Many people resist using a bicycle for daily transport because they’re reluctant to arrive at work or a social event sweating from the effort of getting there. Electric bicycles are an option, but they tend to be expensive, heavy and inelegant.
Enter the Copenhagen Wheel, which lets riders transform their standard bikes into electric hybrids simply by swapping out the rear wheel.
Slated to become available for purchase by the end of this month, the wheel was developed by students at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab and has won multiple design awards, including the James Dyson Award in 2010. The wheel is being brought to market by Superpedestrian, a Cambridge, Mass. start-up that recently received $2.1 million in funding from Spark Capital.
The Copenhagen Wheel’s distinctive red hub contains a motor, a removable lithium battery pack and a gear system, as well as environmental and location sensors that provide data for related mobile applications.
Riders can select a level of motor assistance, get updates on road conditions, track miles, and lock the bike via smartphone apps. Through the Superpedestrian SDK, an open-source platform, the company hopes developers will create other practical and social apps for the wheel.
The wheel’s motor converts the friction created during back-pedal braking to electricity, which charges the battery. When a cyclist is riding downhill, the gears switch to enable additional energy recovery. The wheel gives back the stored energy in the form of a “push” when sensors detect that the rider is pedaling harder, like when cycling uphill. Riders looking for a workout can forgo the motor assist altogether. The range for assisted rides is approximately 30 miles.
In addition to making cycling a more practical option while enabling people to keep their existing bikes, the developers hope the wheel’s data-collection capabilities will lead to the creation of urban carbon-credits programs to further encourage more riding and less driving.
The wheel’s price has yet to be announced. If you’d like to be an early adopter, you might want to get in the virtual line. Superpedestrian has already over 20,000 inquiries to purchase the wheel.