First, there was the roller generator that put a small rubber cylinder on the tire or rim to turn a dynamo. My grandmother had one on her tricycle to power the lights and turn signals. Yes, my Nani had all that, and I rode the heck outta it as a kid.
Then came hub dynamos, which do an admirable job of turning your power into watts and volts. But they require a new wheel (or rebuild), can be heavy, and have a good bit of drag. Their efficiency ratings top out under 80%, too.
Now, Sunup Eco has what they think is the next generation of bicycle dynamos. With a few usage exceptions, the DS1-R dynamo solves all of the inherent weaknesses of the others: It’s lightweight, bolts onto your existing bike and wheels, and boasts 84% efficiency…
They units are anodized alloy, but the colors look better than the gold and silver ones, which oddly end up looking rather like plastic.
They fit over the non-drive side of your rear hub and mount to the spokes (below). An arm, like on a coaster brake hub, attaches to the frame, in this case to the seatstay.
The “flywheel” bolts to back plates, capturing the spokes to drive it. The only real downside is the current inability to work with disc brake wheels. It’s a problem they’re well aware of and are working on (we’re thinking it could bolt to the rotor bolts). The temporary solution they mentioned is that it can also be mounted to the driveside of the front wheel since the direction of rotation is irrelevant.
The dynamo motor is housed below and behind the flywheel.
From there, it runs to an extension wire with open +/- wire ends that can be wired to any lights or other directly powered accessories. Good quality lights generally have small capacitors in them to store a small amount of power to keep them illuminated while stopped in traffic or whatever.
Further down the wire, they offer a Power Bank (silver) with USB output to charge your phone, GPS, MP3 player or any other device so equipped. Just wire it in to the system with the regulator (black) in between it and the generator and you’re good to go. It’ll store enough juice to bring an iPhone back from dead to fully charged. The Power Bank itself takes about three hours to charge while riding about 20-22km/h.
The system has been tested to 100,000km in all types of weather. It’ll work up to 120km/h and generate power at speeds as slow as 8km/h. Besides being more efficient, it’s amazingly smooth. Hub dynamos all have quite a bit of friction. You may not notice it so much while riding, but it’s there. The DS1-R spins freely, virtually devoid of any noticeable friction.
On top of all that, retail is just $120 – considerably less than a good quality hub model. The Power Bank should retail for around $40 – $60 (our best guess based on NTD currency prices mentioned during our visit).