• Dec 17th 2009 at 7:59PM
  • 14
Notice anything strange about the bike in the picture? The bright red hub isn't exactly subtle, but it does hide some impressive tech. Called the Copenhagen Wheel, this is a device developed by the SENSEable City Lab at MIT that basically can turn a normal bike into a connected electric bicycle simply by replacing your standard rear wheel with this one. The Wheel then adds regenerative braking, batteries, general packet radio service (GPRS), and a motor to your ride. There are also sensors to determine the air quality and noise levels and more. The bike can relay this information to the cloud through a smart phone's Bluetooth connection. That connection can also be used to lock up the bike and trigger acceleration. The developers plan to make the exact components in the hub modifiable in the future, so riders in San Francisco, for example, could add more batteries to tackle the hills.
The Copenhagen Wheel was unveiled in Denmark during the COP15 United Nations Climate Conference. There's a video of the Wheel in action after the jump. It's a cool concept, and we'd take one now, thank you. Thanks to Matt and Roy B. for the tips!

[Source: MIT]




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  • 14 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      It doesn't seem like you can fit a lot of batts in the hub. So why kind of range/speed are we talking about?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hi,

      The only downside I can see is that you lose the biggest asset that your bike currently has -- the rear gear set. I suppose on my 21-speed Bianchi that I could re-configure the front 3-speed gears to give some torque range -- or does the Copenhagen wheel provide an internal gears?

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think it is mostly meant for flat canal cruisers found in many European cities, one gear is fine because the only incline comes from arched bridges. I was thinking that this design may be adequate for bicycling in moderately areas if you can use captured regen energy for boost up the next hill. High capacity ultra caps might be useful for energy storage if you have more abusive charge/discharge cycles.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Coming from MIT, it figures that they wouldn't stop with just putting a motor and battery in there. Quite impressive.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The electric motor in hub of the wheel is not a new concept. Eplus has been making bikes with a motor in the rear wheel and the batteries in the front wheel for several years.

      http://www.epluselectricbike.com/
      • 5 Years Ago
      With all the bells and whistles on this, including several of questionable value, this is likely to be far too expensive to be practical. Moreover, being controlled by radio opens up the possibility of interference problems and possibly even hacking and malware attacks.

      Bottom line, it can't compete with more conventional e-bikes in cost or performance.
      alexacoon
      • 5 Years Ago
      Odd I just never would have thought of putting the motor AND the batteries in the hub, without any suspension at least there is no need to keep the weight on the frame. My only desire, and it would likely increase the cost would be to eliminate the chain with a tiny drive shaft with internal gears perhaps? I know its been done on a few bikes and after thirty five years of riding bikes of various kinds it has to be one of the biggest nuisances.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @alexacoon
        Shaft drive ends up being heavy and inefficient, for the most part. The "next big thing" when it comes bike drivetrains is likely to be belt-drive, since you retain similar efficiency, longer lifespan, and you don't need to worry about lubrication.

        I think this proposal has some good aspects to it (I like the infomatics integration), but placing the batteries inside a rotating mass is just not a good idea from a performance point of view. I know the idea was to prevent the user from having to fiddle with wires, but a small battery pack that could mount on bottle cage braze-ons with a wire routed along the chainstay makes a lot more sense to me.

        I also question the value of regenerative braking on a vehicle as lightweight and efficient as a bicycle, but I suppose a carefully designed motor-generator system wouldn't add much weight, just complexity and expense.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @alexacoon
        This bike doesn't have the electric features, but it does have the shaft:
        http://www.dynamicbicycles.com/

        Unfortunately, my not-so-old Trek is doing just fine -- so I can't justify spending several hundred dollars on a shaft-drive bike...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @alexacoon
        Turbofrog,

        Weight is not the only consideration for a commuter bike. I commute in the clothes that I wear to my white-collar job, so I'll happily take a weight penalty in order to arrive with my khaki pants free of grease. As it is now, I have to take extra time to tuck my pants into my sock, or wrap a velcro strip around my ankle in order to make sure that I show up at work looking the way I'm supposed to.

        Speaking only for myself, a pound or five on the bicycle is insignificant compared to the extra weight I carry around in my midsection and the extra stuff I carry back and forth to work in my backpack.

        So, I think your point about efficiency and weight hits the nail on the head for people who ride for fun and sport -- but as someone who rides primarily for transportation to work, I'm happy to make some tradeoffs that support my purposes. On the other hand, if I can convince my wife or my as-yet-unborn-son to take up bicycle touring as a hobby, I'll need different equipment -- and I'd love an excuse to ride a recumbent. But, for now, I'm a pavement-pounding commuter, and my equipment reflects that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      City bicycles have to be cheap, since they tend to get stolen, unfortunately.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Excellent way to develop technology and develop engineers. Congrats MIT, but the bicycle has already developed over 150 years to be the most efficient vehicle on the planet. I am picking up a new one an IRO Phoenix early next year (a perfect commuter bike, IMO). I wish more people out there would realize that a 25 pound piece of steel can replace a 2800 pound one for basic transportation. In fact I am heading into the city later this morning on mine. Cheers on a cold Chicago morning.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Kudos. I ride a Gary Fisher Simple City 3-speed. Before that a variety of Fisher and GT MTBs, and one very flashy Electra Rat Rod (with extra rust for cool points).

        Many of the people who think they need a BEV would likely be better off just having a bike and then renting a car if they need to go more than a dozen miles...

      • 5 Years Ago
      Ahh... bicycles. Now there's a way to get around a city.
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