Electrifying Exercise! Really!
Pedal power is gaining traction as thousands of bikes and elliptical machines are retrofitted to produce electricity. Gyms are using sweat equity to help power their facilities. A Brooklyn eatery uses it to make smoothies. Female inmates at a Phoenix jail pedal to power their TV to watch soap operas. Actor Ed Begley Jr. bikes to run his toaster.
"Business is really taking off," says Jay Whelan, CEO of The Green Revolution, a Connecticut-based company that retrofits bikes for spinning classes. Since April 2009, he has added devices to nearly 1,000 bikes at 60 gyms that convert the direct current created by pedaling into alternating current to be sent to the power grid.
ReRev, a Florida company, has added similar devices to more than 300 elliptical trainers at 23 gyms in a dozen states since June 2008. It's a low-cost way to get into the renewable energy game. Who would ever have thought we'd capture energy from a workout?
Pedal power cannot run factories, but Whelan estimates a spinning class of 20 people over a year could light 72 homes for a month. A 30-minute workout on an ellipticals generates about 50 watts, enough to run a laptop for an hour or charge a cell phone six times. "We're not going to solve global warming, but we're trying to help in any way we can," Whelan says.
At the Habana Outpost restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., it takes about a minute of bike pedaling to power a blender. "You get $1 off if you pedal your own smoothie," says Elvis Rosa, a manager. Most customers saddle up.
Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio sees such bikes as a solution for couch potatoes. In April, to get overweight inmates to exercise, he hooked one up to a TV in the women's section of his Tent City jail in Phoenix. The 19-inch TV works only if an inmate pedals.
All the women in that section of the jail signed up for the "pedal-vision program," he says. "Give them access to their favorite soaps and cop shows," he says, "and they'll pedal till the cows come home."
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