Students adapt bicycles to make generators

Altamira teacher guides students in fabricating generators for remote areas

Preparatory school students in Altamira, Tamaulipas, have developed a bicycle-powered household generator that can provide electricity for a home for up to eight hours.


Teacher José Feliciano Pérez Díaz and his students at the Colegio de Bachilleres de Tamuilpas (Cobat No. 13) school put old bicycles and discarded auto parts to use, rigging them up with a brand new Volkswagen alternator to create a gadget that can deliver electrical energy in remote areas unserved by the power grid.

“We build these machines making use of the bicycle’s mechanical system, adapting them to an alternator,” he said.

Two hours of pedalling provides eight hours of power, he continued.

“We’ve already installed the stationary bicycle in the house of one of my students . . . What’s interesting is that to complete the two hours of pedalling needed to charge the battery family members share the pedalling time among themselves, exercising at the same time and fighting obesity,” he told the newspaper Milenio in an interview.

The caveat is the need to buy a new alternator costing about 6,000 pesos (US $340), but once rigged up to the bike-generator it lasts two years.


Pérez’s has initiated various projects, and an environmental bent is a common theme. They have served to teach students about recycling solutions, cultivation of vegetables and water collection and storage systems.

“We are creating solutions to solve the needs of rural areas,” said the preparatory school teacher.

Pérez’s efforts in encouraging a commitment to sustainability among his students over the last 14 years earned him national recognition on Monday by the federal Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat).

He was presented with an Ecological Merit Award and a prize of 100,000 pesos (close to US $5,700).

Source: Milenio (sp)

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  • MortimerSnerd

    “….need to buy a new alternator costing about 6,000 pesos (US $340), but once rigged up to the bike-generator it lasts two years”…

    … why do you need a new alternator ? any junkyard (yonke) has alternators, yes even VW alternators that could be picked up for far less than $6000 pesos…. and why do they only last two years? That’s silly reasoning, more like 5-10years. Better to buy a couple of solar panels and let the sun do the work.

    • Happy Girl

      The job of a teacher is to make their students think and reason.
      Many prototypes have lead to even greater inventions. I remember when a computer took up a whole room, used punch cards and had the memory of a calulator. An inventor must take into account: the use, location, skill level of the end user, durability, cost, maintenance etc.
      Solar panels are useless to these end users…they are very expensive, fragile, require battery (expensive) storage in remote areas not connected to the grid and are prone to theft… also, they need sunlight. Remember the users are poor, but resourceful and know how to repair simple motors, and have access to used parts (which is a valid point).Even the most educated among us, do not have the skill level to troubleshoot solar panels when they go down. Every small Mexican town has a mechanic/Jack of all trades to fix or get a new alternator. It may not be perfect but it is a beginning. Sometimes simple is the best solution.

      Congradulations to the teacher and the students.