Nokia's Bicycle Charger Kit Could Be the World's Smartest Peripheral for Dumbphones

Nokia Bike Charger

Nokia launched a quartet of basic cellphones for the developing world in Nairobi today, but the most interesting new offering is a peripheral device. The Finnish firm's Bicycle Charger Kit consists of a little bottle dynamo that you attach to the wheel of your bicycle to power up your phone as you pedal away. It comes with a phone holder that attaches to the handlebars using a hi-tech system composed of an elastic band and a plastic bag, in case of rain. Its price (in Kenya) is a little over $18 bucks, and it's a wonder that no other phone manufacturer has thought of this before.

Maybe that's because Nokia is the dumbphone ruler of the world. While other companies push ahead in the smartphone market, Nokia is concentrating on keeping less wealthy nations connected. And in parts of the world where access to electricity is limited, or unavailable, this Nokia kit is golden. Can you see the charging stations in villages miles out in the African bush, staffed by a bunch of kids on stationary bikes, cycling away to charge people's cellphones?

The Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit starts to work when you're pedaling at just under 4mph and clicks off at 31mph. Hit 7.5mph and your bike will be charging your cell as quickly as a traditional charger would. Ten minutes at 6mph will give you 28 minutes talk time or 37 hours of standby time-- if, that is, your phone is one of Nokia's new models, which have a standby time of up to six weeks.

There is, however, a small flaw in the argument that people-generated energy is green. If you're going to cycle your way to five power bars on your phone, you need to cycle a tiny bit faster than normal. And if you're cycling faster than normal, and expending more energy than usual, you may find you need to eat a bit more. The fuel to create the energy has to come from somewhere, I'm afraid.

Nokia hasn't said when its kit will be available in the U.S., but it should be before the end of 2010.

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9 Comments

  • AlexandraMadison

    Sorry Nokia - there are better option in US already.

    My husband recently dusted off his GT hybrid, and we have been going on rides ranging between 2 and 5 hours. He uses cardio trainer, sporty pal pro, my tracks, and some other apps, and I listen to books. 45 minutes into the ride, our phone batteries would be at critical low.

    After reading this article, I began looking for a device like this
    available in the US. The thing about Nokia's charger is that very few
    people in the US have Nokias. Most bicyclists I know have a smartphone
    by HTC, Samsung, or Motorola, or an iphone. I did find a bicycle charger one which I highly recommend.

    It is called Spinpower s1, and it sells on amazon. So far, we have been very happy with it. It charges your phone while you cycle with a bicycle-mounted USB charger that draws  power from a dynamo. It is basically the Nokia's charger's twin, only it is not limited to Nokia. It can charge any smartphone or iphone. It keeps the phone battery topped off for the entire ride with some very active use. My husband has recently taken it out for a 100+ mile tour, and has been able to navigate and run apps the whole time without his phone battery running out.

    I guess Nokia missed this one same way it missed out on the US mobile phone market.

  • JimBroad

    RE: "There is, however, a small flaw in the argument...
    ...The fuel to create the energy has to come from somewhere, I'm afraid."

    7.5mph on a bicycle is not that fast at all, and if I bike 45mins averaging 12mph(and I'm no racer) to and from work(maybe a farm or village for someone else) everyday, the resistance added by this charger is not going to be noticeable.

    In my case my ride to work is my work-out -- I'm spending that energy anyway. I replace my commute time with gym time -- now I will be able to use http://www.sports-tracker.com (or the like) without worrying about my battery, monitor my improvement, easily reroute with the help of the GPS/Maps in that app and get to work with some extra charge in my phone. ...heh, I can even see whose calling before I answer now with my headset because the phone will always be right in front of me.

    The green savings here are:
    - Commute: no car/public transit needed
    - Gym: not running the lights A/C for me
    - Cell charge: obviously(though I think this is minimal compared to the first two)

    Cash savings:
    - Fuel+maintenance on vehicule / Transit Fares
    - Gym Membership

    Noting: I'm not eating anymore than had I drove to work, plugged my SMARTphone* into the wall, and then went to the gym before my lunch break.

    *Yes this does work for smartphones as well: http://europe.nokia.com/find-p....

  • JimBroad

    @A: You mean like the way they stole the idea of making a wireless telephone? Give me a break...

    Price wise, it dose not exactly look like they are trying to profit heavily form this device. Apple would charge twice this for a stupid cable.

  • David Dawson

    "There is, however, a small flaw in the argument that people-generated energy is green. If you're going to cycle your way to five power bars on your phone, you need to cycle a tiny bit faster than normal. And if you're cycling faster than normal, and expending more energy than usual, you may find you need to eat a bit more. The fuel to create the energy has to come from somewhere, I'm afraid."

    This is probably the best observation in the article. When we talk about the energy industry, too often we talk about it like we are "creating" energy. Really it's all about transitioning energy from one state into a usable state, without creating byproducts that are unusable or toxic. The goal is to more effective at creating systems that do just that.

  • Dave Schillng

    @David Dawson: I don't think this is a big problem, they're saying that because you have to ride faster, you're going to be hungrier/thirstier, which puts some impact back on the environment. I think your comment really refers to the costs of going green, which in our society is a much more significant difference (the current cost of hybrid-car fuel cells, for example) than having to "cycle a tiny bit faster". Additionally, these phones don't need a full battery, even with a half battery they'll last for days. I think it's an awesome initiative.

  • David Dawson

    I completely agree with you; it is a great initiative. My comments weren't really about the costs of "going green" or necessarily a criticism of this effort, but more a reflection on a single line from the article, one that suggests a fundamental re-think of how energy works. We really don't have to worry about "using" too much energy, because of the law of conservation. We just have to make sure that the way we use energy is as efficient as possible and doesn't create byproducts that are unusable or toxic.

  • G. Xavier Robillard

    "The fuel to create the energy has to come from somewhere, I'm afraid."

    That energy is called "the sun." It is used to grow plants which are consumed by a lot of people on vegetarian diets.

  • thekpv

    this maybe a good thing, if alot of cyclists start generating power.. more innovation is needed for sure..
    some places have laws that dont allow bikes/ebikes to have a generator..
    Im taking this a bit further with my own design.. and adding solar panels
    for a hybrid power system
    http://www.thekpv.com
    The Electric & Kinetic Powered Vehicle