If electric bicycles could be charged just by riding, would more people want to use them?

A new design concept for an e-bike shows how powered bike lane system might work, eliminating one of the challenges of this type of transportation--the need for batteries.

"Considering a future where power is everywhere, it makes no sense to me to have large, heavy batteries with short life cycles and polluting manufacturing and recycling processes," says Offer Canfi, the U.K.-based Royal College of Art graduate who created the design.

Most of the world's electric bikes--especially the 30 million produced each year in China--still use lead batteries.

In Canfi's design, energy would be stored in a lightweight capacitor without the heavy metals or chemicals used in a typical battery.

A simple attachment could be added to any bike to make it compatible with the system.

A special bike lane, embedded with coils, would recognize the bike when it rides by, and wirelessly send it electricity.

Solar panels along the roadside could provide enough power to keep the system running.

In addition to making electric bikes more environmentally-friendly, Canfi argues that the new system would be easier to use--without batteries, e-bikes would be lighter, and you'd never have to worry about plugging in the bike to charge.

As a bonus, you could also charge the phone or laptop in your backpack as you ride.

"If you consider the current problems that e-bike and other light electric vehicles suffer from, you can see two main things: batteries and range," he says.

"Knowing that I don't have to charge my bike at work, and that if I'm on the power lane I can still easily cycle, makes the choice to ride instead of drive even easier--if you ever tried cycling on a depleted e-bike you know what I mean."

2014-08-05

Co.Exist

These "Power Lanes" Could Charge An E-Bike (And Phone) As You Ride

By getting rid of the lead battery, the design concept aims to make electric bikes a lot greener--and a lot easier to use.

If electric bicycles could be charged just by riding on a powered bike lane, would more people want to use them? A new design concept for an e-bike shows how the system might work, eliminating one of the challenges of this type of transportation--the need for batteries.

"Considering a future where power is everywhere, it makes no sense to me to have large, heavy batteries with short life cycles and polluting manufacturing and recycling processes," says Offer Canfi, the Royal College of Art graduate who created the design.

Most of the world's electric bikes--especially the 30 million produced each year in China--still use lead batteries. In China, lead production has caused mass poisonings, and recycling often causes even more problems when toxic wastewater is dumped in rivers. Though alternative batteries are becoming more common, they also have their own issues with manufacturing and disposal.

In Canfi's design, energy would be stored in a lightweight capacitor without the heavy metals or chemicals used in a typical battery. A simple attachment could be added to any bike to make it compatible with the system. A special bike lane, embedded with coils, would recognize the bike when it rides by, and wirelessly send it electricity. Solar panels along the roadside could provide enough power to keep the system running.

In addition to making electric bikes a lot greener, Canfi argues that the new system would be easier to use. Without batteries, e-bikes would be lighter, and you'd never have to worry about plugging in the bike to charge. As a bonus, you could also charge the phone or laptop in your backpack as you ride.

"If you consider the current problems that e-bike and other light electric vehicles suffer from, you can see two main things: batteries and range," he says. "Knowing that I don't have to charge my bike at work, and that if I'm on the power lane I can still easily cycle, makes the choice to ride instead of drive even easier--if you ever tried cycling on a depleted e-bike you know what I mean."

The system is something that he thinks could be possible in the near future. Although the fast-charging capacitors he envisions aren't available yet, inductive charging lanes are already starting to be used for buses in places like Sweden and Korea.

Canfi believes that electric bike lanes could dramatically increase the number of commuters who decide to stop driving and get on a bike. In the U.S. now, only 0.6% of commuters ride to work, and even fewer ride e-bikes. "I believe this project offers a viable solution for e-bikes to be widely adopted," Canfi says.

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5 Comments

  • Offer Canfi

    All you need are a few lanes that cris-cross a city, as stated with a small capacitor, that will be available in the near future, you have a "gliding range" of 2-3 miles off the lane easily. At an estimated cost of ~10$ per meter and a life expectancy of 5-10 years this is not a great strain on infrastructure costs. Also since the system adds about 2Kg you can still easily pedal, so you could look at this system as a range extender or a boost lane for your regular commute. Offer

  • Commuting by bicycle is impractical in most places in the U.S. Most Americans commute at least 20 miles to work. Given our increasingly long hours, we also consolidate errands to and from work (grocery shopping, dropping off/picking up dry cleaning, etc.), which for a significant majority of us also involves shuttling children to and from school, activities, and daycare -- not to mention elderly parents to and from doctor appointments. It is simply impossible for the vast majority of us existing in the modern American infrastructure to even consider using our bicycles for anything but recreational activity.

  • Barry Cohen

    Heavy metals are poisons that will make you sick, prematurely age you and in time kill you! People in China are sick and dying from heavy metals by the hundreds of thousands! Its already infiltrated into American food due to imports from China and this is a fact! Anyone contaminated with heavy metals in and away from China should be detoxing with the natural mineral called Zeolite that has been proven to safely remove both heavy metals and radiation from the human body. For more information on this detox do a search for the single word Zeolite.

  • Dallas Collins

    While I like the concept and it's benefits alot, I believe such a costly project that does not embrace commuter vehicles, mass transit, and commercial goods transport is unlikely to get much traction in the US. If streets, roadways, and interstates incorporated this concept to go along with vehicles that drive themselves, it might be feasible in practice. I just don't think it is viable as a stand alone infrastructure upgrade. We have a difficult enough time just getting bike lanes allocated in our transportation agendas nationwide.