Real Leaders

The Electricity-generating Bikes of Guatemala

Carlos Marroquin has shown that bicycles are good for much more than just transport.

The Guatemalan inventor, inspired by the complexity of these two-wheeled contraptions, met representatives of PedalCanada, an organization that promotes bicycles as a way of helping local communities, especially widows affected by the armed conflict in Central America.

Marroquin saw more potential in bicycles than just using them to get from point A to B. He realized he could use the gear-powered design to harvest alternative energy.

His creation? Bicimáquinas — pedal-powered machines made from discarded bicycles parts. Since 1997, Marroquin has been partnering with PedalCanada to establish Maya Pedal, a Guatemalan NGO based in San Andrés Itzapa. The nonprofit accepts donated bikes from the USA and Canada, repairing them to sell, or deconstructing them for Bicimáquinas — making them 100% recycled (no pun intended).

His pedal-powered machines have increased productivity in rural Guatemala where access to electricity is limited. A third of Guatemalans work in the agricultural sector, and often rely on conventional manpower to do essential tasks, such as grinding corn or pumping water.

Marroquin’s newly-designed models perform these back- breaking tasks and speed up the process — leg-powered pedaling requires five times less energy than hand power. Bicimáquinas also produces zero emissions, offering a completely clean and infinite renewable form of energy, replacing the need for expensive electric or gas-powered machines.

Marroquin has now created 30 different designs for his Bicimáquinas, among them pedal-powered water mills, washing machines, corn de-grainers, grain mills, water pumps, coffee de-pulpers, corn grinders, threshers, tile makers, nut-shellers, blenders, mobility trikes and trailers. More than 5,000 Bicimáquinas are now spread across Guatemala, making farming and household tasks easier.

Marroquin wants everyone to have access to his technology and has made his designs open source and available for copying. As a result, Bicimáquinas are now being designed and used in Mexico, India, Senegal, and Tanzania.

Marroquin’s goal is to give people the power and autonomy to create their own jobs and to sustain their own economies. Bicimáquinas give them the power to become independent producers, and prove that economies can thrive on 100% clean energy.

This is particularly noteworthy when considering the detrimental effect of electric and gas-powered economies. In 2018, global carbon emissions reached a record high of 37 billion tons, a number that continues to rise.

As Marroquin’s designs become more widespread, he continues to experiment. His next dream is to build a Bicimáquina that powers recycling. When he’s not building new machines, he travels the world educating people on the effectiveness of his idea, proving that clean, sustainable energy can benefit anyone, anywhere.

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