As the 100th Tour de France races towards a thrilling conclusion, will Brit Chris Froome seal his yellow jersey victory on Sunday? Whilst witnessing the amazing athleticism of almost 200 colourful, Lycra-clad competitors we wondered, could their power be harnessed in some way to meet the business energy needs of an office?
Considering that all the riders wear is a helmet and spandex, the speed they can reach is staggering. The average speed of a Tour cyclist on the flat is between 25 and 28mph (40 to 45kph), uphill it’s from 21 to 25mph (33kph to 40kph) and downhill cyclists can top 60mph (96kph). Their powerful legs make these speeds seem effortless, so if all 198 competitors who started the Tour were hooked up to a generator surely they could make easy work of powering an office?
How much power can one rider produce? It depends on their circumstances.
A track sprinter using super-short power bursts can produce over 2,000W (watts) in a race, but the Tour de France covers 3,404km, over three weeks, in 21 stages, including six mountain stages and several covering 200km or more in a day; it would be impossible for a rider to maintain a sprinter’s pace. However having said that, the Tour’s final day will end with a sprint around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and many riders produce over 1,000W.
The estimated average power produced by a Tour rider, based on data from Team HTC-High Road from the 2011 Tour de France, ranges from 405W to 450W. If we take a middle value of 428W, all 198 riders would produce a combined total of 84,744W.
If all that power could be transferred and stored, it could boil a 2,000W kettle 42 times. If a small office boils a full kettle four times a day for tea, there would be enough energy to boil it for ten-and-a-half days.
Perhaps more impressively though, if a small office has six computers with monitors drawing 120W each, two laptops at 20W each, a 3,500W photocopier, 450W LaserJet printer, 2,000W kettle, 1,950W air conditioning unit and ten 60W light-bulbs and they were all on together, it would need 9,260W to function. This is over 21 times what a single racer could generate, but all 198 Tour riders could easily power nine small offices.
Bear in mind however, that riders burn between 4,000 and 5,000 calories on average so the food bill for 198 riders would far outstrip any business gas bill savings.