Yes, the Unplugged Bug features 2 battery modules capable of around 6 hours, but it is possible to hire in extra battery modules, each with an additional 3 hours.
Since 2013, The Bug Club has delivered hundreds of events from private parties, festivals, brand activations to product launches, carnivals, exhibitions and street parties but their latest creation, the Unplugged Bug, is a unique intersection of sonic experience and environmental responsibility.
The fibreglass-built vehicle itself is 30% larger than a standard VW Camper and is designed to be a ‘festival friendly’ DJ booth. The custom built Martin Audio sound system runs entirely on renewables thanks to Belair’s rack mounted Power Tower. The Power Tower is a clean and modern rechargeable battery-powered replacement for noisy and polluting generators and with its easy to use operation combined with silent running and zero emissions delivers the perfect ‘off-grid’ solution.
Belair Technology was founded in 2019 with the goal of electrifying events previously powered by diesel generators. Its founder John Baillie grew up with a love of music and a passion for science, having for a time worked at CERN, the world’s largest particle accelerator:
“As an avid festival-goer, I noted how off-grid events are desperate for sustainable solutions, yet often have little option but to use polluting diesel generators. Working with Martin Audio and the Bug Club to deliver the ‘Unplugged Bug’ is a great step forward and I’m excited about what we can learn from its operation over the summer.”
John Baillie, Belair Founder.
The custom built sound system, capable of entertaining crowds of up to 500 people, comprises two 15” 3-way high performance THS loudspeakers, each pole-mounted to a double 15in direct radiating SX215 subwoofer, with amplification from the highly efficient yet powerful iKON 81.
Martin Audio Managing Director, Dom Harter, commented, “My personal love for both VW campervans and DJ culture led inevitably to the door of the great people at The Bug Club. At the same time I had been introduced to John and his work on renewables, and it just all fitted into place. At Martin Audio, environmental sustainability is an important initiative and this latest development will help explore new possibilities for us in the future.”
To complete the sustainability equation The Unplugged Bug is designed as a trailer (no engines!) and as a policy all their carbon footprint is offset by planting trees. The Unplugged Bug can also be supplied with top quality DJs and equipment, pro lighting, disco balls, sound technicians and branding options. The Bug Club fleet can even offers bar services, with experienced mixologists.
With the summer season fast approaching this is seen as the ultimate in mobile discos, ideal for exhibitions, sporting events and all manner of summer parties prioritising environmental responsibility.
For bookings: https://thebug.club/
Summing up, Justin Rushmore, Managing Director of The Bug Club, said, “We were delighted to team up with Martin Audio and Belair on this initiative. It was clear from the outset there was a meeting of minds on the sustainability aspect of live events and we believe we can gather key data and insight that can help to not only further improve these types of events but also scale up to bigger initiatives.”
Eco-friendly Unplugged Bug DJ Booth
Q&A with John Baillie, Founder of Belair Technology, March 2023
For more on Belair: https://belairtechnology.com/
How long will the Unplugged Bug run for?
Ultimately it depends a lot on what you plug in and how loud you turn it up! A sensible assumption is without aided charging about 6 hours. Justin and the team from The Bug Club will be providing data over time so we understand more.
But my event is longer, so what do I do?
Well, there are more options to consider...
It is also possible to plug in solar panels which will re-charge the battery modules. This can obviously be a little variable in the UK with available sunshine, but the Bug Club is looking into this. Previous tests in Southern Europe have effectively allowed a Belair system to run over the weekend, but in the UK we would be hoping to boost the run time by 2-3 hours.
Quite a few EV’s have mains outlets, which will in turn charge up the Bug. Test systems with the Belair team have successfully run all weekend – then driven home in the car!
Yes, but the story is much more detailed than that.
Sound requires very demanding peaks of power. Mains power and generators deliver the same amount of power all the time.
So what? Well, that means that when powering a sound system at a festival (or even in a venue) you need to have the power infrastructure to deliver peak power. Hence why you see those enormous generators behind even small festival stages. A PA as efficient and capable as the one on the Unplugged Bug, which is still relatively small, would normally require a 32A generator to run it.
And with the Unplugged Bug?
Within reason batteries deliver all the power you ask of them when you need it until they are empty. (Remember as a kid, when you used to get them hot? – that is why). So the batteries in the Unplugged Bug deliver the big power needed for sound as and when you need it. But to have the system run forever (by trickle charging the batteries while they are in use) you would only need 6A amps – so around 80% less infrastructure and energy is used with the Unplugged Bug. That would mean a tiny generator, or being able to plug it into your house wall sockets and achieve very high outputs for ever.
But to run forever I still need the generator?
Like most tech we are on the way to carbon neutral. An 80%-100% reduction on site is a VERY good start. Also it goes further than that. In the example above a tiny 6A generator fits in the Unplugged Bug and is hand carriable, the 32A Genie needs to be delivered, by a truck, running on diesel.
What’s the easiest way to think of it?
For 6 hours it’s like an EV, for long events it’s a hybrid – they are both a lot better than just straight diesels.
There are good inroads on Bio-Diesel(a mix of chip fat and new diesel) for sure which is roughly a 50% reduction. There are also big battery solutions working on a similar “hybrid” principle as mentioned previously, so a small generator and bigger batteries. The problem with the latter is they are much bigger than a conventional generator alone would be and they don’t know what they are powering – it isn’t a closed system. So when you do this on a larger scale you need more trucks, which run on diesel and need to travel to the event.
The batteries for the Unplugged Bug are smaller than one subwoofer and weigh only 70kg.
Right now the Bug is the Bug, a custom one of a kind Unplugged Bug, with custom Belair electronics and an entirely custom Martin Audio sound system – designed especially for the project to be compact, high output and really efficient.
By moving the batteries locally to the sound system electronics, they are inherently more compact and scalable, adding 1-2 more racks of batteries to the audio truck to power 4 amp racks feels like something really small when compared to the overall size of the speakers packed in the truck. It reduces the size of the generators, if they are required at all. It’s a win, win. So, yes it is scalable. One of the advantages of Belair battery modules over generators is that they can be easily scaled like amplifiers and speakers - huge speaker stacks don't run on one or two huge amplifiers but multiple (2U or 1U) compact amplifiers. We see that power delivery can be dimensioned in the same way and integrated within the amplifier racks.
We believe event providers really want to do the right thing, and focus on reducing the carbon footprint. But we have not seen people truly focus on consumption at events. We offset carbon in transport, we encourage people to “re-manufacture” or “re-cycle” old products (which isn’t exactly moving the event experience forward) and like others we all pay to plant trees.
This project is a viable example of really showing the future of event system power, our ability to massively reduce the energy consumed during an event and show a truly viable path to the future of event production.
No. Eventually hydrogen cells will come along, but they won’t be good at delivering peak power (just like the wall or generator), however they will be really good at one thing – charging our batteries!
The Unplugged Bug is already becoming very popular. Below is a selection of previous and upcoming events.