When product designer Somnath Ray started commuting to work by bike to lower his carbon footprint, most of the ride was easy—but a few steep hills were so challenging that he realized that the effort might discourage other people from making the same transportation choice. He started working on a new solution: a simple attachment that temporarily converts any bicycle into an electric bike.
The new design, called Clip, attaches to the front wheel of a bike in seconds. Two arms lock around the bike’s fork, and the other end connects with the front of the wheel. A tiny controller attached to the handlebars has a button that you can push to boost your bike’s speed as you pedal up a hill (its maximum speed is 15 miles per hour). The whole thing is streamlined and weighs seven pounds; a tiny, 450-watt motor sits on the front end, and the batteries are housed in the arms of the device. It’s small enough to fit inside a backpack.
“We wanted to have a solution where people could attach it to the bike really easily, and then basically detach it when they arrive to work,” Ray says. At work, you can plug the device in to charge at your desk, then reattach it for your ride home. The range covers a 10-to-15-mile commute.
While electric bike sales are quickly growing (by last May, as the pandemic made all bike sales surge, e-bike sales were up 137% over the previous year), a fully electric bike is typically expensive, often well over $1,000. Some other electric attachments are also expensive. The Copenhagen Wheel, a sleek electric wheel that is no longer on the market, sold for more than $1,700. Clip, which will be on the market in the coming months and is available for preorder now, sells for $399, which the company hopes will make it more accessible to riders who otherwise couldn’t afford to switch to an electric bike. It also isn’t as heavy as conversion kits that have to be permanently attached, and if someone wants to use it only for certain rides, it’s easy to leave at home. The company is also in talks with bike-share companies that may lease the device to subscribers, avoiding the expense and logistical difficulties of adding electric bikes to their fleets.
In New York City alone, according to a study from the Rochester Institute of Technology, commuters that switch to bikes because of the new device could potentially save around 1.5 million gallons of gas in a year. “That helps us legitimize the idea that you could actually reduce carbon and urban congestion from cities if more people start bicycling in the U.S.,” Ray says.