Supplement Your Home's Power With a Bicycle Generator

With a bicycle generator — just combine a bicycle, a battery, and an automobile alternator — you can pedal up some additional watts for your home.

  • 068 cycle generator - photo
    Yes, you can use a bicycle generator to provide electricity to a TV!
  • 068 bicycle generator - schematic
    Schematic for the bicycle generator.

  • 068 cycle generator - photo
  • 068 bicycle generator - schematic

We've shown you how to turn a bicycle into a stable mechanical power source that could readily be connected to a number of different tools, and then we proceeded to describe how you might hook the unit to a water pump. Now, as promised in that installment, we're going to tell you how to combine the cycle-power chassis and an automotive alternator into a bicycle generator.

More Pedal Power

As is often the case in research, while we were busy designing the new package, our team made a few improvements to the original setup. Foremost was the addition of a flywheel, which has helped to stabilize the pulses that are produced by the thrusts of the rider's legs.

We decided to use a junked Volkswagen flywheel for a number of different reasons: First, we had one lying around the shop; second, it has a flat surface, next to the ring gear, upon which a belt can ride; and third, the unit's one-piece construction (which includes a nondetachable ring gear) and recessed face make the VW bug part nearly impossible to repair, a fact that has made numbers of used flywheels available for next to nothing.

To install the steel disk, we simply welded it—centered—on our Raleigh's rear hub. Then, in order to provide clearance for the flywheel, we had to relocate the rear frame braces. The upper 19 1/2" conduit crosspiece was moved 5 inches—to a point 24 1/2 inches up the frame tubes—and we added two braces, which run between the axle ends and the bolts that connect the horizontal and vertical frame members. The combination has increased the chassis's rigidity.

Furthermore, the roughly 12"-diameter disk allows for a greater ratio increase than did the old chain and 6" pulley system. In fact—after experimenting with different drive pulley sizes on the alternator—we've found that our new flywheel, teamed with the stock 3" pulley, seems to provide a close-to-ideal ratio.

Wiring the Generator

Attaching the car alternator to our cycle-power frame involved only minor modifications to the basic bicycle unit. A 6" piece of 1" angle iron was bolted to the angle iron braces on the chassis, and brackets were then fashioned to allow the generator to pivot (to provide belt tensioning capability). Then we attached an 18"-piece of all-thread to one of the alternator's mounting bosses, and slipped the other end through a hole in a steel tab bolted to the column that supports the bike's seat. By threading two nuts up or down the all-thread, we can quickly adjust the belt's tightness.

12/24/2010 10:15:44 AM

don't use a toxic lead acid battery for this project. Use a long lasting safe lithium iron phosphate battery for real great results and long life. Life cycle cost is less and pollution and asfety are highest. Cheap is never the best solution, clean long lasting is best. LED lights , advanced batteries and being smarter is always the best solution.

steve limbach
5/12/2010 1:37:18 PM

How about plans for something simpler, such as a small generator, like the type for bicycle lights, used to charge your cell phone, etc. while riding. Probably just need a voltage reg and smoothing circuit ? Thanks, Steve

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters