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Cambridge Company Creates Wheel That Turns Any Bicycle Into A Hybrid Electric

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WBZ-TV's Beth Germano Beth Germano
Emmy award-winning Beth Germano is a general assignment reporter fo...
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CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – There’s a new, innovative, and very cool way to get around on two wheels, and it’s being made in Cambridge.

It’s called the “Copenhagen Wheel,” and it turns your bike into a hybrid that combines pedal power with electricity. It looks like any bike except for a round, red thing on the back wheel. That’s because the round, red thing is the innovation.

“Imagine having a multiplication of you inside the wheel, riding together with you. It’s like a riding companion,” says Assaf Biderman one of the inventors.

Originally developed at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, the project was sponsored by the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. That’s why it’s called the Copenhagen Wheel.

“The Copenhagen wheel is an insert. It’s a back wheel you can put on almost any bike, and it will turn it into a smart, hybrid electric,” says Biderman, who heads a new company in Cambridge now called Superpedestrian.

The wheel and the device attached to it looks simple and clean on the outside, with an electric motor and battery on the inside. Sensors allow the device to “learn” about the rider’s strength and movements, and it gives the cyclist a power assist, for example when you go up hills or are biking long distances. “The average person like me puts out say 75 to 100 watts. You can get 250 extra watts from this motor. So it’s almost four times your effort,” says Biderman.

By integrating the wheel with your smartphone you can choose various modes and effort levels. “It feels very natural. It’s on when you push very hard, and it’s slightly weaker when you push less hard,” says Biderman. The battery charges when you brake or go downhill, much like some hybrid cars.

The wheel went on pre-sale this week. Superpedestrian has already taken orders for several hundred of them. They plan to deliver in the spring, just in time for biking season.

The first 1,000 are being sold for $699 each. When those are gone the price increases to $799.

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