A pedal desk, feasible or fantasy?

Since I started Electric Pedals back in 2007, I've always wondered if it's possible to pedal and use a computer at the same time; and more importantly maintain a balance of power between supply and demand, that is supply from me pedalling vs. the energy required to run a laptop. pedal desk-3

This idea is my no means new. I first saw the concept in 2008 or an Innovate or Die competition at ULC Davis. Students built an amazing product that I initially thought would do really well; sadly it never go off the ground. Since then there have been a few attempt to recreate this but again the idea has not really taken off... maybe we are just too damn lazy or dependent of fossil fuels to give it a good try.

I'd never bother testing our own version previously as our bicycle generators are quite inefficient. A lot of energy is lost due to friction connecting the tyre to the motor, not to mention the losses in a bicycles transmission. So we finally find a suitable motor (above), and boy is it efficient. I can honestly say that the above generator IS the most efficient way to transfer energy from your body into electricity using a pedalling motion.

pedal desk-4

So what else is need to get the energy from your body into your laptop? Well, a very big capacitor for one (that the blue bit). This is used to smooth the energy between the pedal generator an the laptop charger and stores a little bit. There is a regulator in the sandwich box to stop me overcharging the capacitor (and it exploding) and a standard 12v car charger for my MacBook Pro.pedal desk-5

The whole kit is pretty minimal and every component is off the shelf. it's just been assembled in a unique way to make this happen. I had to test it in the kitchen on the worktop as my knees would not clear the underside of a regular table. I'm not sure there is much can be done about this without making the pedal arms shorter. pedal desk-2

So how was it? Well it really works. It's not as easy as i thought, but I do own probably one of the most energy greedy computers (MacBook Pro 17"). It consumes about 80Watts which is quite high for a laptop. I found that I could pedal and type quite easily and If I'd have had a bit more clearance under the work top, I could have got the computer a bit closer to stop me slouching. I tried for an hour and managed to maintain the battery percentage, I certainly didn't get into to go up!

So is it feasible? Yes it really is. With a few suitable changes and some practice the Pedal Desk could be a reality. Of course, the biggest challenge is going to prize people away from the energy artery that is fossil fuels.