October 15

Solar Power- E-Bike Charging: The Possibilities

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Many people favor electric bikes because of their energy efficiency! You can travel as far as 100 miles on just $1-worth of electricity. But if you care about the environment and want to do your part in conserving it, it’s now possible to charge your e-bike battery using solar panels. 

Several manufacturers in the solar power industry have managed to create portable solar panels and turned them into a moving charging station for e-bikes. 

In this post, we consider the possibilities available to you as far as solar charging for e-bike batteries is concerned to determine whether it is something worth pursuing! 

Why Do You Need a Solar Charger for Your E-bike?  

Getting a solar charger for your electric bike can be a great benefit. The charger is lightweight and conveniently portable that allows you to carry it anywhere your adventures take you. Being able to replenish the capacity of your battery while camping in the middle of nowhere is something you will very much appreciate.

It prevents you from being stranded far from home and the burden of then having to pedal a heavy e-bike back home. Furthermore, it is a more economical option of charging your battery compared to doing this every night at home. All you need is the sun and you’ll be surprised just how much energy you can soak in.

Not to mention that you’ll be playing your part in conserving the environment!

Impact on the Environment

Choosing an electric bike as a primary mode of commuting over a car or public transportation goes a long way to reduce the carbon footprint in the atmosphere. 

While e-bikes are already environmentally sustainable, you can further exploit their eco-friendly potential by charging them via solar power as opposed to directly plugging the battery into an electric socket. Solar power is a more sustainable energy source that can serve you just as well as electricity!

Solar Charging Options for Your Electric Bike

There are various charging options available to you, and these range from stationary to portable solar panels that you can carry on the back of your bike. You can also find power trailers bikes, and very soon there will be bikes that are exclusively designed to use solar power. 

solar powered e bike

Power Trailer E-Bike 

Hooking Up the E-bike to the Solar Panel

To generate adequate power to charge the e-bike’s battery, the solar panels you choose need to come with a decent wattage output. Ideally, you should look for an option with a cost that is less than a dollar per watt! For instance, a 100-watt solar panel for under $100 is a good deal.

You may find a cheaper panel with a small rating but when you calculate the dollar per watt, you will realize that it’s not that cheap after all. For example, a 10-watt panel for $25 is not cheap since it implies $2.5 per watt. 

To cut the long story short, get a solar panel larger than 60-watt for under a dollar per watt!

Solar Panel Options

Stationary Solar Panels

Your first option is to purchase large strong panels that are designed to be stationary. These can be installed somewhere around the house, where you can easily hook your e-bike after every session of cycling. 

Alternatively, you can get a spare battery for your bike so that one battery charges during the day when the sun is out as you run errands with the other battery. The used battery is then connected to the charger once you get home and replaced with the charged spare. 

However, you should note that it will cost you more to buy larger panels. The good thing is that by going bigger, you maximize the battery charging potential. Stationary charging stations reduce the likelihood of theft and vandalism, especially when you install them inside your property.  

Nevertheless, they can limit the length of journeys you can make and would be better suited to short daily commuters. They are also a less expensive solar panel option.

Foldable and Portable Solar Panels

This is a more flexible option for adventure e-bike riders because it allows you to take the solar panels along with you. Portable solar chargers will come in handy when you are planning a multi day trip in the wilderness where there is no electricity.

If you are using  these panels,, you won’t have to worry about getting stranded away from home because your e-bike battery ran out of power. On the downside, you will be constrained in terms of size and power capacity because of the relatively smaller panels. 

There are fewer options available when it comes to foldable panels, and these also tend to be more costly than those discussed above. Another concern is that they add to the weight of the already heavy electric bike, as well as the clutter since you’ll have to find a way to store them even when they are folded. 

As it is not really possible to charge the battery as you ride,  you will have to pause your journey while you charge the battery. Not to mention that the weather can turn out to be your worst enemy. If it starts to rain and there isn’t enough sunlight, then the solar charger will be of no use.

Solar Panels on a Rear Pack

Some people choose to install a solar panel bike trailer, which allows for larger and stronger solar panels to be attached to the trailer. This is pretty convenient for people who travel long distances on their electric bikes. The set up also makes it possible for you to charge the battery even as you ride on the trail.

However, it also implies that you will be limited to the kind of routes you can follow. You won’t be in a position to venture into extreme off-road trails that require a lot of squeezing through and navigating tight bike paths with your off-road fat tire e-bike for example. 

The weight is another factor to consider and a solar panel pack installed on the rear of the bike will have serious implications on your balance and stability, especially if it’s a heavy setup. Finally, this is the most expensive of the three options, given that you will have to invest in a trailer and the necessary attachments in addition to the solar panels. 

Advantages of Solar Power E-bike Charging

Practicality

Some portable solar panels are based on a blanket-type design, featuring a large panel divided into several smaller panels. The advantage of this is that you get to fold the panel into a manageable size that you can fit inside a briefcase for easy storage and transportation. 

This creative design also comes with a hook for effortless carrying, as well as a pocket where you can stow away the charger needed to make the most of the solar panels. It therefore allows you with the option to carry the panel on its own, store it inside your backpack, or attach it somewhere on the bike. 

Natural Way of Charging

Unfortunately, these portable solar chargers for e-bikes are designed to only charge the battery directly and can’t store energy . After all, you wouldn’t be able to open up the panel while riding, so it’s understandable that it’s only meant for direct charging. 

Nonetheless, the important thing is that you get a simple and neat solar panel charger that will provide your e-bike battery with a safe and renewable form of energy whenever it is needed. As long as you have some natural light, you won’t have to worry about the dwindling battery capacity. 

Lightweight and Portable

Generally, this charger is designed with a lightweight and easy to carry frame that will come in handy for riders setting out on long and overnight trips. Any cyclist will have little trouble with the extra weight.

The materials used to make the panels are not only lightweight but also durable. They are specifically protected from the tough outdoor conditions so that they don't wear fast and won’t be affected by extreme elements. 

Several additions make it practical for you to carry both the panels and charger, including a hook that you can attach to your electric cargo bike, as well as a special pocket where you can store the charger. 

solar charging an ebike

Easy to Install

Electric bike solar chargers are also easy to install, whether you want a stationary charging station or one that you can carry on your bike. The usage is relatively straightforward once the solar panels have been set up. 

When you want to charge the e-bike battery, all you need to do is open and spread out the solar panels then connect the charger to the panel before connecting it to the bike. With these simple steps, you can relax and wait for the battery to charge!

It is the most straight forward charger you can get for your bike! Although it is an initial costly investment , it is very easy to operate. 

High Durability

Most of these solar panels have also been built to cope with the tough conditions you encounter in the outdoors. The panels are placed within a fabric that is resistant to easy tear and abrasions and also provide protection during adverse elements on the trail.

Are there Electric Bikes that are Specifically Built to Use Solar Power?

Currently you won’t find any major manufacturers selling off the shelf e-bikes that integrate solar power capacity. This is somewhat a shame, considering that it would offer a much easier and convenient option of charging your battery. 

Nevertheless, several specialized bike models are still in development, so we can expect these to make an entry into the market as the demand for solar bikes grows. One company that is leading the journey to officially launch these types of bikes is Sun-E Bikes

The manufacturer has produced bike prototypes with photovoltaic cells lined along the frame and wheels. These enable the bike to charge even as you ride. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see what will be available in the market though!


Final Thought

If you decide to experiment with a solar power electric bike charger, you might want to note that it is not an absolute alternative for all electric bike riders. Not only will it cost you a considerable sum of money to acquire,  but also comes with a fair share of challenges as highlighted above. 

If you are however serious about harnessing the power of the sun, then you should consider this option!


About the author

Emma was born and raised in the UK, studied in Amsterdam (where she discovered her passion for biking), and is currently living in Ohio. Her main passion is cycling, that's why she is always looking for an amazing new e-bike to make her journey even more unforgettable!


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