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Ultimate Pedal Powered Television

Ultimate TV
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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:

  1. There is no natural voltage regulation, forcing you to carefully control your pedaling speed
  2. Devices that do not draw power evenly may exceed your generating capacity when they need a burst of power
  3. And obviously, the power stops when the pedaling stops

Pedaling to charge batteries solves some problems, but introduces new problems as well:

  • Batteries wear out after a relatively small number of charge/discharge cycles
  • Small batteries cannot accept or produce large currents, even for short periods
  • Charging voltage must be regulated, especially for small batteries - or they can EXPLODE!
  • Some batteries require maintenance
  • Most batteries are temperature sensitive (some can even freeze!)
  • Batteries are not very efficient - you get less power out of them than you put in - sometimes a LOT less
You might wonder whether I am negative or positive about batteries. I am positive. They are the only practical, mass-produced technology available for storing large amounts of electrical power for long periods (days to weeks).

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:

  • Enormous instantaneous current delivery capabilities
  • Extremely low internal resistance
  • Virtually infinite number of charge/discharge cycles
  • Considerable capacity
  • Zero maintenance
  • Temperature immunity
  • Light Weight (this one weighs 400 grams, under a pound!)
Without a battery, Ultracapacitor or other regulation, maintaining steady power to the television from the PPPM is difficult. As the screen brightens or dims, which happens every time the scene changes, the pedaling effort changes. It's easy to pedal the voltage too high. The most difficult problem is the degaussing coil. Every time it activates, the voltage drops so fast that the TV cuts out. A small battery would help, but it would have to be a 12 volt battery, and it would require regulation to prevent overcharging when the battery was full, and it would wear out pretty quickly.

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.

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