The Copenhagen Wheel
The Copenhage Wheel is a prototype bicycle wheel designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the famous MIT. It basically turns any bicycle into hybrid, self-powered bike. The wheel was unveiled in the Danish capital Copenhagen, coinciding with the UN conference on climate change. The wheel utilizes technology similar to that of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used by Formula One cars. MIT’s SENSEable City Lab director Carlo Ratti explains how the wheel works: “When you brake, your kinetic energy is recuperated by an electric motor and then stored by batteries within the wheel, so that you can have it back when you need it. The bike wheel contains all you need so that no sensors or additional electronics need to be added to the frame and an existing bike can be retrofitted with the blink of en eye. In a sense, you drive by foot: when you pedal forward the motor supplements your torque; when you pedal backwards to brake, the motor starts regenerating electric energy while reducing your speed.” The lab’s associate director, Assaf Biderman, says: “Our goal with the Copenhagen Wheel is to promote cycling by expanding the range of distance people can cover and by making the riding experience smoother. When long distance and steep hills are no longer barriers to comfortable cycling, many cities can become more bicycle-friendly.” The wheel is controlled via smartphone, such as iPhone or Blackberry, mounted on the handlebars. The phone is used to switch gears and motor modes. The wheel also comes with a nice security feature, dubbed “smart lock.” If somebody tries to get on your bike and ride, the wheel will not recognize your smart phone and the brakes pretty much lock up. It will even send your phone a text message. “So, in the worst case scenario the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike,” says Biderman. The wheel is expected to go into production next year. Stay tuned for pricing and availability info.