Edinburgh, July 14 : Cyclists may not need struggle going uphill anymore, thanks to the development of a hybrid electric vehicle that will store power from freewheeling downhill in order to recharge a battery to help push the bike up again.
According to a report in the Scotsman, the bicycle, developed by Panasonic, is due to go on the Japanese market on August 20th, at an initial price of 700 pounds.
The bicycle, called the Panasonic Vivi RX-10S, features a dynamo on the front wheel, which transfers the energy generated by travelling downhill to a rechargeable battery near the rear wheel.
The bike includes a series of sensors which can work out when the cyclist is going uphill, or even just moving off from a standing start, so that the electric motor can kick in and help them move with a minimum of hard pedalling.
According to a leading expert on battery design, the breakthrough is mainly due to batteries becoming smaller, lighter and more powerful in recent years.
"In principle, the idea is simple. When the bicycle is at the top of a hill, that is potential energy, and when it is moving downwards we have kinetic energy. Normally that kinetic energy is converted into heat from the friction of the brakes, but in this case it is used to power the battery," said Peter Hall, professor of chemical engineering at Strathclyde University.
The bike's motor features four different modes, from "high" for those feeling unfit and in need of a lot of extra push, to "off" for those wanting to feel the burn in their legs as they race home.
The motor will not help the cyclist to break the speed limit, however, as once the bike goes faster than 15mph, the motor will cut out and the biker must rely on momentum and muscle.
In addition, for those whose route to work will be so challenging that they cannot rely on a hill to give them extra power, the bike's battery can be topped up from the mains - it takes about five and a half hours to fully charge it up.
The whole mechanism adds 2.5kg to the weight of the bicycle, and tests done by Panasonic on tracks which included a mixture of upward and downward hills have shown than the battery can power the bike for up to 113 miles without the cyclist having to stand up on the pedals to get the bike uphill.
According to Patrick Harvie, a member of the Scottish Parliament, "Anything that can help people to switch from the car to the bike is definitely a good idea," he added.