Frequently Asked Questions

What does PCG stand for?

Pull-cord generator.

What are the PCGs and what do they do?

Potenco designs human-powered pull-cord generators (PCGs) that can generate energy when and where you need it, providing freedom and independence from traditional power sources.

Potenco is initially going to produce two designs, the PCG1 which is meant for charging portable electronic devices and the PCG2 which is meant as a low cost alternative to Solar power for everyday use in areas of the world that don’t have access to grid power.
Click here for details on the PCG1 and here for details on the PCG2.

Can you explain more about how I would use a PCG1?

To generate power with a PCG1, you hold it firmly in the palm of one hand and pull the handle with your other hand. This pulling motion generates energy that is stored in an internal battery for use when needed. The PCG1 can also be charged from a powered USB jack (on a computer, USB hub or wall adapter).

Once the PCG1 has charge in its internal battery pack, it can be used to recharge/power any device that accepts USB power including a variety of electronic devices like LED lanterns, cell phones, radios, AA chargers, PDAs, etc. Adapter tips can be used to convert from USB to the specific tip needed for a particular cellphone. Adapter tips will likely be sold separately.

Can you explain more about how I would use a PCG2?

To use a PCG2, you will need a more extensive set up. In addition to the PCG2, you will need a 12V battery (preferably a deep cycle battery for longer life), wires, and battery clips to connect the battery to the PCG.

The PCG2 comes with a versatile mounting bracket that will allow it to be mounted to a variety of surfaces (walls, poles, trees etc). Once mounted & connected to a 12V battery, to generate electricity you grasp hold of the two handles (one in each hand), and pull on the handles in alternating fashion (similar to the arm motion when cross-country skiing. The pulling motion generates electricity which then charges the 12V battery.

Once the 12V battery has sufficient charge, it can be used to recharge/power any device that accepts 12V power. A 12V power converter or an inverter can also be used to run/charge a variety of devices, such as LED lighting, cellphone chargers, and UV water purifiers.

Do the PCGs require electrical power?

The PCGs are electrical power generators that extract mechanical energy from human motion and convert it into electrical energy, which can then be used to recharge batteries and power small electronic devices. No additional electrical power is required.

How do the PCGs compare with similar or related technologies? What new features or capabilities are unique to the PCGs?

The PCG’s are quiet, compact and efficient, and their design delivers significant performance improvements over alternative portable, human-powered devices that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. Generally speaking, other portable human-powered generators produce considerably less energy than the PCGs, tire out users faster, have a shorter lifetime, and are noisier.

Do the PCGs require specialized training?

The PCGs do not require any specialized training. The interface is simple and requires minimal instruction.

Where can I buy a PCG?

Neither version of the PCG is currently available for purchase. We’re hoping to get the funding to go into production in the next few months, and that product would then be available in early-mid 2009. If you’d like to be notified when they’re available, please click here. If you would like to make a commercial inquiry, please click here.

Why a pull-cord and won’t the strings break?

The pull-cord is designed to give users maximum flexibility and range of motion. Unlike a hand crank, which primarily uses weak wrist muscles, the PCG employs a variety of muscle groups to generate considerably more power, while minimizing user fatigue.

A great deal of thought went into designing the cord used on the PCG1. The cord is engineered for both strength and wear resistance. Provided the PCG1 is used properly (held such that the string is able to move in and out of the device without rubbing on the opening), the string will last for quite a long time. Our goal is string life of approximately 1 million pull cycles. How that translates into an actual number of years will depend up how many minutes a day an owner uses their device. Potenco will have a repair process for broken strings (the string and spring will likely be replaced at the same time) for both in- and out-of-warranty repairs.

The PCG2 devices are meant for use in rural off-grid areas where access to high tech string will of course be limited. For this reason the PCG2s are designed to make string swaps simple and quick, and the devices can be used with locally available strings as well, shoestrings included.

Will I get tired pulling the cord?

The PCGs were designed such that a wide range of people (including children) can comfortably generate their own electricity. We recommend using an easy, fluid motion that you can maintain for up to five minutes at a time. Charging is cumulative and doesn’t need to all be done at once.