Kits designed to convert bicycles into electric transportation
THE SANTA CLARA
April 2, 2014
As biking becomes an increasingly popular and practical means of transportation, four Santa Clara engineering students are working to make this trend a more viable option for everyone.
In fall of 2014, senior Jared O’Rourke envisioned a wheel that could electrically power a bike. Three more seniors joined him on his senior design project, a year-long process to make electric bicycles more accessible.
The team calls their product the Might-E Wheel. Intended to transform a traditional single or seven-speed bike into an electric bike, the three-part kit will contain a motorized wheel, a wheel cover that will hold a battery and control system, and a throttle for the handlebars.
The throttle is a wireless system which, when activated by the rider, uses radio frequencies to start the rear motor.
According to Abby Grills, a senior mechanical engineering student working on the project, installing the Might-E Wheel is fast and user-friendly. She estimates the process would take no more than 20 minutes.
The motorized wheel is meant to ease the physical exertion of the rider, especially when going up hills or during long rides.
Extra energy produced by the motor reduces the need for strong pedaling.
With the boost provided by the motor, riders can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, the legal limit for motorized bicycles on California public roads.
The project is intended to cut costs and promote upcycling, the renovation of existing products.
The price of prefabricated electrical bikes ranges anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
Since Might-E Wheel is intended for use on a traditional bike, the team expects to market it at around $900, a competitive price for similar units made by companies such as Superpedestrian and FlyKly.
“If you’re commuting to work, you’re not going to want to sweat,” Grills said. “You’ll need to be clean at the office for the rest of the day. Using the Might-E Wheel, you can put in the amount of effort you want while running the electric motor without having to get all sweaty and shower at work.”
She said that the Might-E Wheel is capable of acting as more than just an antiperspirant.
“Along with decreasing car congestion, this product will just make your ride better,” she said. “A lot of people who tested electric bikes said that they were really fun to ride. It’s a shorter and more pleasant commute.”
Grills said Might-E Wheel could be beneficial to seniors who may struggle physically with using a traditional bike, and that it could help people with DUIs, who have had their driver’s licenses revoked.
The Might-E Wheel is currently in the development process. The group is working on their first prototype and aims to finish it by May 14, the date of the Engineering School’s senior design conference.
After the first prototype, the team will assess the marketability of their initial product. They hope that a senior design team will adopt the project next year and develop it further.
Along with O’Rourke and Grills, seniors Daniel Doke and Zach Jesberger are also working on the project.
Electrical engineering professor Timothy Healy and Mechanical Engineering adjunct lecturer Robert Marks are advising the group.
Contact Nicholas Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.