Row, row, row your phone, gently, ’till it’s charged

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Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has cut supply chains and gym memberships alike, it was mildly surreal to see a professional-grade gym machine company sports art Launch a rowing machine that can pump energy back into the grid. Like wind turbines or solar panels, except those powered by pecs, deltoids and trapezius.

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The Rover uses a micro-inverter that enables you to charge your phone, one stroke at a time. The company estimates that it will take about two hours of rowing to fully charge a defective iPhone. It wasn’t the example the company would have given, but for a hot minute, I was excited to use a low-battery phone as a motivator to hook up to an exercise machine. The handlebar grip has fingertip controls to increase the resistance on the rower and – as you might expect – the heavier the resistance, the more power it generates.

The company showed off its G260 rover at CES in Las Vegas last week, claiming that the machine converts about 74% of the energy you consume into usable electricity. I had a chance to speak with the company’s COO this week to find out why using manpower makes sense to power things.


“In an hour of workouts, you might be consuming just as much as your fridge—or about 220 watts per hour,” explains Carina Kuo, SportsArt’s COO, “but she admits you’re not going to replace your Tesla just yet.” Be rowing to charge. Plus, it’s not quite right: “A traditional treadmill consumes about one kilowatt per hour. The idea is that in addition to exercising, you’re helping to offset the workout’s own power consumption.”

As a company, SportsArt has been around for 40+ years. It is headquartered in Taiwan, with its US operations located in Seattle. In addition, the company has offices in Germany and Switzerland, with 300 employees spread around the world, and sales operations in 80 countries. It is primarily targeted at gyms and robust rehabilitation facilities, but is also evaluating the domestic market at the moment. In the short term, Kuo suggests that perhaps shared gyms for apartment buildings etc. are better for the company.

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“Gyms are not opening, especially in the fitness industry. [due to COVID-19] Certainly what led to this huge increase in residential sales. This is an area where it can be really tough to compete as a lot of times people are thinking about cheap but not necessarily looking at quality. This is not an area we are trying to compete in. We believe in quality,” Kuo explains, adding that the company still carries the exercise equipment that it sold 10-15 years ago, and is still going strong in gym and medical contexts. “We use the best components. We believe in using them, and we cover everything with the best warranties in the industry. I think it’s important to be able to make that kind of difference in that market. ,

The focus on commercial machines means it makes little more sense for the machines to generate power, not a rower that sits in the corner of your gym, unused, 95% of the time: with more substantial use. Machines can put a dent in the electricity bill in a gym

“We’re not saying we’re going to go residential — we’re trying to figure out where our sweet spots will be,” explains Kuo, eager to highlight the company’s green and recycling credentials over the past 40 years. Huh. “It makes a difference, especially in gyms, because they are able to deliver a message of stability.”

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