What happens when a premier academic institution teams up with the City of cyclists? You see one of the best inventions getting now into mass production.
MIT’s SENSEable City Lab and City of Copenhagen bring us a pedal assist electric system called the Copenhagen Wheel. The wheel can be retrofitted almost on any bicycle. Superpedestrian, the startup that has exclusive production rights for the technology, is now accepting back orders for the wheel. The wheel comes both in single speed and multi-speed variants. The wheel itself may cost lot more than an average bike, but I think the wheel is really worth it.
How does it work? The prime factor of the wheel is its regenerating braking capability. The rider can use the exercise mode, pedaling against the motor and charging the battery in this process. Or the rider can use the motor assist mode, in which case the battery power is used to help the rider pedal easily thru, say, slopes. Each of these modes will have 3 levels and the modes/levels can be selected using a smart phone that communicates to the wheel wirelessly. Not sure if the modes switch automatically using the torque sensors in the system (my guess is it would be so, but we need to wait for more details and see.)
The wheel may be a costly affair in the initial days (the wheel is much costlier than average bike on streets) but offers a great potential for bicycling adoption. Excitedly waiting for mass production and global availability of this wheel.