Pedaling for an hour on Manoj Bhargava's 'Free Electric' hybrid bike can supply 24 hours of electricity for a rural household.
In a world where up to half of the population either has no access to electricity whatsoever, or only severely limited access, a home energy device powered by humans could have a big impact in the developing world, and one philanthropist is willing to put his money where his mouth is in order to potentially change the lives of billions.
Manoj Bhargava, founder of the company that makes the popular energy-boosting supplement 5-hour Energy, is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and instead of spending that money on luxury items or a lavish lifestyle, he's focused on making a difference in the world, in part by tackling some of the pressing issues of our time, most notably energy and water. Bhargava has pledged 90% of his wealth to charity and research via the Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett-led Giving Pledge, saying:
"Service to others seems the only intelligent choice for the use of wealth. The other choices especially personal consumption, seem either useless or harmful."
Bhargava also founded the Billions in Change movement, which aims "to build a better future by creating and implementing solutions to serious problems facing the world in the areas of water, energy and health." A new documentary outlines several innovations that have the potential to make a very real impact on the lives of many, including a stationary bike generator, a new medical device, a new take on geothermal energy, and a method of producing potable water at scale.
The first of these devices, the Free Electric hybrid bike, is described as "small, light, and simple," and said to be able to supply a rural household's electricity needs for 24 hours with a single hour of pedaling. A person pedals the bike, which drives a flywheel, which then turns a generator and charges a battery, and in a 'village' setting, one bike could be bought with pooled funds, and then additional batteries for individual homes could be charged and then swapped out as needed.
"This is going to affect a few billion people." - Bhargava
According to National Geographic, he plans to begin the distribution of some 10,000 of these Free Electric bikes in India next year, although details on the bikes and their manufacture aren't yet available.
The above video clip is from a documentary, also titled Billions in Change, which highlights the work being done at a lab co-founded by Bhargava and former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda, called Stage 2 Innovations, which is described as being "the most well-funded playhouse for engineers you can possibly have." The documentary also touches on work being done on the Rain Maker, a car-sized machine that can convert seawater (or polluted water) to fresh water at a rate of 1000 gallons per hour, as well as the Renew device, a blood flow enhancement machine, and Limitless Energy, a graphene cable-based geothermal energy solution.
Here's the full Billions in Change documentary:
"The world is facing some huge problems. There’s a lot of talk about how to solve them. But talk doesn’t reduce pollution, or grow food, or heal the sick. That takes doing. This film is the story about a group of doers, the elegantly simple inventions they have made to change the lives of billions of people, and the unconventional billionaire spearheading the project."