Toyota Patent Hints At Pedal-Charging An Electric Car


Free energy?

You never know what incredible discovery you’ll come across trolling through various patent applications from the world’s automakers. Take this one reportedly filed by Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA), for instance. It offers up a system that allows passengers to add energy to an autonomous vehicle by pedaling or turning a crank. No, we’re not making this up.

Here’s how it would work. You would hail an autonomous EV on your phone, and after it arrives and you pile in and get comfortable, you can turn a hand or foot crank, which would take the energy you expend and turn it into electricity and feed it to the car’s batteries. Make total sense, right? This way, the autonomous vehicle (AV) could travel farther before needing to roll to a charging point and filling up from the grid.

Now what, you may be asking yourself, would motivate someone to do this sort of work? Good question. According to HybridCars, the fare for the ride would be reduced depending on the amount of energy you produced, again proving once again that money does make the world go round.

Having covered how it works and the motivation for people to use the system, the question of whether it’s a good idea remains. We’re not really convinced it is. For one thing, the amount of energy a human can produce is pretty minimal. Sure, pedaling works alright for bicycles and, well, pedal boats, but moving a proper vehicle takes significantly more.

Another thing to consider is the amount you might be paid for your efforts. The average price of electricity around 12 cents per kWh and over the period of 30 minutes one might generate .3 kWh worth of electron juice. That would make your reimbursement about 4 cents. I think most of us would rather sit back and enjoy the ride. Perhaps, though, it could be used in a specialty service: a sort of gym on wheels which allows you to get a workout on your way home from the job, saving you time and a gym membership.

Source: HybridCars

Categories: Toyota


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38 Comments on "Toyota Patent Hints At Pedal-Charging An Electric Car"

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What utter nonsense. If you calculate the work required to power the car 500 feet it will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I see this as another Toyota ploy to pedal away from EVs.

I doubt they would file a patent, even a frivolous one, in order to make a decision against a product.
There’s no need to suspect such convoluted malice by Toyota when the action is very feasibly explained by incompetence, ignorance, or a combination of both.

Strongly agree with your first two sentences — the simple math shows how absurd this is. But I disagree with your last sentence. This strikes me as “patent portfolio padding”: A large company filing for anything and everything they can, in the hope of having something in their back pocket that another company will want to buy or trade for in the future. This is a major practice among big corporations.

Indeed. It’s truly sad that in the modern era, patents are used more as a legal strategy to prevent other companies from making something which could possibly compete with the company filing the patent, rather than patents being used to provide inventors with exclusive rights to benefit from their invention for a period of time.

Patent law should be significantly revised, to provide protection for a much shorter time unless the inventor or company can demonstrate that they or their licensees are making a real effort to put the invention into production. If not, then after just a few years (maybe 5-6 years), the patent should be considered abandoned.

Just my opinion, of course.

The smart people at MIT invented the Copenhagen wheel, which uses electricity to assist a cyclist. The dumb idea is to use a frail human who can generate 100W during a moderate workout to push a car around. This is in the same category of idiocy as people who want to line up “solar panels on top of cars”. If your car takes 250 wH to run a mile, it would take a human 2 hours to generate that and it would take the sun about an hour to do the same with the space on the roof. If humans had that much power/energy in them to propel a car around, we wouldn’t need cars at all. Most people would just be zipping around on their own with no effort. The same holds for solar panels on cars. If there was so much energy in the tiny patch on top of your car to propel it clear across the city, then we would all get scorched when we go outside.

Here is a spy video of the Toyota concept. Ha ha.

Black Mirror comes to mind 😉

Just make in into a minibus with like 10 seats or something, and a tiny motor.
Get the lazy wife and kids to work. You want to go to the movies, well then turn that crank 🙂

Pick up a hitch hiker? Well then they have to do some work 🙂 Almost easier to walk.

This might be a cure for fat poor people, going to McDonalds? .. well is it worth it? “Drive” to KFC? Can’t pay for the electric juice.. well then.. this car accepts sweat. Now work it!

Ron Swanson's Mustache

The people who need it the most would outright refuse to use it.

We already have this technology. It is called bikes, and nearly all people, who can afford to, chose other means of transportation.


Perhaps this is Toyota’s answer to their EV’s not having access of a convenient and reliable fast charge network for those occasional long distance trips… pedal-power.

… Pedal-power could also be very useful for Toyota’s Hydrogen-Fueled Mirai that currently lacks a convenient and reliable hydrogen fuel network infrastructure.

Just think, you could fully recharge your Prius Prime with just 16 hours of furious non-stop, Tour de France level pedaling. With 4 people it would take only 4 hours. Or you could just charge it with PV panels.

What if the price of electricity were much higher than 12 cents, or simply unavailable in a location? The value of that pedal-generated power might be higher. Still though, the efficacy of this arrangement is very low, and although someone at Toyota may think that the solution is, as illustrated, multiple riders, the reality is that this: The pedaling of the riders in order to generate energy for the car to travel someplace may work, but for less pedaling the riders could get themselves some place (or some places) as a bicycle will travel much faster for the less energy than the car.
Users might prefer to pedal inside the car over pushing it by hand in the case of battery depletion, but they’d need to be more interested in getting the car somewhere than in getting themselves somewhere.

This is by no means nonsense. We have beer-bikes in many cities around Europe. You can enjoy a beer while cycling with your buddies, driver excluded of course. Just search beerbike images on Google (so the patent probably won´t hold in court) 🙂

Not just Europe. There’s one that parks just around the block for me here in Michigan.

And how much mass are you moving compared to a car that seats as many people?

Yes, exactly, the answer is “not much”. Although I will point out that at least the beer bikes around here are EVs — they all have electric motors to assist with hill climbing, not to mention allowing them to be moved when there’s not a sufficient load of drunkards on board pedaling furiously.

They’re kind of fun, but I had assumed OP was tongue-in-cheek comparing Toyota’s “invention” to a beer bike (which is basically a stunt, not useful transport). But re-reading his post, maybe not.

I Yabba-Dabba Do!

0.3 kWh in 30 minutes is 600 W. Top Tour de France riders can sustain a bit over 400 W for that long.

Does the patent include a method to collect and drain sweat? Geez.

They may mean 150 watts per person times 4 people. That would work out to 1 cent of electricity per person in the half hour trip. Hardly worth the sweat.

People need exercise though, it’s healthy.

And only top of the top riders can hold 400 watts for less than half an hour.
Maintaining 20 m.p.h. on a good cycle in a arerodynamic posture, not comfortable for most, need more than 150 watts and this is the most efficient mean of transportation.

Another Euro point of view

Was this patent filed April 1st ? If not maybe that Toyota intended to make fun of Tesla’s compressed air boosters by making this practical joke.

Can I add in a treadmill for my pack of Huskies, so I don’t have to be stuck in a small cube sweating bullets, with a bunch of strangers, on my way into work everyday?

No, what it’s going to do is power the air conditioner in a vain attempt to keep me cool while I’m peddling.

Well, folks, there is a better way to do this:
viz: 1. Each family owns a horse. 2. When the taxi shows up you hitch the horse into the team. 3. Off you go!

Benefits: 1. No pedaling. 2. No sweaty environment in the car. 3. No need for a fuel cell, battery, electric motor or any of that s**t.
Speaking of which; a few details do remain, but I feel we have enough historical/cultural knowledge to guide us to a successful and fulfilling future of mutually cooperative transportation. And Lord knows, Americans are so good at the “mutually cooperative” bit!

Just the idea of putting pedals in a car shows how ridiculous cars are. Two thousand kilo to propel a person gets you 100 kilo people.

And how amazing bicycles are!

Ron Swanson's Mustache

There is no way that turning a hand crank would allow you to generate a meaningful amount of electricity to power a car. This entire patent and the concept behind it is ridiculous.

A continuation of the patent will make it even better by turning the vehicle into a single-person pod for maximum flexibility, updating the superstructure to be a minimalistic tube frame to cut weight, and cutting the number of wheels from four to two. This will make it much more energy-efficient and as a bonus, it’ll be able to park almost anywhere. Then they’ll provide a means to directly couple the crankset to the drive wheel (they might have to cross-license the Volt patents) and maybe even make the electric components optional. After doing all that, the invention will actually be useful.

Hey, they just invented the bicycle!

It depends on the weight of the vehicle, but at face value, this is far fetched. If there was also 900-1000w of solar panels on the vehicle, then that could work to provide a reasonable amount of energy.

Toyota is trolling.

Toyota with basic physics fail. What is going on with this company?

If the car gets completely drained and you need to go 500m to neerest plug this could make sense, otherwise, no.

1,5km/h is possible to make it go if you’re pedaling at 100W which is easy.

The basic concept is nothing new, altho such vehicles are rare. Just Google [pedal assisted electric quadricycle]. I suppose Toyota can patent a specific mechanical design, but I rather doubt they can patent the basic concept.

However, the concept is only practical for very lightweight, low-speed vehicles. Light quadricycles, not highway-capable, street-legal automobiles.

Let me be the first to applaud this for the mere benefit of physical exercise.

Sure, in a 5000 pound F150 pedalling won’t make a difference. But in a Stella Vie it will. Also: Aerovelo.