Can working out prove to be a source of untapped energy for our homes and gyms? A pair of young university graduates in Montreal have set their sights on precisely this question.
Off The Grid was cofounded by Charles Couture Lebrun and Sébastien Brunelle-Jestin, two young graduates from Universite de Sherbrooke and HEC.
“We created a commercial spinning bike, made in Quebec, that allows you to transform the energy that you generate while training into electricity,” Couture Lebrun told MTLinTECH. “The electricity is then used directly back into the grid of the building or home in real time without a battery.”
Simply plug the bike into your regular electrical outlet in your home and gym, said Couture Lebrun. The bike will cost $3,000. A Peloton bike, in comparison, costs about $2,500 CAD, but Peloton includes live classes.
The small team primarily targeted gyms upon starting the company, particularly those at university campuses. As the pandemic hit their focus turned to the home, but the guys say they’re still committed to the gym market as government policies gradually subside over the next year.
It might not significantly reduce one’s Hydro Quebec bill for their apartment or condo. Perhaps a few dollars a month.
“In the home, it’s more of a way to push yourself to train in a more ecologically-friendly manner, but you won’t notice a big difference in the electric bill. It depends on how often and how intensely you train,” says Couture Lebrun.
The real energy savings lies in fitness centres and exercise gyms. Consider a spin class of 30 people at a time generating energy.
Couture Lebrun said a gym in Quebec will be able to save between $50 to $60 dollars per year per bike. Over the lifecycle of the bike, this translates to a couple hundred dollars.
Quebec charges citizens the lowest amount in Canada for hydro consumption. But users in other provinces with higher energy costs will save more money with the bikes. As well, in countries like Germany, Denmark and in states like California, Couture Lebrun says rates are up to eight times higher than in Quebec.
Off The Grid did chat with Hydro Quebec several times while building their prototype. This was to ensure they didn’t need to add any special modifications to the bike.
A clever marketing angle for gyms
Using Off The Grid’s spinning bikes can serve as a nice marketing boost for gyms and fitness centres targeting a more eco-conscious clientele. Work out at our gym and help reduce our ecological footprint.
I never asked Couture Lebrun about this, but perhaps gyms could even gamify sales packages, offering incentives and monthly fee savings for gym-goers who generate a specific level of energy. That is if the gym is able to integrate this data and possess a good client-facing experience on their website.
The team’s roadmap
The startup is currently building a second prototype of their spinning bike. That will be ready by the end of January. Off the Grid will then launch a crowdfunding campaign on the Quebec-based site La Ruche in mid-February. They’ll go with La Ruche rather than Kickstarter or Indiegogo because the product is made in Quebec, and they want to target this market first.
The goal would be to deliver the bike by the end of this summer. By 2022, the team wants to hit the United States market.
There is at least one direct competitor, Washington-based SportsArt, which sells several energy-producing treadmills, bikes and other fitness and medical equipment, but Couture Lebrun says their models are not as efficient as Off The Grid’s bikes.
Off The Grid previously participated in McGill University’s X-1 Accelerator, and competed in the Dobson Cup competition.
They’ve also received french media coverage from the likes of Le Journal de Montréal, Le 24H Montréal, TVA Nouvelles and Planète Techno.