The inventors of a front wheel that turns almost any bicycle into an electric bike has smashed its target on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, raising four times the initial amount sought of $75,000 in just four days. Potential purchasers would be well advised to check it meets local regulations, however.
Going by the name GeoOrbital, the wheel enables the user’s bike to travel at a speed of 20 miles an hour with a range of between 20 and 50 miles, and does not need any tools for installation. More than $300,000 has been pledged on Kickstarter for the wheel, which will retail at $950.
It was devised by a team based in Cambridge, Massachusetts including “rocket scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and engineering experts” and with backgrounds in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Describing it as “an evolution of the orbital wheel (the wheels on the TRON Motorcycles),” they say that “the GeoOrbital wheel is compatible with nearly every bicycle.
“We have tested it on hundreds of bikes of all different styles from all different eras. The wheel comes in two sizes to cover over 95 per cent of all adult sized bicycles.
If your bike has a 26-inch, or 700c (also compatible with 28-inch and 29-inch) front wheel and uses rim brakes, the GeoOrbital wheel fits.”
On a 28-inch wheel bike with little to no pedalling from the user achieves a range of 20 miles, with longer distances possible the more pedalling is done.
The 500 watt Brushless DC motoris powered by a 36 volt Lithium Ion battery and activated using a throttle which clips onto the bike’s handlebars. It can reach a speed of 20 mph in six seconds.
On the Kickstarter page, the team behind it say: “Because the GeoOrbital wheel when installed on a bicycle is still considered a bicycle*, there’s no need for insurance, registration, or even a license.”
That asterisk is pretty important – the note points out that “State and city rules might vary.”
That creates a problem for potential purchasers in the UK and anywhere else that the power output or speed - or, indeed, both - are above the legal limits for e-bikes.
Under government regulations governing electrically assisted pedal cycles [EAPCs], “the electric motor shouldn’t be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph” and “the motor shouldn’t have a maximum power output of more than 250 watts.”
The GeoOrbital wheel exceeds both of those thresholds. That wouldn’t in itself prevent you from using one on a bicycle in the UK, but because it doesn’t meet the EPAC rules it would need to be registered and taxed, the user would need a driving licence to ride one, and they would also have to wear a crash helmet. The government says it would “also need to be ‘type approved’ to make sure it’s safe to use on the road.”