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  1. #1
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    Charging devices whilst cycling

    Hi,
    For my final year A-Level Design and Technology project I am designing a product that will attach to a bike and generate electricity whilst cycling.
    I was hoping that people would be able to input with ideas and give their opinions on what they think would be most important and what they would like the most from a product like this.
    Thanks for your feedback in advance.
    Alex.

  2. #2
    Goodbye Leeroy Jenkins tagaproject6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    Hi,
    For my final year A-Level Design and Technology project I am designing a product that will attach to a bike and generate electricity whilst cycling.
    I was hoping that people would be able to input with ideas and give their opinions on what they think would be most important and what they would like the most from a product like this.
    Thanks for your feedback in advance.
    Alex.
    That product has been designed quite a while back. They used to call it a "bottle dynamo".
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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    But the problem with that is that once you have attached it, it was a bugger to get off. One of the main points of my product is to allow the user to remove it whenever they want and not have to replace any original parts.

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    Instead of focusing on making it temporary, why not focus on making it work better... every bottle dynamo I have used seemed to cause massive drag (at least compared to no dynamo or a properly working hub dynamo). If you had an old hub dynamo (old sturmey archer) you could focus on rewiring it to have a more stable power supply (I have heard these used to blow up lightbulbs when you went down a big hill), and making charging jacks to plug your devices into?

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    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Design regenerative dynamic braking. Then you will have something as long as it’s not a bugger to get off.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

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    Well one future goal is to make it possible to use my product as an actual USB charging unit. However, just rewiring an old dynamo would not be a substantial enough product change. So I plan to take the dynamo tech and make it a bit more usable for every rider.

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Lot's of info on hub and bottle dynamos/generators for bikes here: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/lightingsystems.htm

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    Thanks for the input and info. If I was going to design a product that attached to the crank arm and used your driving force to generate power. What would your initial thoughts be on it?

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    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    Thanks for the input and info. If I was going to design a product that attached to the crank arm and used your driving force to generate power. What would your initial thoughts be on it?
    It would be every watt I used making power would be one watt less getting me up that next hill. There is no free energy. There is energy directed to the rear wheel to produce work and there is energy being expended as waste. You would be directly taking energy destined to be work and storing it.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  10. #10
    Enthusiast Shinjukan's Avatar
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    I think your idea is similar to the crank-powered devices currently available in the market: radios, flashlights, etc. It looks very promising and more energy can be harnessed by using the cranks as source as compared to one's arm. However, my thought would be that this product should not put an extra drag while the rider is mashing the pedals. Make it as discreet as possible, and the power source being charged should also be light. You're aware that weight is one of a roadie's enemy.
    "Sometimes riding slower is the faster way to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    But the problem with that is that once you have attached it, it was a bugger to get off. One of the main points of my product is to allow the user to remove it whenever they want and not have to replace any original parts.
    The last clamp-on dynamo I used attached to the chain stays right by the bottom bracket. One bolt held it in place so it was very quick to remove or reinstall and the roller ran on the center part of the tire tread so there was no need to carefully align it for minimum drag and wear. The main issue with installation was the need to run the wires to the head and tail lights. But if it were just being used to recharge batteries one could have a battery holder included as part of the unit - it would also need the circuitry to rectify and regulate the current output.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Notso_fastLane's Avatar
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    Easy to stow/remove solar panel? I know they exist already, but modifying one for easy use on a bicycle would be a nice product improvement.

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    You should pay attention to the road whilst pedaling and not be fiddling with electronics. Already have small portable solar panels.

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    Senior Member mulveyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    Thanks for the input and info. If I was going to design a product that attached to the crank arm and used your driving force to generate power. What would your initial thoughts be on it?

    My initial thought would be that you haven't actually looked at different bicycles to see how much clearance you generally get between the cranks and the frame...

    What exactly is the problem you're trying to solve? Bottle, hub, and even bottom bracket dynamos are well established, mature technologies within their respective niches. Using the generated power for lighting is as well. In recent years we've seen a bunch of different options for powering USB devices and charging batteries from them.

    So, is there a specific functional area you're trying to address? Because it sounds an awful lot like you're just casting a net and hoping someone else will come up with an idea for you.
    Knows the weight of my bike to the nearest 10 pounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    It would be every watt I used making power would be one watt less getting me up that next hill. There is no free energy. There is energy directed to the rear wheel to produce work and there is energy being expended as waste. You would be directly taking energy destined to be work and storing it.
    True, but if you need your cel phone charged (it is your only emergency contact device, say), the few watts necessary is a minor inconvenience compared to lying on the side of a back road with a broken femur waiting for help that will never come.
    The same goes for dynamo operated lights - yes, there is increased drag when the lights are on, but it slows you down less than getting mowed down by a transport truck because you had no lights.

  16. #16
    Senior Member mulveyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    True, but if you need your cel phone charged (it is your only emergency contact device, say), the few watts necessary is a minor inconvenience compared to lying on the side of a back road with a broken femur waiting for help that will never come.
    The same goes for dynamo operated lights - yes, there is increased drag when the lights are on, but it slows you down less than getting mowed down by a transport truck because you had no lights.
    Yep, other than the atrocious drag you would get with the ancient bottle dynamos we had as kids, I suspect most people would not be able to tell if a dynamo was engaged or not in a blind test, especially a modern hub dynamo. The couple of percent efficiency lost is easily overwhelmed by other factors like, say, wearing a slightly baggy jacket on a chilly day. :-)
    Knows the weight of my bike to the nearest 10 pounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mulveyr View Post
    Yep, other than the atrocious drag you would get with the ancient bottle dynamos we had as kids, I suspect most people would not be able to tell if a dynamo was engaged or not in a blind test, especially a modern hub dynamo. The couple of percent efficiency lost is easily overwhelmed by other factors like, say, wearing a slightly baggy jacket on a chilly day. :-)
    Bottle dynamos are a drag.
    I was amazed when I got my 1963 Raleigh Superbe with a S-A hub dynamo. It was noticable whent he light was on, but just barely. My wife and I often had 'coasting races' on some of the longer gradual downhills around out neighborhood... with the light off we were eveny matched, witht he light on I lost every race by a bit.

    I had a frustrating argument with the guy at the antique store when I bought the bike. He suggested swapping out the front wheel to get rid of the drag of the dynamo. I said I was looking forward to using it, and besiades, it will only make a difference when the light is on. He was convinced that the light being on or off would have no effect on the drag, but I knew different.

  18. #18
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    Well one future goal is to make it possible to use my product as an actual USB charging unit. However, just rewiring an old dynamo would not be a substantial enough product change. So I plan to take the dynamo tech and make it a bit more usable for every rider.
    I think this is a pretty cool idea, especially if it's easy to put on and take off and out of the way on the crank as you implied.

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    Again thanks for all the feedback, this is really helpful for me. I have also been looking into designing it to attach to the bike wheel so as the wheel revolves, the product will gain charge. Do you think that this could work? Or would just upset the balance of the bike?

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    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex4475 View Post
    Again thanks for all the feedback, this is really helpful for me. I have also been looking into designing it to attach to the bike wheel so as the wheel revolves, the product will gain charge. Do you think that this could work? Or would just upset the balance of the bike?
    I'm guessing that this product doesn't have to be economically viable because a battery pack charger, like my 5500mah New Trent (shown here in 6000mah form http://www.buy.com/retail/product.as...ngid=210277301 ) is just about ideal for recharging on the go.
    YMMV

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cale View Post
    I'm guessing that this product doesn't have to be economically viable because a battery pack charger, like my 5500mah New Trent (shown here in 6000mah form http://www.buy.com/retail/product.as...ngid=210277301 ) is just about ideal for recharging on the go.
    YMMV
    The difference is that those battery packs will eventually need to be recharged. You can charge with a dynamo as long as you are alive and have enough energy to turn the pedals... you can eat a fish you caught and power a dynamo, but I doubt you could charge a New Trent Battery Pack with a fish. YMMV

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    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    The difference is that those battery packs will eventually need to be recharged. You can charge with a dynamo as long as you are alive and have enough energy to turn the pedals... you can eat a fish you caught and power a dynamo, but I doubt you could charge a New Trent Battery Pack with a fish. YMMV
    This thought did occur to me but the number of cyclists that are "off the grid" and at the same time continuously draining their electronic devices is so small that they would be better served with two charged battery packs than a single on-bike solution. A 5500mah battery pack will charge my cell phone twice. How much charging does the typical tourer need between outlets?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cale View Post
    This thought did occur to me but the number of cyclists that are "off the grid" and at the same time continuously draining their electronic devices is so small that they would be better served with two charged battery packs than a single on-bike solution. A 5500mah battery pack will charge my cell phone twice. How much charging does the typical tourer need between outlets?

    You don't need to be off the grid or touring to need self-sufficiency. THere are 8 million people in the northeaster US right now who might benefit from a pedal-powered battery charger. In the rural area where I live, we get blackouts from almost every storm that comes along... So far for us Sandy has been a few breezy rainy evenings, but I guarantee that within the next 12 months I will need an off-grid solution for charging batteries.

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    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    You don't need to be off the grid or touring to need self-sufficiency. THere are 8 million people in the northeaster US right now who might benefit from a pedal-powered battery charger. In the rural area where I live, we get blackouts from almost every storm that comes along... So far for us Sandy has been a few breezy rainy evenings, but I guarantee that within the next 12 months I will need an off-grid solution for charging batteries.
    I feel absolutely dreadful for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

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    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    True, but if you need your cel phone charged (it is your only emergency contact device, say), the few watts necessary is a minor inconvenience compared to lying on the side of a back road with a broken femur waiting for help that will never come.
    The same goes for dynamo operated lights - yes, there is increased drag when the lights are on, but it slows you down less than getting mowed down by a transport truck because you had no lights.

    I’m all in favor having an off the grid method to stay powered up. If it’s touring or a natural disaster. I’m also about efficiency. When riding uphill into a head wind at night I want my light and ability to charge a phone yes but I don’t want any additional drain on my body. I would rather have energy stored. On the flat with a tail wind I would like to contribute a little to the charging effort if needed maybe a couple amps. If I’m doing a fast downhill working my brakes producing heat to check my speed why not dump a load of power into my mini grid and save my brakes. Likewise if I’m at home on a trainer I want all that power stored or as much as possible.

    The controversy with touring boils down to weight vs. usefulness. I use a Tekkeon unit as it gives me the widest options with the least weight, for my needs.

    If the OP wants a brainstorm idea I would suggest a rear wheel with magnets imbedded to form a rotor and a conversion system suitable to no drag to full stopping ability. The control could be both a fixed output with a manual override that would look and feel like a brake lever. Power should be stored in the lightest package battery available and have option for many modes of output. It should have AC input jack as well for the times you find some grid power and want to jack up. There should be a bar mounted panel or a smart phone app that shows where you are at with utility needs. It should come with an optional trainer where the rear tire touches nothing, why wear a tire out training. The trainer should be made with a PLC to control resistance for training programs and have an additional larger power storage battery and also AC inverter. Now your bike can power your gizmos on the road as well as your dwelling as needed. Eat a can of beans, make your power for the evening and your body heat will be given off to heat your house.
    A different riding style should be adopted and the front main brake should remain your standard equipment and be a main source for emergency stopping as it has always been. Down hills would be looked at different and enjoyed longer at a safer speed as you will see yourself regaining that effort you put in going up the hill. The bad effects of rear only braking will be minimal at the slower power making speed. On a very long hill it would actually be of benefit using dynamic braking along with a higher gear and adding some power from your legs to keep warm and loose.

    I guess I will add this post to my inventor journal and get it notarized as I think this could be considered public disclosure of sorts. Even though we are no longer a first to invent country rather a first to file. ;o)

    If I’m now on the side of the road with a broken femur and I crawl to my bike open my bar bag to get my iPhone (reason it’s in the bag is protection and less distracting) I get my phone out only to find I have zero charge I plug in my Tekkeon and make the 911 call. It’s always there and ready. I carry 4 AA rechargeable cells 99% used and 4 AA alkaline cells with a 5 year shelf life for that 1% use. I’m not in favor of filling landfills with batteries but in some applications that life span is important. If I was worried about a few grams the Tekkeon works with 2 or 4 cells in place so I could go 2 and 2.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

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