An ingenious wheel that could turn any bike into an electric hybrid has won the U.S. round of the James Dyson Award, an event that's become the world's premier student-design competition. Tonight, the winner will be formally announced, at a Designer Pages event discussing the bright, bold future of design.
The so-called Copenhagen Wheel now joins other national-competition winners in the global competition, along with nine other designs. The grand-prize winner will then be announced on October 5th. They'll get $15,000 for themselves or their team, and another $15,000 for their school department. (It won't get your name on a building, but hey!)
The Copenhagen wheel, which was developed by a team at MIT led by Christine Outram--in the same lab that created the City Car--has already attracted plenty of buzz. As the name suggests, the idea began in Copenhagen, after the city tasked the design team with creating simple interventions that dramatically improve the already robust use of bikes there.
What they came up with is a hybrid wheel, which generates electricity during braking (similar to the regenerative braking you find in many car hybrids). It then offers that electricity as a power boost up hills or over long distances. That power is controlled by an iPhone interface. (Shades of Apple's Smart Bike!) Why's all this groundbreaking? The hope is that hybrid power, by making previously difficult bike commutes easy, could make bikes a viable option for countless more commuters.
But in selecting it, the Dyson jurors also prized the fact that it's a full-on, working prototype. The team that developed the wheel believes that with the right funding, it could be in production within a year, at a retail cost of around $600--not cheap, but well within reach.