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MIT’s Copenhagen Bike Wheel

Researchers at MIT have developed a new bicycle rear wheel—the Copenhagen Wheel—that can capture energy from braking and deliver the power back to provide a boost. The wheel, designed to be easily interchangeable with any standard bicycle’s rear wheel, also offers a variety of extra functions including real-time environmental sensing capabilities.

A close-up of the Copenhagen Wheel, from MIT’s SENSEable City Lab. Click to enlarge.

The Copenhagen Wheel differs from other electric bikes in that all components are packaged into one hub. There is no external wiring or bulky battery packs, making it retrofittable into any bike. The hub contains a motor, 3-speed internal hub gear, batteries, a torque sensor, GPRS and a sensor kit that monitors CO, NOx, noise (db), relative humidity and temperature. In the future, riders will be able to spec out a wheel according to riding habits and needs.

Screenshot of a conceptual environmental monitoring application using crowd-sourced data. Click to enlarge.

By using a series of sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone, which can be mounted on the handlebars, the wheel can monitor the bicycle’s speed, direction and distance traveled, as well as picking up data on pollution in the air, and even the proximity of the rider’s friends.

The resulting data can both help the individual rider—for example, by providing feedback on fitness goals—and help the city (if the user opts to share the information) by building up a database of air quality, popular biking routes or areas of traffic congestion.

All of the generating, power assisting, sensing and communications equipment fits inside a plastic housing in the hub of the wheel, which was developed by Carlo Ratti, associate professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and director of the SENSEable City Laboratory, and his team.

The whole generating and power-assisting system can be controlled through the pedals, requiring no switches or dials. Pedal backwards, and the regenerative braking is engaged, helping to recharge the system’s batteries; pedal fast, and you get the extra boost of power. “Everything is controlled by your feet,” Ratti explains.

The city of Copenhagen, site of the UN Conference on Climate Change, has been a sponsor of the research (along with the Italian company Ducati, and the Italian environment ministry), and the city has already placed an initial order for some of the innovative bicycle wheels, to be used by city workers.

The system was demonstrated in Copenhagen on 15 December for the benefit of conference attendees, and for a gathering of 400 city mayors from around the world.



Cool. I would love to try one out... in the Spring. Nice to see Ducati on the energy independence wagon.


It is cool, but it looks like the threw the kitchen sink at it.
It would be better to split it out into:
a: a regenerative braking wheel - fine.
B: A sensor + force measuring wheel,
C: Possibly, a simple environmental sensor pack with a USB connector (for charging and data upload) which you stick on your handlebars.
[ You could make it compatible with a CatEye wireless cycle computer and use it as a cycle computer as well as an environmental monitor - all you would lose is the strain gauge. ]

To reiterate, too much functionality for a normal brain, split it out, keep it cheap and single purpose.

Henry Gibson

The major cause of human caused releases of CO2 is too many people using too many carbon molecules. But humans are a natural development of the earth's ecology so nothing that they do is wrong because it is all natural. Most other animals would simply move away from slowly rising sea water but humans think that they have a right to have the sea level remain constant or sink only a little bit. Every major western country requires the use of seatbelts, but then allows the promotion of unsafe transportation without seatbelts, bicycles. There is no way that people could or should be removed from automobiles and put on the motorways on bicycles. Cities and countries must bow to the needs of reducing CO2 releases and ration CO2 so that people only live in small flats in high rise buildings close to subway lines. ..HG..


"but humans think that they have a right to have the sea level remain constant or sink only a little bit."

It is this kind of cultural bias and prejudice that fu*cks up discussions henry. People remain in homes near coastlines because it's a desirable place to live and they have made significant investment in those homes. Perhaps those people who don't have the burden of living in a material world can sit back and judge. We're not interested in those opinions.

One could easily say that other species get up and run away from threat whenever they hear one. Both positions are stereotyped and untrue.


Henry Gibson

Talk for yourself, and check the statistics you are so unaware off : the mortality per mile is only twice as high with bike than with cars, but when you aggregate with heart disease then you life expectancy is better taking your bike than you car, add diabetes and other cancer, stress of driving, and obesity linked to lack of activity and your even safer and your life quality is much better. So keep this kind of ridiculous statement for yourself it really doesn't make any good. Cars create more problems than they solve and they are certainly not the holly grail of transportation


"But aliens think they should have everything their ways 'cause they're smarter..."



...back to the bike:
Cool idea.
Many more people might consider bike riding to work, etc., if they had just a little boost to get them up the slopes.
Hope it's the start of a successful product and many more to follow.


Indeed. The pedal assist type boost is a lot of fun. On one bike I rode where you could not see the batteries or hub motor, you could happily pass other cyclists struggling up inclines - without them realizing you had power assist.

Not very honest... But it sure made bike riding fun.

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