This Chinese startup has a crazy plan: bikes that absorb pollution
Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and China's "Uber for Bikes" plan to develop a bike that will absorb pollutants from the atmosphere
China’s cities have an enormous air pollution problem. Another thing they have in abundance? Bikes. Daan Roosegaarde, the Dutch designer and artist behind the Smog Free Tower project, has an idea: combine the two.
Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Towers absorb carbon and particulate matter from the Beijing air, which is then compressed into jewellery like rings and cuff links. Now, the company has signed a partnership with the Chinese bike-sharing startup OFO to work on developing the Smog Free Bike.
Announced at the World Economic Forum’s recent summit in China, the collaboration came out of a Smog Free workshop held in conjunction with Tsinghua University. The bikes will feature a front rack-mounted module that will intake air; inside, an air filter will reduce the carbon content and pass out clean air in the direction of the rider.
“We have a lot of experience with cleaning air in public space with the Smog Free Tower,” Roosegaarde told WIRED. “We are going use this expertise to implement it into bicycles.” The two companies will first begin working on a prototype, “test it, make a mistake, learn from it, upgrade and then upscale” he says.
Bikesharing is a logical step for such a platform: Ofo – occasionally referred to as China’s “Uber for bikes” – has an estimated 3million daily users across China. (The company recently launched its first UK city, Cambridge, earlier this year.) Even if a Smog Free bike only purify small amounts of air, they’re mobile, unlike the towers. And it’s a further example of how smart design within the public infrastructure can help lower carbon emissions.
A full-scale air purifying bike fleet may be some way off, but the Smog Free project continues to grow: after its successful trial in Beijing, Roosegaarde’s studio will open a Smog Free Tower in India later this year, with plans to debut versions in Columbia and Mexico in the near future. He hopes that the platform, and those like it, will become integrated into different layers of the city – from public transport to the buildings themselves. “I can imagine whole buildings being like a Smog Free tower in future,” he says.