It is not easy to reinvent the wheel, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are giving it their best shot.
The Senseable City Laboratory at M.I.T. has designed a wheel that captures the kinetic energy released when a rider brakes and saves it for when the rider needs a boost. While technically sound, the wheel’s true challenge may be in winning over cyclists. For centuries, bikes have been beloved for their simplicity, not their bells and whistles.
But, said Carlo Ratti, the laboratory’s director, “biking can become even more effective than what it was.” What the lab is working on, he said, is “Biking 2.0.”
The new wheel uses a kinetic energy recovery system, the same technology used by hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, to harvest otherwise wasted energy when a cyclist brakes or speeds down a hill. With that energy, it charges up a battery inside the wheel’s hub.
This is some wild stuff. While part of me cries, “Boo! Pure cycling!”, the other part of me wonders if this is any less “pure” than gears and triple chain rings.