We like a good Kickstarter project here at road.cc, and the latest to catch our attention is the FlyKly Smart Wheel, an electric motor packaged inside the rear wheel hub that can be fitted to just about any road bike.
A few years ago we reported on the Copenhagen Wheel, a similar hub-based electric motor developed by MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, and winner of the James Dyson Award in 2010. Very recently a start-up company in Boston called Superpedestrian has secured $2.1 million in financing and the exclusive license from MIT to the Copenhagen Wheel's design and related patents. All very exciting stuff.
But there’s competition on the market. Founded in 2010, FlyKly has recently initiated a Kickstarter campaign for the Smart Wheel, which on the surface appears almost identical. In fact, poke beneath the surface and it appears to tick many of the same boxes that the Copenhagen Wheel first demonstrated back in 2009. Similarities aside, they’ve generated a lot of interest: they’ve sailed past their $100,000 target and have so far raised $204,571 from 708 backers, with 28 days still to go.
The Smart Wheel, like the Copenhagen wheel, is an electric motor, battery and electronics all packaged inside the rear wheel hub. This allows it to be easily fitted to any bike. They’re offering numerous wheel size options, plans are even in place for a 20in version for folding bikes.
Electronics inside the Smart Wheel can be controlled via the FlyKly app, which uses Bluetooth 4.0 and is available for free on Apple and Android smartphones. You can do neat things like set the top speed on the app - you then simply start pedalling down the road and the electronics take over. The app will also display useful data such as current speed, distance travelled, time of travelling, and perhaps most vitally, remaining battery level.
Packaged inside the hub is a 36V lithium battery offering a 30 mile range, which is piffling compared to the 140 mile range some of the modern Bosch powered e-bikes are capable of. That's a clear limitation of the packaging, there’s only so battery space available. But it trumps e-Bikes in that it can be fitted to any bike with ease, and only adding a claimed 4kg to the overall weight. It can be charged in 2-3 hours but, not unlike KERS technology in Formula 1 cars, the battery also charges when riding downhill or pedalling with the motor switched off. Still, it does limit it to short city commutes with frequent charging.The 250W motor is powerful enough for a maximum speed of 20 mph claim its inventors.
It’s inventors claim the app is smart enough to suggest time efficient routes based on your cycling habits. Other interesting features that app facilitates is locking the Smart Wheel and, if the worst happens and your bike is stolen, its location can be tracked via GPS.
There’s a lot of activity and development in the e-Bike market, and there are a fair few bolt-on motors like this doing the rounds. It brings to mind the dual-drive e-bike we reported on a while back, which uses two similar hub motors and a backpack full of lithium-ion batteries capable of propelling the willing pilot to speeds up to 50mph.
The Smart Wheel isn’t cheap though. Since they’ve had 708 backers at the time of writing, they apparently only have a limited stock (78 from 100) of the $700 ‘Hacker’ editions available. This lets you create your own apps for the Smart Wheel.
They’ve expecting to deliver the Smart Wheel in May 2014. More at www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.