Nokia Pedals Toward Greener Cell Phones With a Bicycle Charger

Nokia's Bicycle Charger Kit
Nokia's Bicycle Charger Kit

Taking the green approach to powering up a cell phone is a concept that's getting legs, literally.

Nokia (NOK) recently became the latest company to jump on the environmentally friendly bandwagon with its bicycle charger kit, which it hopes to have on the market by the end of the year. The new device will do precisely what you'd expect: allow cyclists to power up their cell phones while pedaling.

A smattering of other companies have preceded the cell phone giant in rolling out human-powered electricity-producing devices, such as PedalPower and Busch & Muller's E-WERK. But while those other two companies concentrate on making accessories for bicycles, Nokia is approaching the task from a handset maker's perspective.

"You must look at a number of things when it comes to power management -- such as ensuring the phone's operating system is as power-efficient as possible," said Alex Lambeek, a Nokia vice president, in a statement.

What's Under the Hood

Nokia's kit features a small electrical dynamo, a cell phone holder and a charger. As a cyclist pumps the pedals of a bicycle, the turning wheels also turn the dynamo, which charges the handset via a standard 2-mm charging jack. A cyclist traveling at 20 kph (about 12.4 mph) can charge up a cell phone within two hours, says Doug Dawson, a Nokia spokesman.

In designing the charger, Nokia is targeting consumers who live in areas with limited access to electricity, such as Kenya.

Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit
Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit

Last year, two Kenyan college students developed a similar product, according to a BBC report. The students, who came from small villages, were familiar with the hurdles residents had to endure to charge their cell phones -- traveling long distances and forking over $2 just to power a phone from a solar panel or car battery, according to the report.

This problem isn't lost on the World Bank, which last week announced it was making a $330 million loan to Kenya for the nation to expand access to electricity and increase its investment in green energy sources such as geothermal power.

While Nokia's bicycle charger will be one small way to address such problems, sales of the kits will not be restricted to energy deficient countries. The company plans to market them at selected retailers, as well as internationally from its website. Nokia expects to find an avid customer base in areas where bicycling is big, such as rural China and parts of Europe.