Pedal to Metal: Pedal-powered Scalextric Racing

At The Wheel Thing Festival, Walcot-upon-Avon, Bath, England - 8th to 13th June 2004

The reason

The Pedal to Metal project was inspired by the pedal-powered internet café at the Big Green Gathering 2002 where it was very hard to get members of the public to pedal hard enough for long enough to generate enough electricity to charge a laptop. Would two people competing produce a lot more power than two people not trying hard? Could two people come away feeling like they had a lot of fun making the power?

Select a photo to enlarge. Read the Roadshow press release at

"That's the best kids entertainment I've seen in ages" - Lisa, 32
* *
"It's better than Playstation." - Arram, 8
* *
"That's the best Scalextric track I've ever tried."- Elliot, 9
* *
"A good track, but if you're a pedal-lunatic like me it's a bit sharp." - Tober, 8
* *
"Absolutely great, fantastic." - Harry, 7

And the best bit was that it was free to play on....

The plan

Build a 3-dimensional spiralling Scalextric Race Track for 2 cars into the kind of space which would fit inside a large box-trailer - around 1.8 metres by 2.4 metres by 2 metres tall.

8 Scalextric cars ready to race.

8 second-hand cars kindly supplied for the test by Scalextric. Enlarge image.

Build two equal cycle-generators with flywheels, both of which charge a battery bank. A dynamo is also attached to each of the cycle generators. This dynamo is run at the speed of the pedals (not the flywheel) and the power from it electrically routed to the track rails via the trigger handset to power and control one car.

Thus two people can pedal against each other. The harder they pedal for longer the higher the top speed of their car. First to complete a set number of laps wins the race.

Cars come off the track regularly in Scalextric racing so a Master of Ceremonies will be needed with the job of leisurely re-placing cars upon the track. The player will still need to keep their flywheel at top speed or risk losing momentum as well as time. The Master of Ceremonies will also double as commentator and lap counter.

The project build starts on 8th June (the same day that the Transit of Venus is to occur) and by Friday 11th June we are hoping to have the first afternoon racing. Fingers crossed. The festival itself is based around non-fossil fuel energy solutions so we will be using hand, solar, wind and pedal power to build everything.

The results and feedback from building and playing will be used to decide if it is worth trying to build a more permanent mobile version of the Pedal to Metal Race Track.

The Pedal to Metal Race Track will be in Kensington Meadows, London Road, Bath, UK (the field behind Safeways supermarket) from 8th to 13th June 2004. Come down and race....

Wireless Car-cam

We have obtained a sub-miniature wireless camera from The receiver gives out a normal video signal. The camera is to be mounted in one of the cars, removing the windowscreen. This should then allow us to have a 'drivers view' on a flatscreen overhead similar to Formula 1 'car-cam'. This depends on sorting out a low energy screen and getting the power supply for the camera worked out. The camera could be powered from the track power rails with regulation or DC to DC conversion. More dependent on whether the cycle generators can give enough spare power for the screen. Ideally we would have one of these in each car to keep it even. Anyone want to sponsor one?

The Ford Focus chassis wit hno drivers.

The Ford Focus chassis with body, windscreen, steering wheel and drivers removed. Enlarge image

wireless camera

Wireless miniature camera. The antenna is visible to the left, and the power lead goes off to the right.
The battery is for scale. Battery type: Duracell Alkaline 9V MN1604 6LR61).Enlarge image.

Checking the car for camera operation.

Checking out the function of the camera in the car (off the track).Enlarge image.

Desirable additions

A small 12 volt sound system would be good for the Master of Ceremonies consisting of Microphone, Microphone Preamplifier, 12 Volt Car Amplifier and at least one 25 Watt rms loudspeaker.

Some large moving coil meters to show competitors voltages and currents would be very nice - good in the daytime. Large LED type better for evening.

Lap counter display. It would be good to accurately count laps and know who has crossed the finish line first. Scalextric do a lap counter, I am investigating how this works so it can be integrated into however the lap counter displays work. I don't think it would be hard to use the passing magnetic field as the cars go across the finish line to count laps and measure the finish.

Some kind of overall isolation so that the Master of Ceremonies may disable both cars before the race so they may be placed on the grid. Thus each player will need to get their momentum up before the start with cars standing still. This could be used as the winner wins to 'freeze' finish to the race, but then only the winners time could be recorded.

Lap / race timing displays so that the best times may compete later forming some form of knockout. This will generate a more overall feeling of competition. Stir 'em up.

Lots of people to help / play on it would be really good too!

Thankyous (in no particular order)

P.S. Big thanks to Abbey Ales who put up the prize of a barrel of Bellringer Ale (72 pints) which I won as part of the Bellringer Regenerative Braking Challenge in an hour off. It didn't take long to empty.

Author: Dave Gough

Copyright (c) 2003-2004 Psand Limited. Permission is granted to copy, distributed and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".