Your Bike Could Charge Your Phone for You

A Boston based tech company's creation will harness the bike's energy.

Here’s another reason to bike to work: With SIVA Cycle’s Kickstarter-funded Atom, you’ll arrive with a fully charged smartphone.

Bicycle-mounted power generators are nothing new—but most of them are a hassle. Dave Delcourt and Aaron Latzke, of Boston and San Francisco-based SIVA Cycle, are setting out to change the original bike-power model, and while they’re at it, bring sustainable energy to developing countries around the world.

Delcourt and Latzke met several years ago through a mutual rugby friend. Boston-based Delcourt had just sold his energy management software company, and Aaron was working as a mechanical engineer for a startup in San Francisco. Delcourt commuted around Boston and Cambridge by bike, and like many of us, he also regularly found his phone running out of battery before he could return home to charge it. He began to conceptualize “the bicycle as kind of distributed energy infrastructure—another way of powering everyday connected life.” Meanwhile, Aaron had returned from a trip to Belgium, where many cyclists use bottle generators to generate light, which got him thinking about how to create a better, more efficient way to harness the clean, renewable energy. Thus, the Atom was conceived.

The Atom is designed to be unobtrusive, and lightweight (300 gram), and can charge a mobile device during a ride (with a cable that connects it to your phone from underneath the saddle) or afterwards. What separates it from the rest is that it functions as a removable 1300mAh battery pack, which allows riders to power electronic and mobile devices at their convenience, no plug necessary. “What we love about this is the fact that there’s no real limit to how much power you can create with this device—it’s just a matter of how often and how long you ride,” says Delcourt. “So there’s a sense of infinite energy. It’s that feeling of, I get on my bike, and now I have renewable, clean power as long as I’ve got calories to burn.”

Delcourt and Latzke’s goal for the Atom was to make it as intuitive as possible, and in doing so, cater to a wide range of urban cyclists, tech geeks, and sustainable-minded folks. That started with the way they mounted it: The Atom’s rectangular structure fits over the rear axle. It’s small enough that it won’t affect drag and can be mounted to any standard bicycle within minutes (you just have to know how to change a tire and fix a flat to install).

Delcourt, who runs the business side of SIVA out of Boston, garnered a lot of inspiration from the burgeoning bike-friendly city. “Over the past five years, I’ve seen the number of cycling paths and those on them increase exponentially,” he says. SIVA has teamed up with local cycling organizations like the Boston Cyclists Union to spread the word around town.

The other component of SIVA’s founding mission is global: “We want to put generators in the spokes of people who need it most,” says Delcourt. So SIVA will give away one generator to those in the developing world for every ten purchased.

The Atom is just the first of several bicycle accessories SIVA plans to roll out in the coming years. Already, the company surpassed its Kickstarter goal by more than $20,000, allowing it to incorporate status lights into the generator and battery pack so that people will be able to tell the charge level. They’re eventually hoping for hand warmers, and rear blinking lights as well. “The Atom foreshadows where we’re going,” says Delcourt. “It gives people an idea of how we think about this product as the foundation for electricity on the bicycle.”

“It’s not the solution to green power,” says Delcourt. “It’s not the solution to taking us completely off the grid; but it is a step in the right direction, to make us more sustainably minded, to give the individual a feeling that they can make a difference, and this is the right kind of difference.”