Cycling is fantastic for the environment, but if you’re sucking down mouthfuls of smog as you’re riding, it’s a lot less fantastic for your lungs.
That’s why designers from Thailand recently created a bicycle concept that literally eats air pollution.
The yet-unnamed design, from Lightfog Creative and Design Company, cleans polluted air, sending the purified oxygen to the rider before circulating it into the environment around him.
“We wanted to simply add more functionality to a bicycle by adding to its ability to reduce the pollution,” writes Silawat Virakul, Lightfog’s creative director, in an email to TakePart.
When polluted air is sucked in through the front of the filter, which is mounted to the handlebars, it’s pumped through the cycle’s aluminum frame to its interior photosynthesis system. Oxygen is generated through a reaction between water, kept in a small on-board tank, and electricity that’s supplied by a lithium ion battery. Once the air is purified, it exits the back of the handlebar filter, which blows it toward the rider’s face and out into the air around him.
Virakul says he and his team are still working out exactly how much oxygen could be created by their design. As FastCoExist reports, there are other details to be considered, namely how the batteries would be charged.
Asia’s exceedingly awful air quality compelled Virakul to create the concept, he says.
A study conducted this year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that of 300 cities across 16 Asian countries, 70 percent exhibited levels of air pollution that exceeded standards set by the World Health Organization. Globally, air pollution could become the biggest environmental cause of premature death by 2050.
Lightfog’s idea is similar to another created for the residents of Beijing, which has experienced a string of terrible air quality days this year.
In February, Matt Hope, a British designer living in Beijing, created a Breathing Bicycle, which uses a wind generator to power an air-filtration system that sits on the back of the bike. Once the air is cleaned, it’s pumped into a tube connected to the rider’s face mask. Unlike Lightfog’s concept bike, Hope’s design doesn’t clean the atmosphere.
Even if Lightfog’s design—or the Breathing Bicycle, for that matter—are never embraced by the masses, regular old bicycling can still do a lot of good for our planet.
A 2011 study conducted by the European Cycling Federation found that EU countries could cut their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent if every country cycled as much as the residents of Denmark, who ride up to 600 miles each year.
Stateside, a study found that if 30 million urban and suburban Midwesterners replaced half their short car trips with cycling, about 4 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year could be saved.
So while innovations like Lightfog’s are years away from becoming a part of our daily lives, our bicycles can already play a significant role in creating cleaner air—provided we use them.