Whether it's the Copenhagen Wheel, the FlyKly Smart Wheel or the Electron Wheel, there are now several choices of motorized front wheels that temporarily turn your regular bike into an e-bike. So, what does a new product have to do to stand out in this market? Well, it helps if has a radically different design than its competitors – and the GeoOrbital Wheel has just that.
Do you remember the light cycles in the movie Tron? GeoOrbital Wheel inventor Michael Burtov does, and in fact it was that film that inspired him to create the device. Like the light cycles' wheels, the GeoOrbital is a centerless wheel. This means that it has no central hub.
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Instead, the center of the wheel is occupied by a non-rotating module that contains the 500-watt brushless motor, the removable Panasonic li-ion battery pack, and the electronics. Three arms reach out from that module to the inside of the wheel rim, each one equipped with a rubber roller at the end. The bottom roller is powered by the motor, causing the rim to rotate around the module.
For now, the system is throttle-only – a pedal-assist feature may be added later on. Users control the speed (up to 20 mph or 32 km/h) via a hard-wired handlebar-mounted remote. When the motor isn't in use, a regenerative system uses the spinning of the wheel to help keep the battery juiced up.
Plans call for the GeoOrbital wheel to be made in 26-inch and 700C sizes. On the latter version, one 4-hour USB charge of the 36V/10-Ah battery should be good for a range of about 20 miles (32 km) without pedalling, or up to 50 miles (80 km) with. That larger wheel tips the scales at 20 lb (9 kg), while the smaller version weighs 17 lb (8 kg). The wheel's included tire is foam-filled, not pneumatic, so flats won't be a problem.
Aside from the unique looks, though … what's the point in not having a hub? "The GeoOrbital wheel platform allows us to integrate an almost limitless amount of components into the wheel itself," the designers state. "Because the wheel doesn't spin we are able to integrate motors, batteries, electronics, headlights, USB charging ports, storage compartments, and many other components that it would not be possible to build into a traditional spoked wheel."
If you're interested, the GeoOrbital Wheel is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$649 will get you one, when and if they reach production. The planned retail price is $950.
The wheel can be seen in use, in the video below.