CleanTechnica’s own Derek Markham wrote about the Copenhagen Wheel from Superpedestrian on Treehugger recently, and Nicolas Zart has a bunch of technical details from the launch of the newest version last year, and last week I finally had the luck to try it out myself.
All things good comes to those who wait
The Copenhagen Wheel was unveiled on December 15, 2009 at the COP15 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen. The project was conceived and developed by the SENSEable City Lab at MIT and was a showcase of what would be possible in the near future in terms of connectivity and sensors. The first prototypes even had sensors measuring air quality to help guide the rider to the cleanest route.
When I was in the e-bike business myself, I remember impatiently contacting MIT back in 2011 to hear when it would get to market. The first version went on sale in the US in 2013, and finally, long after I had given up making a living on e-bikes, it emerges here in Denmark.
As always, when some new and exiting e-bike tech comes to market, Carsten Obel at E-wheels.dk is quick to try it out. He has secured himself a small batch of the brand new Copenhagen Wheel, and I hurried right over and gave it a spin as soon as he had built his first test bike.
He had chosen a beautiful bamboo frame from Zambikes, fitted it with a carbon fork, leather handles and a comfy seat, and it just looks stunning. The whole bike weighs just short of 20 kg. Here is a quick rundown on the specs of the Copenhagen Wheel:
Motor: US: 350 W, EU: 250 W
Top speed: US: 25 mph, EU: 25 km/h
Range: Up to 30 miles/48 km
Battery: 48 V – 279 Wh (5.8 Ah) Li-ion
Battery life: 1000 charge cycles
Charge time: 2 hours (80%), 4 hours (100%)
Hub weight: 16.8 lbs/7.6 kg
Wheel size: 26” and 700c
Brake type: Rim brakes only
Bicycle drivetrain: Single speed or 7/8/9/10-gear Shimano and SRAM
Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy (4.0)
Smartphone OS: iOS 9 or greater, Android 4.3 or greater
Looks and feels very high-tech
I only had a short time with the bike, but it was enough to get the I-want-one feeling. The build quality of the Copenhagen Wheel is superb. The shiny red metal enclosure seems very solid, and since the battery is inside the hub, there are no additional wires like we are used to on other systems. The arrangement of the spokes just looks unreal.
It is very easy to fit on a donor bike, but unfortunately it is for rim brakes only, which is a shame since disc brakes are becoming the norm. However, one thing that really stands out on this system is how the regenerative brakes function: you simply pedal backwards when you want to slow down and the force of regeneration is proportional to the speed at which you pedal. I know, it sounds odd, but it works surprisingly well. Regenerative braking works to a full stop and unless you need to brake hard you don’t use the brake levers at all, and thus it mimics the feel you get in one-pedal-driving in electric cars like the BMW i3.
Fully connected and built to share
The system is turned on with a switch on the hub itself, and is unlocked from an app on your smartphone which even has a proximity lock/unlock feature. Set the assist levels you want, and off you go. The readouts on the app are very clear and smooth color animations shows you the current operation, such as whether it is applying power or regenerating. All you need is a mounting device for your smartphone.
One clever detail in the app is the possibility to share your bike with others. Someone with the app installed can be invited by you to unlock the bike. Also perfect for ride-sharing programs in cities.
A strong contender
I have tried lots of different e-bike systems, and the BionX D-series is still the one with the most torque, but the Copenhagen Wheel is actually very powerful and I would rate it somewhere between the very popular Bosch crank Center systems and the BionX direct drive hub systems in terms of acceleration and hill climbing capability.
Overall, the ride was remarkably smooth, and I must admit I fell for it right away. The team at Superpedestrian has really done everything in their power to make this extremely advanced piece of technology “disappear” from your awareness when using it. Now it just has to prove strong enough for everyday use in all-weather conditions. One thing comes to mind though: in the freezing cold of nordic winters you have to take the whole bike inside to prevent battery damage.
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