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Pedal Powered DIY Projects: Can They Work?

a pedal powered concert

A pedal powered concert. Credit: photopin cc

I've been fascinated by the potential of leveraging pedal power at least since we tried (and failed) to do so with our blogathon in 2010. It strikes me as one of the simplest approaches to clean power currently available… and, when coupled with a battery, could even become a short-term source of backup power. Or, you could keep it simple, and focus on leveraging human power and a bike-like set up to accomplish specific tasks: from making a morning smoothie (or evening margaritas) to pumping water to shelling nuts. In the developing world, such "machines" can save people a ton of time (that could be better spent elsewhere); in more developed countries, pedal power can cut our reliance on fossil fuels (a little anyway), and give us another way to work physical activity into our routines.

After coming across Maya Pedal recently (which I'll discuss below), I got curious about other collections of do-it-yourself pedal power projects. They're out there – while there is quite a bit of overlap in the lists below, each offers some unique takes on harnessing human power.

First: a Look at the Possibilities

Peak Moment Television released this episode on human powered machines (and someone who designs them) last October. If you're just interested in the potential here, take a half hour to see the many ways pedal power can be harvested

via Andrew Carpenter at Google+

A Big Picture Perspective

Want more than specific projects? Some history, perhaps? Or broader applications of pedal power? Mother Earth News' Human Powered Machines Resource List cover the full range of information on this topic.

Making a Difference

Maya Pedal in Guatemala creates a wide range of Bicimáquinas (pedal-powered machines  - like the water pump below) to give people more efficient means to accomplish daily tasks without grid power, and to provide economic opportunities for those who'd like to build the machines (plans are freely available on the organization's website.

Running a Home

Back here in the developed world, could you run your home completely on pedal power? That might be more than you want to do, but the book The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors (affiliate link) has a whole page of projects that you might want to try.

Just Geeking Around

Finally, Low-Tech Magazine has a collection of free and paid pedal powered projects, including a juicing machine designed to be "accessible to everyone."

Know of other pedal power projects for the do-it-yourselfer? Whether single projects or collections, share them with us.