File under: "Yes please," "Awesome of the day," and "Car[e]-free cruising."
Remember when a simple bike-sharing program was considered revolutionary?
Chiyu Chen, a design student at the Royal College of Art, has conceived of an urban bike sharing program that not only provides riders utility, but also powers the local bus system – and pays them to do so.
Users check out specially designed bikes from a locking station using an ID card. Inside the bikes is a system that stores kinetic energy generated from braking. Riders go where they need to, and when they're finished, bring the bike back to the locking station. Locking up the bike transfers the energy generated by the trip into the city grid – or, as Chen envisions, into a hybrid bus system.
Ride enough – and generate enough energy – and bike sharers can earn a bus pass. Completing the trifecta: the locking stations would be placed near bus stations, both to make renting a bike convenient and to facilitate easy bike-to-bus recharging.
As Mike Chino at green design blog Inhabitat points out, the key to Chen's system is the "Hybrake" regenerative braking module he's designed. Watching Chen explain it in the video below, it seems to be much like the Toyota Prius's, only miniaturized (and, yes, monetized). He's increased the output of a standard Sturmey-Archer dynamo hub (commonly used to power bicycle headlights), set the more powerful dynamo to only kick in when the brake is engaged, and added an ultracapacitor to store the accumulated kinetic energy while the bike's out and about.
For now, the system's still a concept, but it opens the door for future innovations, and begs some interesting questions: What will the auto industry of the future look like? What new ways will we generate energy? How will urban planning change to facilitate these new advances?