The Senseable City Laboratory at M.I.T. has designed a wheel that captures the kinetic energy released when a rider brakes and saves it for when the rider needs a boost. While technically sound, the wheel’s true challenge may be in winning over cyclists. For centuries, bikes have been beloved for their simplicity, not their bells and whistles.
But, said Carlo Ratti, the laboratory’s director, “biking can become even more effective than what it was.” What the lab is working on, he said, is “Biking 2.0.”
The new wheel uses a kinetic energy recovery system, the same technology used by hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, to harvest otherwise wasted energy when a cyclist brakes or speeds down a hill. With that energy, it charges up a battery inside the wheel’s hub.
The sleek red hub, called the Copenhagen Wheel, was to be unveiled Tuesday morning in Copenhagen. It can be retrofitted to any bike’s rear wheel, and it includes sensors that track air quality, a meter that logs miles and a GPS unit to track routes. All that data can be sent via Bluetooth to a rider’s smartphone and shared with others.