How does the technology work?
Kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. Kinetic energy from working out on cardio fitness equipment is converted to electrical energy, which can be returned to the power grid. Our equipment uses an electronic braking system to control the resistance felt by the user and generate electricity.
On cardio fitness equipment such as stationary bikes or cross-trainers, the pedals power a drive train (either belt-drive or chain-drive) that is connected to a generator. The generator creates electrical current that feeds into an inverter (contained within the piece of equipment) which converts it into AC power. A circuit board communicates with the resistance control and the inverter to allow the user to select the amount of resistance that they want to feel by controlling current. The user can generate more power by any combination of increasing either RPM’s or electronic resistance. The AC power generated is returned to the building’s electrical circuitry through a power cord that connects to the inverter and is plugged into a standard wall socket.
How is the electricity returned to the grid?
It is a common misconception that electricity is pushed through the power grid. In fact, when you turn on an appliance it draws electrical current. The source of this electric power is typically some large scale electro-mechanical generator driven by steam from fossil fuel combustion or heat released from nuclear reactions, or from kinetic energy harvested from wind or water that is then supplied to your home or building by a utility. However, it can be from other sources such as on-site generators, solar power, or electricity generating cardio fitness equipment. The electric power generated from PlugOut equipment flows through the power cord to a standard wall socket that is connected to the buildings electric circuits where it can be used to power TV’s, lighting, fans, and other appliances, essentially reducing or subsidizing the amount of electricity that would otherwise be drawn from the utility. If you were able to generate more power than your facility was consuming, the current would flow past your meter back to the power grid, and down the line to the next facility that was consuming electricity. The current flowing backwards over your meter would actually spin the meter backwards. Traditionally, facilities that generate more electricity than they consume, such as those with large solar arrays, will set up what’s called a net-metering agreement where they sell the electricity that they are generating back to the utility, often at a higher rate than what they purchase it for.
How much power can a human generate?
Electrical power is measured in Watts and is calculated by multiplying Force (Voltage) by Current (Amps). The current world record holder for average watts over the course of 1 hour on a bicycle is Ondrej Sosenka at a whopping 430 watts! Riders climbing the Alps in the Tour de France will peak at over 500 watts. However, most adults will generate between 50 and 150 watts while working out on PlugOut fitness equipment depending on fitness and effort level. The amount of energy generated over time is measured in Watt-hours. So, the average adult working on PlugOut fitness equipment for an hour will generate 100 Watt-hours (100 Watts * 1 hour = 100 Watt-hours).
What can that power?
We like to focus on a couple of different items that almost everyone can relate to. A 40” Energy Star® LCD television will require about 70 Watts which means that most users will be able to directly offset TV watching. A laptop requires about 25 Watts while in use (not sleep mode). One half-hour workout will power your cell phone for a week. Through a little bit of on-line research you can obtain the amount of power (Watts) necessary to run pretty much anything. Have some fun playing around with figuring out what you could power or how many people it would take to power different appliances. Another interesting exercise is to estimate how many workouts are performed on a daily basis throughout the world on cardio fitness equipment and compute how much energy could be generated if every piece of equipment had the capability to generate electricity. The aggregate amount would be significant.
How much money can you save?
Most utilities charge by the Kilowatt-hour (kWh) and the rate varies regionally in the United States from $.05/kWh to $.20/kWh. If you assume that most adults will generate 100 Watts continuously and work-out for ½ hour on average, then they will have generated .05 kWh (100 Watts * .5 hours = 50 Watt-hours/1000 Watts = .05 Kilowatt-hours). This equates to only ½ cent per workout, assuming the utility is charging 10 cents per kWh and illuminates the biggest reason why this technology is not more widely used. Currently electricity is cheap, humans cannot generate a lot of power, and therefore the monetary payback for implementing the technology is small.
How much does the equipment cost?
Fortunately most contemporary commercial fitness equipment already contains the necessary components to create electricity. By repurposing these components and adding the inverter technology at the manufacturing level, we can produce fitness equipment that generates electricity for the same price as equipment of similar quality that doesn’t create electricity. Currently we are selling the PlugOut Cycle for $1,399.00, not including volume discounts. We haven’t finalized pricing on the Cross-Trainer since we have only released it in BETA to select partner facilities, but it will be in alignment with cross-trainers (ellipticals) from leading manufacturers such as Life Fitness and Technogym that don’t create electricity.
The typical price range for commercial cross-trainers is $6,000 to $8,000. Since our equipment doesn’t require any facility alterations in order to utilize the electricity and there isn’t a substantial price difference to purchase the equipment, we eliminate the need for fitness centers to consider monetary payback on electricity savings. This has traditionally been the biggest barrier to widespread distribution of this type of technology.
Why is electricity generating fitness equipment appealing to fitness centers?
As we see it, the energy that is being exerted by gym goers can either be wasted or converted to electricity and used. It seems like a no-brainer. Health club members can easily recognize the benefits of the electricity that they generate by relating it to what energy consumption they are able to offset in their lives. Preliminary studies have shown that users are motivated to work out harder when they know that their workouts have the additional benefit of helping the environment.
Health clubs have traditionally had a difficult time differentiating themselves, and brand loyalty and awareness of fitness equipment by members is almost non-existent. Our technology and products can be leveraged by health clubs to attract and retain members. Early adopters also have the ability to obtain media attention and notoriety for showcasing electricity generating fitness equipment. Many of our current clients have used our equipment as the cornerstone for employing a fuller sustainable agenda that includes reducing energy consumption through other facility upgrades and creating a culture of conservation throughout their club and with their members. Furthermore, it is likely that electricity rates will spike in the future creating a stronger economic incentive for our technology.
Is it possible to retrofit equipment?
The costs and logistical challenges associated with retrofitting existing equipment to create electricity are substantial. The time it would take to achieve the necessary monetary savings from reduced utility bills in order to offset the cost of retrofitting would far exceed the life expectancy of the equipment making it economically unviable.