to work out in your living room while listening to music for which your pedalling is providing the power. Imagine being able to cancel your account with the local electric company. Imagine tremendous reduction of the dirtiest fossil fuel pollution caused by burning coal to generate electricity.
Imagine being in the middle of an ice storm but still being able to heat your home and cook food for your family.
The near future plan is to develop a more upscale Free Electric version that can generate more power and will be offered to more affluent countries. The cost for one is estimated at $1200-1500. Requiring only basic maintenance, there are few moving parts to break. And you get a work-out in the process—never having to pay for a spin class again.
“If you have this you will never run out of electricity. The world can be changed.”