Integrating Village - Industry with Human and Animal Power

Narendra Shah, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA)


Harnessing human muscle power as well as animal energy has been in use since the eighteenth century. When pedaling in a circular motion at sixty to eighty revolutions per minute, with the use of toe clips, almost every muscle in the human legs can be used to make energy. On an average, a healthy person in the age group of 13-60 years can impart about 75 Watts (0.1 HP) and a bullock can give about 375 Watts (0.5 HP) on a basis of 6 hrs work in a day.

         Pedal / animal power can be incorporated in the lives of families living in rural areas to improve the quality of their lives in an entirely environment friendly manner. Most of the villages where electricity is not available (or if ‘grid connected’, availability is extremely uncertain) pedal/animal power is a promising substitute, and can be an eco-sensitive energy solution for a range of decentralized rural applications (see box).

Applications of Pedal/Animal Power

  • Rural Industry: Wood carver, stone polisher and buffer, jeweler's lathe, and pottery wheel and small scale elec tricity generation
  • Food Processing: Appliances such as a juicer, potato peeler, decorticator, cherry pitter, or a butter churn can also use with pedal power
  • On farm: pedal power can be used to pump water, thresh and clean grains etc

Prototypes developed at IIT Bombay
Recent work on development and testing of pedal power and animal driven energy generation prototypes at CTARA, IIT-B, has been supported by KVIC-Mumbai. Several ongoing projects have led to the demonstration of pedal power use in:

  • Potters wheel
  • Battery charging
  • Water Pumping
  • Wood Turning Lathe
  • Paddy Threshing

Details of some of these devices are presented below.

Potter’s Wheel
Pedal-powered Potter’s wheel consists of a driving mechanism, seating arrangement, rotary wheel and plastic splash pan. The driving mechanism consists of a chain and sprocket drive with set of bevel gears, which convert human energy into horizontal rotary motion and transmits it to the wheel. The wheel itself acts as “Potter’s Wheel” as well as flywheel that curbs the effect of the unevenness associated with pedaling. The wheel is designed to have a full range of speed control from slow revolutions to fast (i.e. 100 to 300 rpm). It can hold both fast and slow speed accurately under load. A prototype has been installed at Yusuf Meherauli Centre, Tara Village, Dist Raigad (Maharashtra) supported by KVIC, Mumbai .........more on next page