EVELO’s ‘Omni Wheel’ Gives Cyclists a Boost When They Need it Most
Two Cambridge companies are racing to become the preeminent supplier of a new technology that gives bike riders an extra boost during their commutes. But one claims it’s ahead of the competition.
Last week, EVELO, the makers of modernized electric bicycles, announced the rollout of the “Omni Wheel,” an attachable battery-powered motor installed on the front wheel of an ordinary bike that transforms it into an electric one with the push of a button.
The company is now taking pre-orders for the Omni Wheel, but won’t start shipping them out until early February or March. Once on the streets, cyclists who affix the Omni Wheel to their personal rides will be able to get 20 to 40 miles of effortless cruising out of the pre-charged device, allowing them to soar at speeds of up to 20 miles-per-hour.
“For many people, barriers like hills, age, fitness levels—or even the simple inconvenience of getting to work sweaty—prevent them from using a bike for commuting or recreation,” said EVELO CEO Boris Mordkovich. “The Omni Wheel helps riders overcome those [obstacles].”
While certainly revolutionary, with an ultimate goal of getting more people on bicycles, EVELO isn’t the only company looking to introduce an electric wheel to the market as a means of powering ordinary bikes. In fact, it’s not even the only company in Cambridge.
For two years, a company called Superpedestrian has been developing what’s known as the “Copenhagen Wheel,” a similar electric hub that’s installed on a bike’s wheel, but is secured in the back rather than the front.
Production of the Copenhagen Wheel, which was first developed in MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory in 2009 as part of a research project sponsored by the Mayor of Copenhagen, has relied on a multi-million dollar investment from Spark Capital, and, more recently, additional funding from outside parties including actor Jared Leto.
The wheel went on sale in 2013, but still hasn’t officially landed in the hands of customers. Superpedestrian plans on having the Copenhagen Wheel available by early spring of this year, meaning the competition to change the way people commute is as super-charged as the wheels themselves.
However, EVELO representatives said that their device, the Omni Wheel, would be hitting the streets of Boston first—and that their concept is “smarter.”
“Compared to the Copenhagen, which has been around for years and has never come to market, the major difference is that it’s for the front wheel versus the rear wheel,” said Scott Boulbol, a spokesperson for EVELO.
According to Boulbol, it’s “easier” to attach the Omni Wheel, because the Copenhagen Wheel is housed on the rear wheel.
“That limits a lot of people. And people may say, ‘who needs it?’” he said.
Other key differences between the Omni Wheel and the Copehnagen Wheel are the price and type of technology. The Omni Wheel is selling for $999, while the Copenhagen Wheel is on sale for around $949. Superpedstrian’s device relies on the use of a person’s personal smartphone to store and review statistics about the wheel’s energy, output, and preferences, while EVELO’s wheel uses a separate electronic device that attaches to the handle bars of a person’s bike.
“Most people prefer a unit designated for the wheel itself, rather than a phone on your handle bar,” Boulbol claims.
Besides price, each respective wheel has a different design and weight. EVELO’s model is a few pounds heavier than Superpedestrian’s, and also larger. Specifications also vary for each hub. Here’s a general breakdown from each company:
The e-bike boom in the Boston area has been a big one, with the introduction of new shops throughout the region. But EVELO is priding itself on being the leader of the pack with their innovative design.
“While being first is exciting, we’re even more happy to offer a truly unique product with features riders really need,” said Mordkovich.