TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016’s “wildcard” participant GeoOrbital has a different take on the electric bike. Instead of putting a motor on the bike, they put it in the wheel. This crazy idea was actually prompted by something founder Michael Burtov saw in the movie Tron. He thought there was a lot of wasted space inside the motorcycles because of their hollow wheels. But this triggered him to dream up what he now calls the GeoOrbital wheel.
The wheel, which comes in two sizes, is designed to be attached to any bike in less than a minute — taking the place of your bike’s front wheel.
It uses a Panasonic 36V removable Lithium-Ion battery with a pedal-assisted range of up to 50 miles per battery, or up to a 30-mile range for the 26-inch wheel. It also has a 500W Brushless DC motor that the company claims will get you to 20 miles per hour in just 6 seconds. And just like any other electric bike, you can continue to pedal to go even faster.
The wheel comes in two sizes to cover more than 95 percent of all adult-sized bicycles, the company says. If your bike has a 26-inch wheel, or 700c front wheel, and uses rim brakes, the GeoOrbital wheel fits, the company’s Kickstarter page explains. It’s also compatible with 28-inch and 29-inch wheels, they say.
The wheel charges by way of USB through a built-in outlet, which can also power a speaker on the go or charge your phone. You can also remove the battery if you need portable power — like for a day at the beach.
GeoOrbital blew past their $75,000 fundraising goal in just 78 minutes. Backers have now funded the company to the tune of $633,788 as of the time of writing.
The wheel itself is an all-season “flatless” tire filled with solid foam. That may not make it ideal for serious bikers, but they’re not really GeoOrbital’s market, either.
“We look at it as more of an urban product, or suburban product,” says Burtov.
He explains that his wheel will appeal to anyone who wants to bike, but needs a little boost. That could include people who simply want to arrive at work without getting sweaty, or anyone who would otherwise go biking but for some reason couldn’t.
This is not Burtov’s first startup. He founded a SaaS-based HR software company prior to GeoOrbital. But he’s now been working on the wheel for a couple of years.
After making a prototype and filing patents, he ended up meeting SpaceX engineer Dakota Deckerd at a local event.
A year and a half ago, Deckerd left SpaceX and became GeoOrbital’s CTO.
Now the two-person team has more than 20 testers driving on their wheel around the startup’s hometown of Cambridge.
Following its Kickstarter debut a week ago, GeoOrbital is ready to go into production. They’re working with a manufacturer in New England who makes both the parts and accessories.
The company is also no longer entirely bootstrapped. A month ago, they took in their first outside money by raising $150,000 from a group of independent angel investors.
GeoOrbital aims to start shipping its wheels to customers this fall for $700. For Kickstarter backers, it will run $499.