Reinventing the wheel: Startup company turns bicycles into smart electric-hybrids
A startup is launching a new device that transforms almost any bicycle into an electric-hybrid vehicle using an app on a smartphone.
The device, called the Copenhagen Wheel, is installed as part of a rear hub(mud blocker) of a bike wheel and is packed with a proprietary(owner’s 소유) computer, batteries and sensors that monitor how hard a rider is pedaling and activate an onboard motor whenever support is needed.
The device uses wireless connectivity to communicate with the biker’s smartphone to track distance traveled and elevation(when I go uphill) gained, share with friends the number of calories burned and lock the wheel remotely as soon as the owner walks away from the bike.
“The motor integrates itself with the rider’s motion very, very seamlessly,” said Assaf Biderman, who co-invented the device at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Lab, where he is associate director. “It’s almost like having a riding companion riding together with you, making the ride easier, simpler.”
The combination of power from the Copenhagen Wheel and the cyclist’s energy can make an average biker move “almost like a Tour-de-France-level athlete in your daily commute,” said Biderman, who founded Cambridge, Mass.-based Superpedestrian Inc. that secured an exclusive license for the technology from MIT.
The Copenhagen Wheel seeks to tap into a lucrative(very important) market for electric bikes, also known as “e-bikes.”
In a recent report, clean-technology consulting company Navigant Research estimated worldwide revenue from electric bicycles will grow from $8.4 billion this year to $10.8 billion in 2020, fueled in part by desire for a viable(reasonable) alternative to increasingly congested city roads that makes crawling in car traffic less palatable.(can’t tolerate)
In the U.S., the trend is reflected in Census data showing the number of bicycle commuters rose 60 percent in the decade ending in 2010.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a cycling renaissance(usage) throughout the world,” Biderman said. “People are looking for alternatives.”