MIT Reinvents the (Bike) Wheel

By Brett Israel | December 15, 2009 4:14 pm

copenhagen-wheelScientists at MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory have designed a bicycle wheel that can give riders a boost when they need it most. Kinetic energy is released when a rider hits the brakes, and the new wheel, called the Copenhagen Wheel, captures that energy for later use. 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 New York Times].

The Copenhagen Wheel made its debut today in Copenhagen, one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world and the site of the current international talks on climate change regulations.The special wheel can be swapped in for any bike’s rear wheel, and includes other bells and whistles such as an odometer, a sensor to track air quality, and a GPS. The wheel can even talk to your iPhone though a Bluetooth connection so you can check your speed, direction, distance traveled, monitor traffic, and find your biking buddies. The wheel is expected to retail for between $500 and $1,000.

Check out the video below for a preview of the Copenhagen Wheel:

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Image: the COPENHAGEN WHEEL; Video: YouTube / senseablecitylab

  • Toney

    thats stupid

  • nanauq

    Deep and compelling arguement, happy I can now see your side of things!

  • some guy

    this bike would be gorgeous if it didn’t had that rear wheel

  • Carter

    It’s a nice idea, but seems to really overcomplicate the bicycle. Besides, a bicyclist should not want an extra boost! Bicycle commuting isn’t all about saving the environment; exercise is important for people too, and this wheel reduces the amount of calories you can burn!

  • Allen

    Why would I want to spend $500-$1000 on a rear wheel? I’m not buying this phony environment friendly technology. This whole going green, eco-friendly movement is just another push to get people to spend and consume. If you truly want to help the environment, you don’t need to be buying gadgets after gadgets and technology after technology. You should learn to consume less and really treasure what you already have. By ‘buying’ another new green technology doesn’t make you an eco-friendly person.

  • jackson

    In Europe or colder parts of the world, it’s easy to say use a bicycle. Come to Asia and cycle to work, then perhaps it’s time to re-think where you can use it!!!

    Nevertheless, nice work!

  • Jason

    Cycling is also a mean of exercising. Putting all this booster idea into a bike will just damage the beauty of cycling. We already have electric bike around, why need this?

  • Calv

    If you’re biking to work everyday, it may be nice to have tho boost and take some of the strain off. I’m sure i know people who would bike to work if it wasn’t as much as an inconvenience. By adding a little help and also a competitive edge against others (which for some people is all they need to start something up again) this could be a product that could actually get some use. Depending on the marketing strategy.

  • Rifz

    Great Idea…can use it around for short distance instead of using ones car.
    Price is wayyy too much..most people hadly earn $ 1000 a year Asia !

  • Aisan

    Well……. i don’t agree with Rifz, Most of the young Executive’s in Sri Lanka comfortably earn more than $1000 year.

    But the problem in Asia is the mind set of the people, the weather, traffic & Roads. If you cycle in Asia to work they think that you are a very poor person,

    but few Executive’s prefer traveling in Austin Mini 1100cc rather than pulsar 150Cc (Image problem) isn’t it Rifz ???

  • Ian

    $500-$1000 is a decent price. . .

    A full carbon fiber disc wheel (just the rear) can cost $2000. And it doesn’t have KERS.

  • Tim

    Bicycle makers struggle to reduce the weight of a bike to make it more efficient. How much does this contraption weigh? How much more energy is required to pull around that weight?

  • Brian Too

    I suspect this is the wrong way to think about this. The electric drive is a good way to boost the range of a bicycle, assist on hills, and even to increase load carrying ability.

    However I know that adding a thousand bucks to the price would make me think twice or more about buying one. At that price point you’re better off upping the ante and going with a scooter. If they can do something to lower the cost it might be a success. Otherwise it’s too pricey (and WAY too costly in most of the developing world).

  • Timmy the 8year old bully

    I can’t wait to beat the crap out of the first sissy who rides this to school!

  • Dave

    How nice of the author to acknowledge Toyota, the company that had more recalls than the Detroit 3 COMBINED for 2009. For the record, the Ford Ecsape and Ford Fusion use regenerative braking too, incidentally, the latter being the most fuel efficient midsize hybrid in the U.S.

  • Prashant

    “Spend more to save more” is basically not the way energy is saved. Reduction of gadgets itself should be the mantra.

    On a pure technical perspective, the simple dynamo can also be hooked to the side of the wheel/tyre which will generate power even when we move. A simple concept which has been used for years.

    Best wishes…

  • Bill J

    Let’s give one to Al Gore and take away his private jet, POLLUTION I !

  • bonsai king

    This is great!! Awesome!!! If I got it right, momentum is stored as rotational inertia. Energy is stored during downhills ang released during uphills. This makes biking fun and easy. No need to go down to walk and push your bike during steep inclines. Great Job MIT! If you are a cyclist USD1000 is small.

    Hey guys! Who among you are bikers? This is a straight forward technology. Power need not be converted to electricity, stored as chemical energy, and back to electrical then to mechanical power again. That will be too inefficient! 20% recovery at best assuming 20% loss per conversion.

    A lot of minds have been spent on this. This is not an easy invention. We should do this in cars too! No one really has thought about storing energy in the form of rotational inertia.

    Good accomplishment without sacrificing too much bike aesthetics!

    Good, very good!

    Keep it up MIT!


  • sience

    Hey bonsai king,

    “No one really has thought about storing energy in the form of rotational inertia.”

    If you want to know way this is not realized, pleas inform yorself about gyroscopes. They try it with a bus, but it crashed if the ground is not totaly flat. You should think about the redundant forces in use of rotational inertial.

  • max

    still waiting the nuclear fusion bike.
    would ride like a star…

    for everyday cycling in new zealand


    MIT, Inventions are supposed to make life easier by unveiling more universal and durable inventions that must be globally affordable as well.

  • computer services denver

    Wow, I enjoyed your neat post.


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