Ambitious 'Free Electric' bike project brings energy to poverty-stricken areas

The CEO of the company behind the popular 5-hour Energy drink is spearheading an ambitious project to power homes in poverty-stricken areas using stationary bikes.

Free Electric is a hybrid bike that spins two flywheels, which turn a generator that charges a battery. An hour of pedaling can meet a rural household’s electricity needs for 24 hours, according to Manoj Bhargava, CEO of 5-hour Energy maker Living Essentials. This includes running lights, a small fan and charging mobile devices.

Bhargava told that the Free Electric bike was born out of his desire to power parts of the world affected by poverty. “Energy is a basic human need. And yet, over a billion people are still living in the dark,” he explained, via email. “If we can provide poor households with a product that can generate reliable electricity at any time of day or night, at no cost and with no pollution, that could create a ripple effect of better health, better access to education, better jobs, opportunities for entrepreneurship—it could literally change the world.”

Made out of regular bike parts, the Free Electric is designed so that any bike mechanic could easily fix it.

Initially, the bikes will be targeted at India. Bhargava aims to have a first batch of 10,000 bikes distributed by the third quarter of this year. Pricing will range from free to $250, depending on people’s ability to pay for the bike, he added.

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