The Copenhagen Wheel Project

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The Copenhagen Wheel Project

By David Alyea, QBike Editor
January 11, 2011
Copenhagen Wheel

Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time.

Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life. You can 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.

The Copenhagen Wheel quickly and easily turns the bike you already own into an electric bike with regeneration and real-time environmental sensing capabilities. The wheel harvests the energy you input while braking and cycling and stores it for when you need a bit of a speed boost. At the same time, sensors in the wheel collect information about air and noise pollution, congestion, and road conditions.

The Copenhagen Wheel differs from other electric bikes in that all components are elegantly packaged into one hub. There is no external wiring or bulky battery packs, making it retrofittable into any bike. Inside the hub, there is 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, you will be able to spec out your wheel according to your riding habits and needs.

The Copenhagen Wheel was unveiled on December 15, 2009 at the COP15 United Nations Climate Conference. The project was conceived and developed by the SENSEable City Lab for the Kobenhavns Kommune. The prototype bikes were realizedwith the help of our technical partner Ducati Energia and funding from the Ministry for the Environment.

The Copenhagen Wheel is currently in final prototyping phase and will go commercial in June 2011 - the cost will be approximately $600 US per wheel. If you are interested in owning a wheel, producing, licensing or distributing, you can join their mailing list.

Copenhagen Wheel


For more information on The Copenhagen Wheel Project, see:

Nexus Hubs and Wheels:


Q&A on the Copenhagen Wheel:
1. I am interested in distribution or owning a fleet of bikes...
Join their email list. They will keep in contact about distribution and fleet ownership as the product develops.
2. I am interested in testing a prototype...
They are currently in the final phases of testing their next set of prototypes and are not yet lending out test-bikes.
3. I don't have a smart-phone/iphone - The Copenhagen Wheel is elitist!
- They are currently working on both Android and iPhone platforms. They are also exploring the option of having the software open source so that keen riders/app developers can build apps on top of the data collected.
- The Copenhagen Wheel was developed in an academic laboratory that likes to imagine what it will be like in the future (20 years from now) using technology in the city. They therefore designed the bike to interact with an everyday object (a cellphone) that they see the majority of the population owning in 20 years.
- Having said that, it is not 'the future' yet (!) and they are certainly going to release a stand-alone device that can control both the motor and the gears of the Copenhagen Wheel.
- Lastly, their interface on the phone is designed to be the least distraction possible - riding a bike is already hard enough without an application distracting you!
4a) Can I put it on my mountain bike (26" wheels) / tricycle / buggy / cart / new invention etc?
- They are looking at selling two different wheel sets (rim/hub and spokes) - one for 700c bikes and ones for 26" mountain bikes.
- You could also choose to respoke the hub onto your own rim using their spokes.
- At present they do not have plans to release custom spoke sets for all types of wheels, but certainly in the future this could be an option.
4b) The bike you are using looks like a 'fixie'. Can you also use it on geared bikes?
Looks can be deceiving... The Copenhagen Wheel actually uses a 3-speed internal Shimano Nexus hub gear. They are also looking at the possibility of an internal 8-gear version.
4c) Can I use my caliper brakes with the bike?
Yes, but if you only use your caliper brakes, you lose the power of regenerative braking that occurs through the coaster brake.
5. How long will the batteries last? And how are the batteries charged?
Battery life is dependent on topography, how much you use the motor assist and your weight. Our calculations show that if you are of an average weight (around 70kg) and you use the motor assist on a medium level over a terrain that has moderate hills, the batteries will last for around 5 hours. The batteries are charged through regeneration, but are also removable and can be taken indoors for charging in a regular wall socket.
6. Wow! what type of bike is the Copenhagen Wheel featured on - it is so sexy!
Cinelli mystic rats in white. Approx 400 euros price. See for details.
7. How does the Copenhagen Wheel differ from other electric bikes on the market?
Many of the electric bikes on the market have bulky external battery packs that are hard-wired into the motor. The Copenhagen Wheel wheel is plug-and-play. + you don't need to buy a whole bike, just retrofit your old bike with their new wheel.
Additionally, many e-bikes (particularly in Asia) use a throttle - meaning that you can essentially just sit on the bike and use it without pedaling. This is, of course, illegal in europe (because it turns it into a motor scooter that requires a license) so they have a torque sensor inside the hub that senses the amount of effort you are putting in and supplements this with a certain amount of motor assist (chosen by the rider through the interface on the handlebars).
IE, if you don't pedal, the motor won't work!
8. How does the motor assist work?
The Copenhagen Wheel senses the amount of effort (torque) you are putting in, and then supplements that with a certain amount of motor assist. eg: When cycling, the rider can choose one of three motor assist modes: low, medium and high. Each mode represents how much the motor is supplementing the cyclist’s inputted effort (eg: effort x1, x2, x3). Similarly, when the rider wants a workout or to recharge their batteries, they may choose a low, medium or high ‘exercise’ mode. Here, the rider is working against motor eg: effort x (-1), effort x (-2), effort x (-3).
9a. Does the Copenhagen Wheel have regeneration?
Yes, there are three ways that the regeneration works: a. While braking: the hub uses a coaster (back pedal) brake (with calliper/handlebar brakes for safety) and the kinetic energy from braking is stored in the batteries
b. While going downhill
c. When in 'exercise' or regeneration mode. ie: when the cyclist puts in more effort than is required and works against the motor. The excess kinetic energy is then stored in the batteries
9b. How do you charge the bike?
Through regenerative braking, exercise mode or you can also remove the batteries from the hub and take them inside to charge at a regular wall socket.
10. How much will the hub weigh?
The final prototype will be approximately 4-5kg. They are also working to make the hub smaller through custom building parts.
11. Can I build one myself?
They will not be releasing 'build your own kits'.

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