An Ultra-Affordable Pedal Generator for Low Load Applications

EPA Grant Number: SU835697
Title: An Ultra-Affordable Pedal Generator for Low Load Applications
Investigators: Lacks, Daniel J
Institution: Case Western Reserve University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Our innovative idea is an ultra-affordable device with which one can comfortably transform human energy to electricity for low-load (~1 W) applications. By comfortably, we mean that the person can generate the electricity without being physically exerted, and while doing another activity such as reading, studying or working. The low load applications include a reading lamp and cell phone charging.


We will create a device that allows users to have convenient access to electricity at any time and under any conditions. We anticipate that the two main uses of our device would be for lighting and to charge cell phones, but there would be other uses as well, such as entertainment. The device can lead to economic growth, as it gives people more time to work their jobs – both in the evenings (due to availability of lighting) and during the days (due to not having to travel to charge cell phones). For one, village children will do better in school, due to the extra time they have for studying; a more educated workforce will lead to increased prosperity. Second, businesses could expand their hours; e.g., manufacturing facilities and crafts workers can increase their production by working in the evening, and retail stores can increase their sales by staying open in the evening. Our device will reduce the usage of kerosene and disposable batteries, which are the most widely used methods for providing lighting in rural villages of developing countries. The device would be an educational tool for children (and even adults) in the villages that use the device, and can lead to a similar kind of motivation that led William Kamkwamba, a boy in a poor Malawi village, to learn about electricity and build his own wind turbine to provide electricity for his family.

Expected Results:

We will produce fully working prototypes of devices that generate 1 W of electricity by pushing a pedal. The key aspect of the successful design is that it is very easy and comfortable for the operator to generate electricity for long periods of time (more than 1 hour). We will also develop the manufacturing procedure, using the computer-controlled laser-cutting facilities at CWRU, so that the prototypes can be efficiently produced. The design of the device will be such that it costs $5 to produce a device.

Supplemental Keywords:

alternative energy source, renewable energy

Relevant Websites:

P3 Phase 2: An Ultra-Affordable Pedal Generator for Low Load Applications

P3 Phase II:

An Ultra-Affordable Pedal Generator for Low Load Applications