Powering Canada’s Kinetic Energy Solutions
We’ve all heard of the Canadarm, the pacemaker and IMAX films but what about Canadian kinetic energy innovations, such as a Peddle-powered monorail, the PowerWalk© charger or the SeeHorse equestrian wearable? To celebrate Canada Day, we’ve been working at BPM Land to uncover homegrown teams advancing cool body power movement solutions to help lives worldwide.
Moving like a Pan Am cyclist, with the half the effort
Who hasn’t imagined escaping bumper-to-bumper traffic by moving above it like the Jetsons? That was part of the idea behind the pedal-powered SkySMART transportation system (monorail) that SHWEEB-Can Corporation in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and its parent company in New Zealand, developed.
After announcing the 10^100 contest in 2008 to find ways to address global warming, Google received more than 150,000 ideas from around the world. It then asked participants to rank the list and identify the top 10 solutions. Since innovative green public transportation for the future hit the top five, Google searched for an innovator to bring it to life.
After scouring the Internet, Google found SHWEEB and awarded it $1M dollars to complete the proof of concept for what became SkySMART. It is described by many as ‘the world’s most economical and viable suspended transportation system.’
SHWEEB offers several different transportation products, based on a single person, bullet-like pod, where riders can move up to 50 km an hour. On a straighter track, they could even reach up to 70 km an hour or as fast as a Pan Am Games cyclist.
Each rider has their own pod-car, lies back in a cozy chair but only needs to pedal half as hard as they would to propel a racing bike at the same speed or faster. The pods move easier because each rider pedals in a reclined position that cuts the force of the wind, which usually slows us down. Other design features, like a fairing, also improve aerodynamics and hard wheels on a hard rail reduce rolling resistance. And the riders work like a team. The lead pod pushes air out of the way, so the riders behind go faster than any could do on their own.
The company produces touring models for amusement attractions and tourist areas, as well as the SkySMART public transportation system. SkySMART uses kinetic, solar and battery power, with grid-assistance, to go two to three times faster than transit. It also offers direct, non-stop, private transportation from departure to destination 24/7 for 365 days/year. This design reduces traffic congestion and helps improve air quality by creating less greenhouse gases.
Since 2012, SHWEEB-Can has been working to bring the first SkySMART system to Canada. For many commuters in major cities like Toronto, a kinetic energy solution like this can’t come soon enough.
Bionic ‘legs’ harvest mission-critical kinetic energy
We found other companies harvesting kinetic energy to take it to the next level. This means capturing, storing and using kinetic energy to charge wearables or other small, electronic devices.
While a dead phone battery is annoying, it’s a stretch to call it a life or death matter, unless you’re in combat or trying to rescue survivors of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Losing power can make it impossible for a soldier to safely return to their base or a first responder to stay in the field long enough to save a victim. Military and emergency workers can’t take that risk and Bionic Power in Vancouver, British Columbia, makes sure they don’t. It also helps stroke victims, amputees and others who rely on electronic medical devices to get around.
The Canadian company’s flagship product is the PowerWalk® energy harvester. It looks like an athletic knee brace and weighs about 850 grams (1.7 lbs) per leg. When you wear this device on each leg and walk for just over an hour, you can generate about 12 watts of power or enough to charge four mobile phones.
PowerWalk® was developed with input from the Canadian Forces and the U.S. Army. “They’re really comfortable,” says Lance Corporal Finaeus Hunt, a Recon Marine, who tried the on-the-go, battery-charging devices. “…..and it’s going to be awesome not to have all that weight on my back,” he adds.
Bionic Power is fine-tuning its products for folks who work offsite in other industries and even building a scaled down version for everyday use. Are the days of the bionic man or woman closer than we think?
‘Horsepower’ that makes people green with envy
But kinetic energy isn’t just for people. “When I asked prospects what they wanted in a wearable for horses, they told me to develop something that uses green power and is not available to humans,” says Peter Mankowski, Co-founder of SeeHorse, in Kitchener, Ontario. “They wanted to make people jealous.”
So that’s what the former Blackberry engineer did when he led his start-up to develop a wireless, waterproof device that continuously monitors a horse’s activity levels, vital signs and more. He designed a premium ‘green’ option that harvests energy from the horse’s every move and uses it to auto charge the wearable. He even found “horses have the perfect size, shape and athletic prowess for collecting green energy.”
Peter opened SeeHorse’s doors in April and is busy taking pre-sale orders. Trainers look forward to using it for daily workouts, while anxious breeders want it to warn them just before a mare goes into labour.
Sound like something many forgetful humans or expectant fathers could use? The good news is, Peter is writing patents to extend energy harvesting to people in the near future.
These are just three of Canada’s kinetic energy leaders but we’d love to hear about more.
At BPM Land, we’re collecting stories like this on how kinetic energy makes life better or even helps you escape to an awesome experience. Check back or sign-up to see what’s new and coming down the kinetic power line. Share your own stories too.