Saturday, February 13, 2016

Free Electric bike

Video screen shot from Billions in Change
In my last post I wrote about the company Billions in Change and the types of innovations they are working on to solve what the company's founder, Manoj Bhargava, feels are the most pressing issues in the world: water, energy and health (Billions in Change, February 10, 2016).

One of the solutions that the company has developed is Free Electric, a hybrid bicycle described as the "cheapest, most practical way of getting electricity throughout the world."

The company's website has a short video (2:57) about this innovation.


In the video, Manoj Bhargava asks, "Human mechanical energy is so amazing, why can't we use that to create energy?"

He says he thinks it's the "coolest" of all his company's inventions. "Electricity is the greatest enabler there is."

Students could discuss this statement, and brainstorm the impacts that this innovation will have. Mr. Bhargava, in fact, talks about the impacts that Free Electric will have not only on areas of the world that have no electricity, but also in the developed world when some disaster causes power to fail.

On the same site, there are two further video clips: The Problem (0:37) and The Solution (0:43). They are good examples of "elevator speeches" -- short statements summarizing the main idea.

For example, The Problem:
  • Imagine your life without electricity. Not only would you have no cell phone, computer or television. It would be difficult to light and heat your home or prepare food without burning wood or coal. Your home would be smoky. Food storage would be impossible. That's how half the world lives. Now imagine the difference electrical power could make to those people.

The Solution offers a simple description of the innovation, which is also useful for students to develop their summarizing skills:
  • The Free Electric machine gives people the power to generate electricity themselves -- pollution free. The machine is small, light and simple. Here's how it works: A person pedals a hybrid bicycle. The bicycle wheel drives a flywheel, which turns a generator, which charges a battery. Pedaling for one hour yields electricity for 24 hours with no utility bill, and no exhaust, no waste.

There's a very good article about the Free Electric on the Tree Hugger website:

It's fairly short (377 words), but has a lot of useful language material. It also has a link to the Billions in Change documentary that I referred to in my last post.

The article has a variety of vocabulary to describe change, particularly the impact of an innovation. For example:
  • could have a big impact in the developing world
  • potentially change the lives of billions
  • he's focused on making a difference in the world
  • tackling some of the pressing issues of our time
  • creating and implementing solutions to serious problems
  • innovations that have the potential to make a very real impact on
  • This is going to affect a few billion people

There are also some useful idioms and expressions in the article:
  • 5-hour Energy creator to roll out pedal-powered energy solution
  • willing to put his money where his mouth is
  • is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion
  • tackling some of the pressing issues of our time
  • the documentary also touches on work being done

The article also has a short description of the Free Electric, as well as references to other innovations being developed by Billions in Change.

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