Image © Tony Chang
Go higher, faster, longer. Like the early days of aviation when all manner of innovations were being attempted – not all of them sensible or successful – the electric bike age has inspired clever people to try out improvements of their own design. Technology usually improves incrementally, not overnight. Some people and corporations push the envelope. We cheer them on and enthusiastically support pioneers with the courage to test their theories.
The holy grail of green energy transportation generally unites everyone. Electric enthusiasts all wonder when we will achieve the super battery – by which we mean vastly extended battery endurance. We mean reliability, power, speed, rapid recharging capability, economy.
Today the conversation is about solar power for your electric bike battery.
1,000 miles per gallon
Comparisons are tricky, but it has been estimated that ebikes like the Pendaki offer the equivalent of 1,000 miles per gallon of gas. Electric bikes are the most efficient transportation available. Can we make them even greener?
Take the following extreme example, for instance.
An electric scooter in Japan
Not long ago, Japan’s Hama Zero Company introduced the Fujin. This solar-powered electric bicycle has an assisted travel range of about 136 miles on a single charge. The company claims the bike can be used on public roads. The top speed is about 45 MPH. The bike is powered by a 940 watt per hour lithium-ion battery and weighs over 92lbs, including the solar panel placed in a box at the back of the bike. On cloudy days, the Fujin can charge its batteries from a home power socket at insignificant cost.
The downside is pretty steep. It stretches credulity to call the Fujin a bicycle. In truth, it is a motorcycle-with-a-trace-of-scooter hybrid. Fun, certainly. Powerful, yes. But definitely not in the same ballpark as a straightforward, uncomplicated electric bike. Trail supervisors and park rangers are unlikely to take kindly to such conveyances on their bike paths.
On the practical side, the Fujin’s solar power panels, large and necessarily exposed, are vulnerable to casual damage. Fujin is a vehicle that is not to be left in any old handy parking space.
A glimpse into the future
In general, we see solar power making inroads. It’s no surprise that riders continuously seek ways in which to extend their range. It did not take long for someone to think that power from the sun would offer an advantage. And so, solar panels have nudged their way into modest prominence. Electric bike batteries must store about 200 to 500 watts of energy to travel any appreciable range. More powerful bikes need even bigger batteries.
Some solar panels collect 25 to 75 watts of output and three such panels can provide the 36 volts used in many electric bicycles. Bikes-As-Transportation claims that he uses around 100 watts per hour. These roll up small enough to place on the rear rack, including the charge converter. Non roll-up solar panels are more efficient but are not that easily transported. Panel size depends on the amount of available time in the sun and the size of the batteries that need to be charged. Most solar panels now do not need direct sunlight to work but they will not operate at 100% capacity on cloudy days.
Solarizing your electric bike
Getting more mileage out of your electric bike is something you will do with practice. Mileage depends on a combination of conditions and riding style. The Anggun can take you 25 miles on a charge or 42, depending on all of those factors.
If you decide to make the switch to solar, your bike can probably be retrofitted with third party solar panels at home. Once you go solar, we want to hear about your experience. Did you convert your e-bike to solar? Do you have information or tips you can share with other electric bike owners?
“Running a bike on sunlight is hip, green, fun, more common than ever and also more affordable.” (NYCeWheels)
About Kimberly Rotter