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What if your bike commute generated energy for your neighborhood?

A proposal for Amsterdam’s Clean Energy Challenge envisions harvesting clean energy from bikes as they move around the city.

Amsterdam is a city of cyclists: As of 2017, 68% of commutes to and from work or school were done via bicycle. Every day, people bike a total of 1.25 million miles. As they cycle, they’re generating a lot of energy–an estimated 19.5 million watt-hours, which is enough to power thousands of people’s homes. What if that energy could be harnessed?

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That’s the idea behind S-Park, a new bike rack system proposed by designers Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaž Verhnjak as part of the city’s Clean Energy Challenge. The system includes a front wheel that can be popped into any bike frame; as the rider bikes around the city, the wheel stores the kinetic energy produced by the wheel’s circular motion in batteries. Then, when the cyclist returns home to their neighborhood, they park their bike in a communal bike frame that’s connected to the grid. The energy that the batteries stored from during their commute flows into that area’s electrical grid. The wheel can stay on the bike for a long period of time, acting just like any other bike wheel.

[Image: courtesy Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaž Verhnjak]

It’s a clever idea, because S-Park doesn’t require anyone in Amsterdam to change their routine–thousands are already biking and parking their bikes at home after work or school. It just harnesses a new, untapped, completely renewable energy source that’s been hiding in plain sight to make the city more energy-efficient. The duo estimates that for a rack of 30 bikes, and an average commute of 2.2 miles every day, the rack could generate about one kilowatt-hour per day.

If their idea is selected for the challenge, they’ll have the opportunity to test and try it out. While they don’t yet have a prototype, the designers say they have done extensive research into the idea, and interested companies have already reached out to help them bring it to life either way. Currently, they’re hoping to present it to the mayor, because Amsterdam is planning to invest about $100 million in biking infrastructure by 2020, and the team hopes S-Park can be part of it.

Whether they work with the Clean Energy Challenge or another organization, the designers hope to start by piloting the project in a single neighborhood. Then, it could be easily scaled up to reach the 200,000 bike racks around the city.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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