Ariel Schwartz

Copenhagen Wheel: MIT Unveils the Swiss Army Knife of Bike Wheels

by , 12/15/09
filed under: Green Transportation

copenhagen wheel, biking, bicycling, cop15

Photography by Maxtomasinelli

The Copenhagen Wheel, unveiled today by MIT students at the COP15 Climate Change Conference, may not look like anything special. But in reality, it’s a treasure trove of bicycle wheel technology, complete with a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), sensors, a smart lock, and a Bluetooth connection to the rider’s iPhone.


The KERS system is activated when the user brakes. Energy from the braking action is stored in the wheel, where it can be recovered by an electric motor for later use. The wheel’s onboard sensors monitor bike speed, distance traveled, direction, pollution levels, and proximity of friends on the road. All info collected by the sensors is sent via Bluetooth to the rider’s iPhone, which can be mounted on the handlebars for easy access.

Worried about using such a high-tech wheel in theft-prone cities? The Copenhagen Wheel’s smart lock sends a text message to users if someone tries to steal the bike, greatly decreasing the likelihood of a successful theft.

The wheel is expected to go into production next year at a price comparable to that of standard electric bikes. The city of Copenhagen might even use bikes retrofitted with the wheel as a substitute for city employee cars — a lofty goal, but one that could help Copenhagen become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025.

+ MIT

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8 Comments

  1. MIT-Designed Copenhagen... May 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

    [...] designs for the Copenhagen Wheel in 2009, it generated a lot of buzz. The deceptively simple, self-contained system can turn any bike into a [...]

  2. Save-world February 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

    that’s Formula 1 technology. How much will this little wonder cost?

  3. baeree January 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    When was a simple bicycle too simple? Is our culture moving too fast for our own good? I’d challenge the Copenhagen wheel in that I could teach my bike mechanic skills to most any one willing to learn, where this is a goober of technology left with us by the good people of MIT. Are you leaving the incomprehensible world of internal combustion for the incomprehensible world of peddle assisted track bikes? I’ve thousands of miles on my touring bike, seen mountains beyond mountains, and I never thought I needed a boost to do it, just ice cream and figs.

    ~Barry

  4. GaryAres December 20, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Let’s just call this “Copenhagen Wheel” a brilliant success in marketing, and has a great combination of factors that the world is buzzing about; greenness, bikes, pedal power, technology, and more. Tip of the hat to MIT for gaining so much attention with so little contribution.

    Here is a real solution, also developed by a team of equally bright engineers from neighboring NY State. It’s real, affordable, and assists the cyclist to improve their efficiency whether human or electric powered. It’ called Active Spoke – please visit and pass the word so others may learn as well. http://www.activespoke.com

  5. John e mudge December 19, 2009 at 6:46 am

    What a good idea! I little sophisticated however. Forget about bluetooth etc. The basic wheel absorbing power when you touch the brake lever (not enough to activaty break pads) stopping or downhill. This makes bike reduce speed like a Prius. In emergency obviously you pull harder cancelling the energy retrieval and using brakes, or a combination of both.
    As to design, I vote for a mechanical device rather than electrical battery charging. Something akin to the spring found on outboard motors to bring back the starter rope. This combined with a heavy flywheel at the outer periphfery of hub. This would reverse when a boost (starting) was required. Unlike electric you cannot use it for long periods but ideal for stop and start in traffic.

  6. davidwayneosedach December 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I’m not big on biking but I’d certainly try MIT’s Swiss Army knife of wheels. The blue tooth does it for me!

  7. andyrew December 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    The Bluetooth is there so you can connect your iPhone too it, you have to have an iphone to control the gears, which imho is silly and will only increase bike accidents. It would be better off if the iPhone was an extension to the bike and not a necessity.

    For this bike to be a success it needs to get the gear controls back on the handle bars and if they could integrate brakes in as well it would be awesome. No real reason to move the gear interface onto the iPhone other then to be different, but why change something that isn’t broken

  8. Crysti December 15, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I like this quite a bit! I was trying to understand why the bike wheel would need bluetooth, but I understand the novelty in that.

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