An article on Green.Blorge discusses a new project out of MIT called the Copenhagen Wheel. It was unveiled on December 15th at the United Nations Climate Conference. This wheel is the first of it’s kind which will allow you to retrofit almost any bicycle with an electric assist. But it is so much more than this, the wheel allows you to use
your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you. As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes, to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of environmental information from which we can all benefit.
I have yet to decide whether this is just a little over the top or something that could really catch on and become a reality. I’m a big fan of electric assist bikes, as I think it expands the range everyone can cover on a bicycle. However, I’m also a big fan of the simplicity of the bicycle. When you start introducing too many gadgets and electronics that are fundamental to the functioning of the bike, you are ultimately going to have more issues. I know many people who can enjoy and can work on all aspects of their bicycles, a much higher percentage than those who enjoy and can work on their own cars.
The concept is intriguing, but I’m not sold yet.