Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MIT's newest electric bicycle

What do you think of this?

It's a technologically advanced bicycle wheel unveiled by MIT in late 2009.

Described by MIT's web page: "Though it looks like an ordinary bicycle wheel with an oversized center, the Wheel's bright red hub is a veritable Swiss army knife's worth of electronic gadgets and novel functions."

Technologically, it seems to offer a lot of functionality in a compact package. Again, MIT's web page: "The Wheel uses a technology similar to the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which has radically changed Formula One racing over the past couple of years,” says Ratti [Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory and the Copenhagen Wheel project]. "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 to you 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 an eye."

This retrofit is where I think the marketability of this product lies. If virtually any bike could be adapted with this cleaner alternative to a petroleum-fired engine, such as the "Whizzer" bikes and are priced lower than currently available electric bicycles, then I think there are consumers who would buy this, especially as baby boomers age and want to find transportation and recreation alternatives.

Going back to the MIT mock-up, I do find it interesting the bike they've fitted up with this rear wheel appears to be a fixed-gear (or at least single speed... it does appear to be fitted with a coaster brake ala the OSO bike).

Any thoughts..?

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