Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have invented a device that could transform the commuting world, and dozens of people in B.C. and across Canada are already shelling out big bucks to get it.

The Copenhagen Wheel is a bright red, high-tech wheel that replaces the rear wheel of a standard bicycle, turning it into an electric hybrid. The wheel's built-in battery captures energy whenever a cyclist brakes or rides downhill. The wheel releases the stored energy when it senses the cyclist pedalling harder, allowing the rider to bike "faster, farther, and easier."

"There's a really big hill they don't like to go over or they get too sweaty and they don't want to have to shower at work, the Copenhagen Wheel was sort of created as a way to remove these obstacles," said Jon Stevens, an engineer with the company Superpedestrian which is now developing the wheel.

Stevens said the wheel is more advanced than a standard electric bike because it powers the bike automatically through sense and control algorithms. Cyclists can use a smartphone app to adjust how much of a kick they get.

"You just ride your bicycle like it's a regular bicycle, but you get all the benefits of having an electric bike," said Stevens.

The company has been taking pre-orders for two months, and already more than 16,000 people have paid $800 USD — plus shipping — to get one.

After nearly five years of development, the Copenhagen Wheel will be hitting the pavement this spring. 


With files from CBC's Robert Zimmerman