A2B Launch 6 New eBikes: “A Journey Redefined”


I’m an avid cyclist. It’s my favourite way to traverse the capital and I can often been seen zipping in and out between cars, on a fixie, with a courier bag, braving the British winter with just a Rapha softshell jacket. I don’t wear one of those little cycling caps but that’s only because I have too much hair. So I was pleased when Hero Eco and A2B invited me down to the National Gallery to unveil their latest and greatest in ebiking technology.

I’ve always found eBikes to be curious beasts. When I first laid eyes on them they were slow, unwieldy and ugly. They also seemed a little pointless – why not just get a scooter? And maybe I’m masochistic but half the pleasure of cycling was the sense of independence and achievement. But the folks at A2B were keen to point out the many benefits of the ebiking lifestyle for everyone who wasn’t a hardcore cyclist. I love riding to work but I’m less keen on turning up to the office a sweaty mess, then having to dive into the shower and change clothes every day. And after a long day of staring at iPhone cases, and then a longer night at a press event staring at Bluetooth speakers it would be nice to cruise home with a bit of added support. And there have been many occasions when I’ve ridden back laden with shopping bags, or over a particularly steep set of hills and wish I’d been a little less stubborn.


Of course what also makes ebike easier to swallow is when they look and feel great. A2B unveiled 6 models for the UK market – Shima, Galvani, Ferber, Entz , Ørsted and Obree. Some of these really whizz along – the Shima can reach 28 mph which is pretty much as fast as you need to go for inner city transport. Some of the models look a little bit like funky bikes from the future but some look very conventional and reassuring – the Ferber or Galvani could quite easily pass for regular bikes. And the Ørsted and Obree have front suspension and much more of a hardcore mountain bike feel. One of the standout features for me was Entz, the first ebike in the world to incorporate AEG-Centredrive – which fits a drive motor the size of the front chain wheel by the cranks.

“We are seeing a rising appetite for high quality design and good performance e-bikes in theUK market, as consumers are increasingly looking towards pedal assist bikes to complement their journeys around town.”

Fernando Küefer Hero Eco, General Manager

I spent quite a bit of time riding the Obree. It works using pedal assist rather than a throttle (so it feels more like a bicycle than a moped) and is shockingly light to ride. I even managed to pop a wheelie along the South Bank. Whilst riding, it is pretty easy to hit high speeds without even thinking about it, but at the same time you are definitely cycling. You just get the illusion that you are great of cycling without taking into account all the amazing technology that is helping you cheat passed everyone else. I imagine this is what Lance Armstrong felt like. You can toggle the level of assistance and you can even set it in the other direction for some quite heavy levels of resistance. Not only does this give your thighs a pretty spectacular workout, it also helps charge your battery (which you can also remove and charge at your desk).

Shima (£2,450 – Spring 2013)
Galvani – Male and Female (£1,450 – Spring 2013)
Ferber (£1400 – Spring 2013)
Entz (from £2699 – Autumn 2013)
Ørsted (£1899 – Autumn 2013)
Obree (£2199 – Autumn 2013)

For more information on the range head to A2B

Image courtesy of Twitter user @each1teach1

Loop: Energy Empowerment


The downside of being always plugged in … is that I’m always plugged in. That might seem a little obvious but the various shiny gadgets that I’ve accrued as a professional gadgeteer litter my house the like children and pets of more balanced individuals, all sucking electricity and draining my finances. Wouldn’t it be great if I could keep tabs on everything I’m spending. Wouldn’t it great if I knew how much all these devices cost me. Wouldn’t it be great to be … in the Loop.

Loop (yes I’m smooth) is a cool energy saving device that tracks exactly how much energy you use, when you use it and shows you how much it’s really costing on your tariff. When I tried Loop out I was concerned that it might be “fiddly”. For the most part it’s one of the simpler installations I’ve done. There’s an illustrated process to guide you through every step, which is handy. You need an online account and then to plug a dongle into your broadband router and clip another onto the cable by your electricity meter. This was the most difficult bit as I live in a tiny flat (London living), and gaining access to my electricity meter required some allen-key based ingenuity. That small hurdle aside, things are relatively simple and Loop lets you know when you’re up and running and immediately starts measuring your energy.


And boy do I use a lot of energy. Loop provides a live energy feed providing all the depressing details, in kWh, CO2 and hard cash. It was really good being able to wave a screen with exactly energy usage in front of my housemate in an accusatory fashion. There are even charges for spending over time. I do love a good chart. You can also set hard targets for budgets over set time periods which I also loved – I harbour a secret dream to be an accountant. Loop is also empowering as it you can compare you exact usage on various tariffs and shop around for a great deal.

For too long households have had to put up with complicated bills, often based on estimated usage. For the first time, Loop gives you everything you need to make the right energy choices, from up to the minute usage information on what you are really using, right through to knowing when you can and should switch to get a better deal.

Chris Saunders, CEO at Navetas, the company behind Loop

The Loop starter kit and 12 month subscription to Loop online is available to buy now from Amazon, priced at £29.99, with a money back guarantee if you don’t save in the first 12 months. For more information visit www.your-loop.com

The BathBuoy – Save Energy in the Bath!

Anyone with young children will know how exasperating it can be to wait for the bath to fill up – and to see how much water you use each time you bath them. This is when they’re at the age when they need bathing every day – for reasons that I won’t go into for fear of putting off anyone considering starting a family…


But the truth is that filling up a bath for a very small person takes a considerable amount of water (especially if you have a water meter and have to watch your usage for financial as well as environmental reason) – and heating that water costs you money. So what if there was a way to still let your little ones enjoy a deep, splashy bath, without wasting vast amounts of heating and water?

Well there is, and it comes in the shape of the BathBuoy – an inflatable device that doubles as space filler and bath toy. The idea is that you inflate the BathBuoy, stick it on the bottom of your bath using the suctions pads, turn on the water and hey presto – a nice deep, splashy bath using far less water and energy than before. The makers say it can save up to 30 litres of water for each bath – which is a lot when you’re bathing your grime-magnets every day.

It is estimated that using the BathBuoy could save up to £40 a year on utility bills if you have a water meter or more than £12 if you’re household is not on a meter.

The BathBuoy comes in three designs – Pirate Island, Penguin Island and Treasure Island, and even my six-year-old, who I thought might consider himself too old for it, enjoyed playing with the Pirate Island BathBuoy we tried out with his own pirates and pirate ship.

The BathBuoy inflates to approx 400mm x 400mm, and stands 257mm high to the top of the volcano, and claim the makers, it fits into all types of bath. Well, it doesn’t. We have an old freestanding bath – and it wouldn’t stay stuck to that, so we tried it at our neighbours’ house, where they have a more modern bath. No joy there either – the suction pads just kept coming away from the bath. Although the two-year-old and six-year-old in that house also enjoyed playing with the product itself.

Finally, I asked another neighbour, who has a very recently renovated bathroom with a modern bath that has a shower area at one end. Success at last! Her five-year-old and one year-old both enjoyed sharing the bath with the BathBuoy, and it helped to create a more secure area for the little one, while the bigger one enjoyed playing pirates and reading the words.

So, the idea is a good one, and if you have a wide-based, modern bath, the BathBuoy may well work for you.

Find out more about the BathBuoy, which costs £9.99 plus P&P (although it might be worth checking with your water company to see if they are offering it at a special price) at bathbuoy.co.uk/

Here comes the rain – get it sorted with Xylem’s pumps

As I write this we are enjoying the tail end of a tropical storm, and the rain is pouring down outside the windows. So it seems quite apt that I am writing about a rainwater pump – although maybe not so apt that it’s solar powered.


It’s all very well collecting rainwater in your water butts, and even using grey water – from baths and washing up – in your garden. But actually getting it out of your chosen receptacle can be a bit of a chore.

The RainPerfect solar-powered rainwater pump aims to make the task simple by pumping stored rainwater at up to 0.9 bar through an ordinary garden hose, making it easier to water all around the garden, even if you have a sloping site.


The pump also lets you use low-pressure sprinklers or use a hand spray nozzle. The RainPerfect pump can fit onto the top of most water butts and barrels, and as it has no wires, and no running costs, is a cheap option. So if you pay for your water on a meter, you’re wining twice over – lower water bills and no electricity charges either.

The RainPerfect solar-powered pump costs £94.99 from retailers. See www.rainperfectpump.com for more.

The makers, Xylem, also make the new AquaCharge portable pump, should you wish to get rid of water (which also might be quite handy if this weather continues!)

The pump is powered by a rechargeable battery and can be used to pump out aquariums, garden ponds and even hot tubs. It’s also useful for DIY tasks such as unblocking sinks and baths, and washing machines that won’t empty.

The AquaCharge has its own 2.4 metre (8ft) hose or can be connected to a standard garden hose.

It costs £61.55 inc VAT from retailers and from www.jabscoshop.com.

Energy Harvester and nPower PEG: Because kinetic energy isn’t slowing down!

Just how logical is kinetic energy? Extremely, I’d say, because unlike wind power that requires wind – too bad if it’s a still day – or solar that requires the sun – too bad if it’s a cloudy day, which is usually the case in the UK, well in Manchester anyway! – Kinetic energy relies solely on motion.


According to Shape Up America, the average person takes anything between 900 to 3000 steps every day! Given that as a species we are ostensibly always on the move, together with the fact we have cohesive motives to save our planet plummeting into irreversible destruction, it surely makes sense to harness the energy produced by walking.

This is the reckoning behind a team of British scientist’s creation of the simply named “Energy Harvester”, a device that converts body movement into electricity and is then capable of powering small gadgets, such as GPS trackers. The device was unveiled in July 2012’s issue of the journal ‘Smart Materials and Structures’ and is designed to be worn on a person’s knee.

What Michele Pozzi, the project’s leader, has referred to as a “compact and truly wearable harvester”, comprises of an outer ring that, which rotates as the knee joint moves and is equipped with a 72 plectra that in turn move four energy-generating ‘arms’, known as bimorphs, attached to an inner hub – In simpler terms, the vibrations caused by the movement is generated into energy.

According to Reuters, the “Energy Harvester” can presently harvest approximately two milliwatts of power but researchers perceive the gadget being capable, with a couple of enhancements, of exceeding 30 milliwatts.

Whilst Reuters may over-zealously refer to the “Energy Harvester” as being a ‘novel device’, the seemingly unanimous desire to yield kinetic energy into power has seen a splurge of kinetic energy devices sprout up in recent years.

The kinetic charger from nPower, the nPower PEG, – an acronym for ‘personal energy generator’ – for example, despite being first unveiled as a prototype in 2010 when it gained second place at the Consumer Electronic Association’s i-Stage competition for start-ups, became available to buy this month, at a retail price of $170.

This passive kinetic energy charger is designed for backing up the power supply of handheld devices has a 2,000 maH battery. According to nPower, the nPower PEG can be hooked on to a backpack or belt loop and meets customers’ demands for energy that is ‘away from the power grid’.


Logitech’s Solar-Powered Keyboard Case

A case and a bluetooth keyboard are two of the must-have accessories for every iPad owner. Logitech have done the sensible things and created a new gadget that combines both these features, and does so in style.


The Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is the newest product in the company’s line of tablet accessories. It functions as a case, protecting the front and back of your iPad, and also transforms into a Bluetooth keyboard.

While most Bluetooth keyboards are battery or USB-powered, the Logitech keyboard endeavours to save both your money and the environment, with built-in solar panels providing enough charge to use the keyboard for two years. The stand is adjustable so you can angle your iPad exactly the way you want: putting your iPad in the first position allows you to use the full keyboard, while the second position gives you access to play, pause and volume keys.

Even though it houses a keyboard, the case itself is ultra-slim. It automatically wakes your iPad when you open it, and puts your iPad into sleep mode when you close it again. The solar panels are sensitive to low lighting, as well as natural and artificial light.

“Now that people are seemingly inseparable from their tablets, using them for everything from sending emails to watching videos, they want accessories powered to meet their needs,” said Alexis Richard, director of product marketing at Logitech. “The Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is a smart partner for your iPad. Its sleek built-in keyboard uses light to charge and it provides hassle-free protection for your iPad – both for the front and back. It gives you an ideal way to use and protect your tablet without adding bulk.”

The case fits all models of iPad and is available now for £119.

Great Eco-Gadgets For Christmas

Do you love a white Christmas? Well, if global warming gets its way, say goodbye to those snowy Xmas days. That’s why we’ve put together this list of eco-gadgets to fill both your Christmas stocking and your heart with self-righteous eco warmness.


Powermonkey-eXtreme Portable Charger

The powermonkey-eXtreme certainly lives up to its name. It’s got a massive 9000mAhcapacity Lithium Polymer battery – 6x the size of the one you’ll find inside the iPhone. Speaking of, the unit is capable of recharging most 5V devices – which includes the iPhone and Garmin Edge 800. It can power standard mobiles 12x over.

It’s also got two ports – standard USB for phones and a DC outputs (at 2.1Amps max) to support the Apple iPad and other tablet computers. It’s also IPP67 rated, so it’s waterproof for 30 minutes up to 1 metre – and shock resistant.

And the eco bit? It has a huge solar panel built-in, which you can connect via Velcro to a rucksack to keep you charged on the go. Perfect.


Water Powered Atomic Clock

Buy here

Do you remember opening a present only to be disappointed by a need for batteries? Well, fear not, because here is a clock powered by water. That’s right, just H2O. Pour in some water and the hydrogen cell will react, turning the water into power.

The clock then synchronises via radio to the atomic time centre, so everything stays on-time as well as being power-free. There’s an alarm, thermometer and calendar as well, but who needs those bits?


Chameleon 6 in 1 Solar kit

Buy here

The Chameleon is a six in one solar toy set that’s perfect for indoctrinating the youth with green ideals.

You can create six different solar powered models that come to life when exposed to sunlight – a boat, car, windmill, plane, dog and a standing fan (see? It’s practical, too.).


Water Pressure Powered FM Scan Shower Radio

Buy here

Instead of relying on high-tech hydrogen conversion or the power of the sun, the water-pressure FN shower radio is powered by thrusting, surging water. From the tap.

Simply hook it up to the faucet of your shower and the water will pump through, turning a turbine and generating enough power to listen to your favourite tunes.
It’s also got a built-in rechargeable battery so it keeps playing even after the shower stops – perfect for drying yourself off while dancing. It also means that the last station and volume level are automatically stored after use ready for your next shower.


Santa Eco Torch


Buy here

Squeeze the handle to generate light. What? It may not be the latest gadget, but it’s Christmas-sy.

Reduce energy bills and damage inflicted by power surges with Masterplug’s new surge protected range

Have you ever had an electrical appliance damaged by a power surge? If you have, you will know how intensely infuriating power surges can be, and if you haven’t, I’m sure can appreciate how intensely infuriating such an incident would be. If your house is anything like my house, you will have a mesh of wires coming from plugs precariously positioned in an overloaded mains adapter and leading to various highly technical gadgets and devices in every room, just crying out for a power surge. You could either carry on waiting for the day that almost inevitable power surge occurs and knocks every out, making you lose unsaved data, or, worse still, such sudden hardware failure causing damage to highly expensive gadgets, or get wise, and install a new Masterplug Surge Protected device. And with Christmas coming and a new load of gadgets arriving, the latter could definitely be worth the investment.


Market leaders in portable power, Masterplug, has launched the next generation in surge protection, giving consumers the chance to, not only save money on electricity bills, but also avoid potentially costly bills to repair damaged equipment.

These flexible home and office solutions come in the form of glossy black and silver-trimmed units that are complete with modem, USB, LAN and telephone ports and are ideal to use with iPads, digital cameras, MP3s, PCs and smart phones.

Masterplug’s new series, ranges from a highly space-effective Power Tower device, which is ideal for multi-tangled plug and wire scenarios, such as the one in my home, to the Power Block, which also offers multiple ports, to single units with one socket.

In the current financial climate that shows no sign of abating and there even being talk of a ‘double-recession’, everybody is keen on saving money on their bills. This, therefore, could be Masterplug’s next generation of power protection devices, greatest selling asset, as the Power Centre unit offers a Master/Slaver functionality, which, by reducing the amount of power wasted during stand-by functions, could help consumers reduce their energy bills.