Ultimate Pedal Powered Television
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The Pedal Generator (one of the many possible configurations of the PPPM - Pedal Powered Prime Mover - seen here with the Generator attachment) is tested and working well. I have been charging batteries since late 2005 by working out every morning. I have also tested powering various devices by plugging them in to the Pedal Generator using this Power Board I assembled. 110 Volt AC appliances can be run through the inverter, and 12 Volt DC appliances can be run directly.
Why run devices directly from the PPPM? Because it is the most efficient way to power them. However, there are many problems with running devices directly from electricity produced by the PPPM:
Pedaling to charge batteries solves some problems, but introduces new problems as well:
For powering devices directly from the PPPM, however, there is something better. Ultracapacitors.
Ultracapacitors are also called EDLC capacitors (Electronic Double Layer Capacitors) or Supercapacitors. Basically, they are low voltage capacitors with gigantic storage capacities and very low internal resistance. Thanks to that last feature, you can get power into them and out of them very quickly, and very efficiently.
How does this help the pedal powered television (and virtually every other pedal-powered electrical device)? It essentially solves every problem with running devices directly by pedaling. It's a match made in heaven.
The Ultracapacitor I chose to use is a Maxwell BPAK0350-15ER - this is actually (6) 350 Farad Ultracapacitors joined in series to make a 15 volt, 58 Farad Pack. (I mistakenly say 53 Farad in the movie. Oops.) The pack is about the size of three large candy bars. For you EE types, it's the same size as the Fluke in the movie. Here are the specs on this incredible technology. Basically, this device offers:
The Ultracapacitor solves all these problems. It has so much capacity, it can only be gradually charged - even with moderately strenuous pedaling. The voltage just rises slowly with plenty of warning as it reaches the upper limit of 15 volts. Batteries under constant current charge, on the other hand, tend to show sudden, sharp voltage increases when they reach full charge - look out! There is enough power stored in the Ultracapacitor to run the TV with NO pedaling for a short time - a minute or so. That's plenty of time to change riders, or to stop pedaling for a short break.
Best of all, the voltage to the TV is absolutely smoothed out. It simply cannot change rapidly with the Ultracapacitor in the circuit. Pedaling effort is also completely smoothed out. A simple voltmeter (rather than an expensive and complex regulator) is all that is needed to know how the system is working and to keep the voltage under control. It's like magic.
There are other devices that can benefit from having the Ultracapacitor in the circuit. I'll be adding more stories as I have a chance to test them. This is a perfect marriage of technology - Human Power Generation and Ultracapacitors - and the potential is exciting! Ultracapacitors in these sizes are still relatively new. Prices will likely drop considerably as their use becomes more widespread.
As you can see from the movie, pedaling a TV takes effort! Zachary informed me after the movie was over that the tension on the pedal generator was too low, and the drive wheel was slipping. Subsequent tests have shown he was right, and the final pedaling speed required to power that TV set, while brisk, is not as fast as you see in the movie.
So - you know now it's possible to build a pedal powered television, and that it will be easy to provide it with a steady flow of power, thanks to this amazing new technology. Why not order the plans and build one for yourself?
The Ultimate TV configuration is an example of the PPPM System - a tested, matched set of devices selected to maximize Human power generation.