Non-resident Indian (NRI) billionaire and philanthropist Manoj Bhargava on Friday revealed the centrepiece of his affordable and clean energy project, an electricity-generating hybrid bicycle called ‘Free Electric’.
The bicycle, to be priced between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000 per unit, converts human mechanical energy into electricity. Depending on the usage, the device can provide up to 24 hours of electricity after an hour of pedalling. The device is meant to provide an affordable and clean source of electricity to the economically weaker sections, especially in rural areas.
Bhargava contends that the design of the device is so simple that anyone with a screwdriver and some basic tools can make any necessary repairs. It is this robustness that Bhargava believes sets the ‘Free Electric’ apart from alternatives like solar cells. The vehicle, designed and developed in the US, will be produced in India under licence by companies chosen by Bhargava.
While the device will be introduced in Uttarakhand first, Bhargava aims to distribute it across India. However, he did not share the timeline for a nationwide implementation of the project. Bhargava has not approached the government yet but he welcomes any help from the authorities.
‘Free Electric’ is slated for distribution by March of next year and Bhargava believes there will be a demand for hundreds of thousands of units once the people get used to the benefits of the device. “You won’t have to pay the electricity bill and the only side-effect is that you get fitter,” quips Bhargava.
Commenting on the focus behind the device and his initiative, Bhargava said: “There are approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who do not have access to electricity. ‘Free Electric’ hybrid stationary bicycle was conceived as a product to provide electricity to this population. I am confident that this innovation will have meaningful and permanent impact on millions of lives in India.”
Bhargava, 62, made his fortune through his consumer products company, Living Essentials, which became a success with the introduction of its energy drink ‘5-Hour ENERGY’ in 2004. He started the ‘Billions in Change’ initiative to finance development and commercialisation of technologies to help combat poverty.
The initiative centres around his US-based innovation lab, ‘Stage 2 Innovations’, where his team is busy fine-tuning inventions aimed at providing clean and affordable energy, health care and potable water. ‘Free Electric’ is a result of over two years of hard work at the lab. Other initiatives under development at the lab include a water purification system called ‘Rain Maker’ and an ambitious clean energy project called ‘Limitless Energy’.