The advantages of riding a bike are many, but let’s just mention here that, by choosing a bicycle to move around, you don’t add to the pollution, you get a workout (yes, even on an e-bike) and you still have time to enjoy yourself. You could soon add another benefit to this list, one that would top them all: by cycling, you could be actively providing fresh air to your fellow city-dwellers.
The idea of using a bicycle to actively filter air and coimbat pollution on the go is not new, having been used for several concepts before. This time, though, it’s not a bicycle that’s doing the filtering, but a very special wheel, the ROLLOE.
ROLLOE is the creation of industrial designer Kristen Tapping from London, UK, and has already been recognized with the Design Innovation in Polymer 2020 award. As Tapping reveals in an interview with RedBull from last month, she is now working on the third prototype, but she already has two functional ones and the theory laid out. She aims to secure funding and see this go into production in the next 18 to 24 months.
ROLLOE is a three-spoke mag wheel with two hubcap-like attachments, that sits in the front of the bike and weighs just 1,050g (2.3 pounds). Between the wheel and the hubcaps, there are three different filters and fins through which filtered air would be pushed out. Filthy air is sucked in through the central gravity by centrifugal force and pushed out through the fins. In theory, Tapping explains, the harder you pedal, the more air you’re able to purify.
The most obvious advantage is that you get to do it smack where it’s most needed: in crowded areas, where there’s heavy traffic.
The device uses three types of filters for maximum efficiency: Loofa sponge for large particles, HEPA for PM2.5 particles, and activated carbon for gas molecules, VOCs and odors. This would make it suitable for pollutants like PM10-2.5, Ozone O3, CO2 and NO2.
Tapping got the idea while riding through London and experiencing for herself the exhaust fumes, the heat coming off and the dust. She estimates that, if as little as 10 percent of London cycles used ROLLOE, they would filter 20 times the size of Trafalgar Square. Or, speaking in numbers, if Santander bikes used in 2018 had had ROLLOE, they would have produced 79,865 m3 of clean, filtered air.
Tapping is targeting the bicycle ride-sharing companies first with this invention, but she has plans for privately owned bikes as well. Santander or Mobike fleets could use ROLLOE and encourage cyclists to pedal more by tracking their progress and their location, through a variety of rewards. For privately owned bicycles, TfL (Transport for London) could step in and pay for the device itself and regular maintenance, as a means to get more owners to have the wheel put in instead of the regular one.
Speaking of servicing, the filters would be washable and the wheel would require maintenance once a week or every 250 km (155.3 miles) for fleet-owned bicycles. Each fleet operator could use the app to see when maintenance is in order, and take the bike to a local bike shop for disassembly but clean the filters elsewhere.
If Tapping secures funding and the ROLLOE goes into production, she’s also considering developing a similar rear wheel (which is trickier because of the drivetrain), various sizes for the current one, and even different color schemes. But as it is right now, this project is incredibly promising and theoretically able to render the greenest means of transport truly carbon-negative.