Innovate or Die is a bit of a grim sounding name for a competition that has produced some surprising and diverse innovations. Sponsored by Google, the challenge was to develop something new that is powered by a bicycle, and that can be shown to benefit the planet in some way.

One of the most outstanding ideas, and also the winning entry, Aquaduct is a mobile, pedal powered water filtration system, designed to use human energy to provide drinking water anywhere in the world, particularly in places that do not have grid electricity. This innovative bike was the winning submission in the Innovate or Die competition. Built as a tricycle, it has a large reservoir to hold the impure water. When you start pedalling, this water is pumped out of the reservoir, and through a series of filters, ending up in the transparent container at the front.


It means that you can generate and carry drinkable water during a journey, but it also has the facility to disengage a clutch mechanism, so that the pedals power only the filtration system and not the wheels. The whole unit then becomes a stationary, human powered water filtration system that needs no electricity.

The competition website is very pretty but not ever so informative. The best overview of the entries is on the competition’s YouTube channel, where you can see stuff that ranges from brilliant to truly crazy. I think my favourite is probably the wonderful Renotee and his gondola – or, as he put it, “California’s (if not world’s) first electrically assisted recumbent pedicab” – love the wicked laugh near the end of the video:

I also loved the cardboard pedal – or paddle – boat, and particularly its name, “My Magic Swirling Ship”:

All the entries are worth looking at – there are bicycles driving carousels, coffee grinders, washing machines and even welding machines. It’s pretty inspiring, especially as by saving electricity I might also manage to burn off some of my post-Christmas flab.




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