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Fast Forward powered pedals

Electric bike 26 1866

Stephen Britt is one of three finalists in the UK based Barclays ‘Take One Small Step competition’, where he could win £50,000 to develop his idea into a business. His “Fast Forward” entry, the only cycling related product in the contest, is a pair of electric assist pedals. Stephen explains the idea behind his e-pedals:

“These replace your standard pedals and provide you with assistance to get you up hills, or carry heavy loads. Each pedal incorporates a motor, gearbox, Li-po batteries and a control board. As you pedal the sensors detect your effort and provide assistance. To pedal without assistance, simply flip the pedals over. They unclip and slot into a charger for charging, much like with a power tool. When fully developed they will provide a range of 10 miles and peak power of 200W. They will retail for around £200.”

You can see a video of Stephen explaining his business idea here on the Barclays website. It is not completely clear to me how this system will work based on the description in the video, but it is an interesting project that I would like to see developed further. If you agree, you can vote for Stephen’s idea to between now and July 5th. The R&D funding will go to the idea that gets the most public votes, so I would rather see it go to a cycling project than anything else.

Thanks to Peter from VeloVision and Electric Bike Magazine for the tip.

Update 7/15: Mr.  Britt won the £50,000 prize to develop this product further. Read more at Bike Biz.

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  1. Richard Masoner June 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm -  Reply

    Clever idea. I especially like the ability to easily add electric assist to any bike (and in the video Britt mentions even fitting it to a unicycle!!), since these days almost all electric assist conversions involves replacing a wheel. I’m a little dubious about jamming a 200W motor and its battery into a pedal, though.

  2. Impossibly Stupid June 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm -  Reply

    I see zero reason to think this is anything other than a crank (ha ha!) idea. Since your feet/legs will have to resist the torque from the pedals in order for it to be translated to the bike, it doesn’t seem you’re being assisted at all. Equal and opposite forces, right? A person just biking in a video isn’t at all convincing.

    The only way I could see it working is if you maybe adopted some kind of rigid standing position. That way, gravity would provide the opposite force. But that doesn’t seem like it’d work too well with the need to transfer weight to the front pedal to go forward at the same time. So *maybe* it might offer some help hammering up a tough climb, but I have my doubts that it’ll be worth the additional weight you’d be pushing around all the other times.

    • Chris November 4, 2013 at 10:38 am -  Reply

      All you’d need to do is clip in off-centre (in the forward plane)..the sole of the shoe/foot would act as leverage (fixed cantilever) Not efficient for pure pedaling but would make the power assist very effective as it would resist the rotation of the ankle mecanically…A brilliant idea…when minaturized will be be superb…another job for Graphene!

  3. Stephen Britt June 22, 2010 at 7:20 pm -  Reply

    The same way that a cordless screwdriver dosent make putting in a screw easier, as you have to resist the back force..?

    • Impossibly Stupid June 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm -  Reply

      The hassle with screws is not the “back force”, it’s that our wrists don’t rotate 360 degrees. And, yes, you are expending energy to fight the torque of the motor even then. The advantage you can gain, just as I noted with the bike, is if you lock up while using it. People don’t twist their electric screw drivers, and you shouldn’t expect to pedal normally with these things. The presentation is misleading, at best.

    • Extra Weight June 24, 2010 at 3:30 am -  Reply

      Yes but the screwdriver is working on the one axis, if I were to rotate the cordless screwdriver in a larger axis it would make no difference whether it were switched on or not, the power is still coming from my arm. Similarly the legs are still required to rotate the crank. Could you please give details how this system works?

    • Flap June 28, 2010 at 2:03 am -  Reply

      Impossible nonsens.
      With 100 Watt on one pedal you get about 15Nm torque on the pedal.
      This means about 30 Kg want turn the pedal.
      For getting 100 Watt you need about 200 Watt from the battery.
      A battery in the shown size has max about 10 Wh.
      After 3 minutes the battery is discharged.

    • Noel May 19, 2014 at 12:46 am -  Reply

      Stephen, can I buy a set of pedals. Contact details?

  4. Bryan Willman June 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm -  Reply

    Actually, it can “work”, but only at relatively low powers (low enough the back torque doesn’t knock your feet off the pedals or hurt your legs.)
    Having the pedals not unscrew themselves from the crank may be an issue.
    Some kind of torque arm assembly that hangs onto the crank may be required.
    The practical issue is can it deliver enough power to matter, while still being workable for human feet/legs, and with enough battery life to be worth the bother.

  5. mommus June 23, 2010 at 5:33 am -  Reply

    Is it really that much hassle to just pedal harder on a regular bike?

    If this wins £50k I’ll be grumpy all year.

    • James T June 23, 2010 at 9:17 am -  Reply

      “Is it really that much hassle to just pedal harder on a regular bike?”

      I guess it depends on the rider. It is certainly not an issue for me or for you, but what about an older person with a basket full of groceries. I view e-bikes as an alternative to short car trips for some people, not replacements for standard bicycles. If e-bikes (or electric accessories) have potential to introduce new people to the idea of cycling for transportation, then I am all for them.

      • mommus June 24, 2010 at 9:40 am -  Reply

        Fair point.

        Though I doubt the amount of older people who have trouble pedalling their groceries home is a sufficient market on which to build a business.

        Let’s watch this space!

    • Pierre June 27, 2010 at 4:11 am -  Reply

      I totally agree: this looks like yet another costly gadget… like the electric corkscrew. It may lightly assist pedaling, but what is the point? For more efficiency you’d need the pedals to be as long as your foot…
      The cost of the item, the risk of damaging it (pedals are one of the most exposed parts of a bicycle), the unecofriendly production of batteries, the extra weight, in my opinion too many things sadly make it a worthless invention.

  6. Eric June 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm -  Reply

    I had the bearings go out on one of my platform pedals a few months ago. Trying to keep my foot on was next to impossible. I could imagine the experience wtih powered pedals to be the same going the other way without clips or cleats…kind of anti-ebike.

  7. Ross Nicholson June 25, 2010 at 11:36 pm -  Reply

    This is a great idea. I imagine the inventor started with a small portable electric drill and made modifications from there. This beats the motor-driven roller on tire approach because the benefits of the bicycle’s gearing can be had. Placing the pedal pivot forward might alleviate most back-kick worries while starting new ones. Reducing force on unpushed parts of the crank rotation could be done with irregularly spaced contacts from an on-frame battery–or it could be programmed into the motor as done here apparently.

    Flat wire tape should be used to wire pedelects and electric bicycles, since it can disappear under the paint and strengthens tubes. A more sophisticated approach might involve conductive wire mesh that could be baked into carbon fiber, too, for electrical functions on the handle bar, the seat, and the frame. I’m waiting for ‘drive by wire’ to come to bicycles & LEV’s, too. A guy at Stanford may have done this only to be ragged on by everybody.

  8. Tridentbiker June 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm -  Reply

    Not shure how this would work, wouldn’t the pedal just spin around and not propel the bike forward?

    Anyway, if it works, this is what I’ve been looking for. I’ve tried to retrofit a tandem tricycle with assisting motors but has not been able to due to the internal gear hub in the back wheel and hub breaks in the front wheels which leaves no room for a motor.

  9. Bicycling101 March 31, 2011 at 4:34 am -  Reply

    To simulate what these pedals will actually do, imagine placing a pedal wrench on each of the spindles of your bike pedals. On the right pedal spindle, you apply a clockwise torque; on the left pedal spindle, you apply a counterclockwise torque. The net effect is that these torques on the spindles will tighten the spindles in the crank arms’ threads until they cannot tighten anymore, then start to translate torque into rotating the crank arms around the bottom bracket, thereby moving the bike forward.
    The concept is correct in terms of applying the correct direction of forces to propel the bike forward.

    However, there are at least 2 issues:

    1st, normally a rider applies force directly on the crank arm at the spindle point tangent (or perpendicular) to the crank arm. The bearings within the pedal limit the rotational torque applied to the spindle/crank arm threads. This method here intends to place very high torque on the threads, which they are not designed to withstand. The likely result is that if there is actually enough torque generated by these pedal motors to effectively propel the bike, the crank arm threads will likely strip quickly over time.

    2nd, the small dimensions of practically-sized pedals (so they do not hit the pavement or extend sideways and hit obstacles) and existing technology of motors and batteries (for at least 5 years out) will likely not provide enough energy for sustained torque in the intended electric assist application.

    If we actually see this product successful in the market, I’d be proven wrong.

    • Chris November 4, 2013 at 10:41 am -  Reply

      There wont be a thread looking at the pedal…it looks like a keyed interface, which would solve that problem…

      Minaturisation will follow…it’s clearly been ‘homemade’ to a very high standard but once developers get into it there will be shrinkage…

  10. Jimmie Roan Sr. October 26, 2016 at 5:20 pm -  Reply

    im amazed at the number of people that don’t consider us “old” grumpy folks when thinking about riding a bike, im 74 years old and until last year in near perfect physical condition, then i tried skydiving and blew out a knee, part of cartledge gone, im sure there are many thousands of bike riders that need a little help getting up a grade or getting back home after a long ride. even a little assist would help, not all bike riders are 90 lb models or body builders paid to have their picture made for commercials or magazines, lots are just ordinary people with ordinary problems.

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