A New Kind of Motorized Bike

Electric bicycles provide themselves as a wonderful way to transport ones’ self, and look just like regular bicycles except for one kind of different wheel; a wheel with a lithium battery, electric motor and control electronics put together into one mounted unit.The Copenhagen Wheel, the first motorized bicycleto see the light of day, came from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology incubator lab.  The name reflects how the original financial backing for the project, believe it or not, came from the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. The promise was that there was a high-tech wheel with an integrated electric assist that could be installed on the millions of bicycles already on the road.  Copenhagen saw the possibilities of this and signed up, and fast.

Motorized Bike

Image by Paul Sableman

Those who have tried out the Copenhagen wheel say it is a wonderful experience. By design, the wheel does not just power the bicycle, it “assists the cyclist.”One excellent feature Sheridan Ford in Wilmington, DE tells us is that the wheel recaptures energy while you go downhill or brake, like a hybrid car does. Combined with the fact that you can control the Copenhagen wheel with a smart phone and you have got quite an interesting propulsion system. Another really cool thing is that when starting off from a complete stop, the cyclist provides some of the power, but the wheel does as well. As a result, the effort of getting up to a brisk 15-20 miles per hour feels effortless.

More than six years after the Copenhagen Wheel’s debut, several more companies became part ofthe fray. Cambridge-based Super pedestrian offers a version as does FlyKlyof New York and ZeHusof Milan.  However, the story of these new bicycle wheels is one more example of how difficult it is to turn a wildly new concept into a selling product. First, we have some infighting. Recently, Superpedestrianfiled a patent infringement lawsuit against FlyKlyand ZeHusfor selling different kinds of their wheel without licensing the necessary patents.Another issue is retail support of these devices. Some traditional bicycle stores are claiming that the concept just does not mesh well with their basic product philosophy.  The average price of around $1000 is also a hindrance because that is, in multiple cases, several times more than the value of the bike being used.It has been hard for manufacturers to win the battle of making sure their products make it.

There are many electric-powered bicycles available for sale nowadays.  Their design is simple; they typically have an electric motor driving the back wheel and have a battery pack mounted somewhere in the bike’s middle.  Twist the throttle and off you go. Conceptually they are not considerably different from gas-powered motorcycles except that their motor is electric.As for the future, like any technology, there will be starts and fits as the product becomes better accepted by the public. As quantities increase, prices will be lowered and this may be one of the most serious obstacles of all.  One would think that a price of only a few hundred dollars would open this new type of electric bicycle to the public.

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