The Professor would be proud of David Butcher of San Jose, California. He built his first pedal generator prototype in 1976. Every morning, he spends 45 minutes on the stationary bicycle generator to charge up a bank of salvaged batteries. Having mastered the machine, Butcher now sells plans so you can build your own. The cost of the parts is around $230, he says, or much less if you recycle an old bike. If you're interested in learning more, Butcher hangs out in a videochat room when he's pedaling away every morning. Apparently, he cranks out 1.8 kilowatt-hours a month. Of course, er, YMMV. Butcher has videos demonstrating the generator directly powering a blender (video above), washing machine, and breadmaker. His bike blender was even featured on a recent episode of MAKE: TV. From Butcher's site:
My pedal generator is in the garage, hooked up through the Trace C12 controller in my Micro Solar Energy System to a recycled battery pack from my Sparrow Electric Car. I work out in the early morning, and it's dark. It would be pointless to use as much energy to light the workout area as I generated with the workout, so I light the area with the 12 volt LED Bar Light I put together several years ago. It uses white LED's to light the workout area. They require almost no power, so virtually everything I generate ends up in the batteries.
The San Francisco Chronicle profiled Butcher last year. Butcher digs alternative power tech in general, having installed solar panels on his roof and X10 modules throughout his house for intelligent control of appliances and other devices. From the SF Chronicle:
Butcher, who lives alone after a divorce, traces his environmental leanings to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which marred miles of coastline with 200,000 gallons of crude oil. Butcher was 14 at the time and witnessed it firsthand. He built his first pedal generator when he was in his early 20s.
"I was always interested in alternative energy and solar in particular," he says. "I was living in Portland, Ore., where solar is not as much of an option. So I thought, 'What else could I do?'
"I'd been on a swim team for years and I was in pretty good shape, and I thought there must be a way to get some power going."
Butcher's prototype bicycle was chain-driven and featured a welded steel frame. Today's version, with its simplified drivetrain and bolted frame, can be assembled with basic hand tools.
When he took up his pedaling regimen two years ago, Butcher tipped the scales at 180 pounds. Today, at age 53, he weighs a lean 150 and possesses a pair of legs that wouldn't look out of place on the Olympic cycling squad. Butcher's pedaling has become so efficient that he has pretty much abandoned his car (electric, incidentally) in favor of bicycling, reducing his carbon footprint still further.
"Stationary bike designed to create electricity" (San Francisco Chronicle)