Every day, new technology takes us further than we ever imagined possible. Now, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology SENSEable City Laboratory has designed a new rear wheel for your bicycle that can allow it to act like an electric bicycle.
Called the Copenhagen Wheel and unveiled in the city of the same name on December 15, 2009 during the UN Conference on Climate Change, MIT is hoping the Wheel will help promote the cycling revolution started in Copenhagen and which is spreading throughout Europe. The bright red hub contains an electric motor which recuperates the kinetic energy generated during braking, as well as batteries to store that energy. Then, when the hub senses you’re working harder to pedal, it automatically gives you a power boost. The hub contains everything you need, so no additional sensors or electronics need to be added to your bike frame. A Copenhagen Wheel of the right size can simply be substituted for your existing rear wheel.
Not only does the Copenhagen Wheel store energy to give you a boost when you need it, it also uses Bluetooth technology to connect to your iPhone, which can be mounted on your handlebars. A variety of sensors in the hub can send you information about pollution conditions (CO and NOx), noise, relative humidity, temperature, distance and direction travelled, and so on. You can also use iPhone applications to monitor traffic conditions or areas of congestion and pass the information you’ve collected onto other users. If a user opts to share information, a city can develop databases of information in areas such as air quality and popular bike routes.
According to MIT’s website, Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen said, “Our city’s ambition is that 50 percent of the citizens will take their bike to work or school every day.” His administration has already placed an initial order for the wheels for use by city employees. As they strive to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, Copenhagen is also looking at a Green Miles program, similar to airline miles, to encourage its citizens to ride instead of drive.
Expected to be available on commercial markets within a year, the Copenhagen Wheel is anticipated to retail between $500 and $1000. With its introduction, perhaps even Americans and American cities will follow the lead of Copenhagen and adopt a greener, bicycle riding lifestyle.
For more information and a teaser video demonstrating the Copenhagen Wheel, go to http://web.mit.edu/press/2009/copenhagen-wheel.html.