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Toyota Files Patent for Pedal Charging Electric Car System

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【Summary】Toyota has filed a patent for a power generation system which will allow passengers to generate energy for their autonomous vehicle by operating a manual crank.

Manish Kharinta    Jul 01, 2018 11:00 AM PT
Toyota Files Patent for Pedal Charging Electric Car System
author: Manish Kharinta   

Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has filed a patent for a power generation system which will allow passengers to generate electricity for their autonomous electric vehicle by operating a manual crank. In the past, we have seen electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla and Fisker Karma dabble with alternative energy sources to a certain degree. 

With the help of instruments like solar panels, which were integrated into the roof of their electric vehicles, manufacturers were able to generate additional energy to power their car's electronics without draining charge from the drivetrain's battery pack. In this case, Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) has developed a system in which passengers can generate electricity by peddling or turning a hand-held crank.

The system is being developed to be incorporated into the company's autonomous vehicles in the future. These vehicles will be part of a fleet which will be deployed as a ride-hailing service. The passengers will be able to request rides in the autonomous electric vehicles by using their smartphone. 

After the passengers are onboard they will have the option of a foot peddle or a hand crank which they can turn and use to generate and feed electricity in to the autonomous vehicle's batteries. This system has been developed to use the additional power generated by the vehicle's occupants to extend the car's all-electric driving range. 

The company expects that this system will make its autonomous electric vehicles less dependable on the grid and will reduce the need of pulling into charging stations more often.

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The system will also offer monetary incentives to the passengers. The occupants of these vehicles will be offered discounts on the fare for the ride. The discounted amount will be calculated based on how much energy is generated by the passengers during the ride. 

The company has not released details about how this system functions or the energy it will be capable of generating.

So far, the project has not received much support from the automotive industry. Arguments are being made that by manually operating cranks, passengers will not be able to generate high levels of power. Also, because electricity from the grid is cheap, critics are also suggesting that the monetary incentive will not serve as a good motivating factor for the passengers. 

It is speculated that many passengers will find it more convenient to turn down their discount instead of idulging in manual labor.

This is not the first time a company has considered human power to be the source of energy for mobility. Companies like Aerovelo have used power pedals, specially designed wheels, gears and propellers to develop high-speed bicycles and human-powered helicopters. If the system designed by Toyota also enhances energy generated by occupants exponentially, it might find real-life application.

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