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Updated: May 9, 2013 00:57 IST

Making more out of pedal power

A. S. Ganesh
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The company wants to get Atoms into India and start powering cell phones. Photo: Special Arrangement
The company wants to get Atoms into India and start powering cell phones. Photo: Special Arrangement

Nine out of every 20 households in India still use bicycles (Census 2011). This offers a great potential to tap vast amount of energy from these cycles.

Atom, a lightweight bicycle generator, can power your mobile, lights or any electronic device via USB. It comes with a detachable rechargeable battery pack, meaning the stored energy can be used whenever and wherever you need it.

“The Atom is designed to charge phones at 2.5 W at 14.5 km per hour, initiating the charging at 5 kmph with 0.75 W. The rate of power generation is dependent on speed, but we've designed the Atom to be fully functioning at moderate speeds. At this speed, devices charge at the same rate as if they were plugged into a computer, and conforms to USB 2.0 standards,” said Aaron Latzke, CTO of Siva Cycle and the brain behind the design of this device.

That charge rate equates to 1 per cent for every 2 minutes on the cycle for a 1440 mAh battery, the likes of which powers an iPhone 5. For batteries with lesser capacity, it would therefore charge faster.

It all started when Latzke, on a work assignment in Belgium a few years ago, rode a number of bicycles powered by old-style dynamo generators. That got him thinking about building a bicycle generator that’s more apt for the 21st century rider. This resulted in the Atom.

Weighing 300 grams, the prototype is 7.5” tall, 3” wide and 1.2” deep, making it dependable, compact and mountable on the rear wheel of most bicycles. “We are designing the Atom to have a lifetime of 5 years, without maintenance. This lifetime is for a use of 32 km a day, 7 days a week. Furthermore, the Atom will be fully waterproof for riding in rain and on muddy roads,” added Latzke, emphasising that longevity is a priority.

On Earth Day this year, Siva Cycle announced that they have big news coming. With their working prototypes ready they went on Kickstarter, a web portal that uses crowdsourcing to fund projects, the very next day.

Seeking $85,000 in a month (by May 23, 2013) to move into production, the Atom received an overwhelming response. In a little over a week, they were easily able to reach their initial target, allowing them to stretch their goals and objectives.

If things go as per their schedule, they expect to begin shipping the Atom generators to backers by November.

“The price point of the Atom [$105] is set for domestic [U.S.] and European markets. We plan to launch the Atom into markets such as India when we can offer a more achievable price point,” informed Latzke. “India is high on our list of where we'd like the Atom to move to.”

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