Many riders favor electric bikes because of their energy efficiency! Did you know that a 100 miles on an electric bike costs you only $1 in electricity? However, if you care about the environment and you want to make sure that you are conserving it, you will probably want to look into solar panels and solar panel charging.
Several companies in the market of solar power have managed to create various solar panels that you can move around and bring with you - these are essentially a portable charger for your electronic bike!
In today's topic, we discuss all about solar charging and whether it is a good way to keep your e-bike batteries in check - should you invest more time in the idea?
Why Do You Need a Solar Charger for Your E-bike?
If you get a solar charger and use it on your electric bike, you will probably notice some benefits soon. Many solar charges tend to be light, convenient and practical - you can easily carry them on your adventures, and they won't be annoying or seem like extra luggage. Sometimes you'll be stuck in the middle of nowhere, which is not practical for most chargers, but solar chargers are an exception - isn't that phenomenal?
A solar charger prevents you from being stranded far from home, and you won't have to pedal home just because you are out of power. Furthermore, it is a more economical option out of the two, and it will benefit the ecosystem as well. Basically, all you have to pay attention to is the sun, and you already don't have to worry about it running out!
Not to mention that you’ll be playing your part in conserving the environment, which is going to become a major topic really soon!
Impact on the Environment
Choosing an e-bike as your primary mode of commuting and deciding to ditch car rides as well as public transportation goes a long way to reduce the carbon footprint in the atmosphere.
While e-bikes tend to be environmentally sustainable, you can make them even more nature-friendly when you decide to charge them via solar power, not an electric source! This is a much more sustainable source of energy and it can serve you just as good as electricity can!
Solar Charging Options for Your Electric Bike
Obviously, you can always choose one of the many charging options - stationary, portable, solar, etc. There are also power trailer bikes, and very soon there will be bikes that are exclusively made to be powered by the solar energy.
Connecting Your E-bike To A Solar Panel
If you want to make sure that there is enough power provided to your electric bike, you must find solar panels that have a pretty good wattage output. Ideally, you should look for an option with a cost that is less than a dollar per watt! That means that for $100 you can expect a good 100-watt panel.
You may find a cheaper panel and it'll seem llike a great choice, but you have to keep in mind that it also probably has a small rating, which means that it isn't that great in the end. 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
One of the things you can do is purchase stationery panels, as these are usually larger and stronger. Make sure you install these somewhere around the house, and then you can easily charge your e-bike after every session of cycling.
Alternatively, you could get a second battery and charge them at different times, which means that one will always be available if the other is drained. Obviously, you have to put the used battery on a charger when you get home, as it won't have it as a spare for the next time.
However, you should note that getting the larger panels costs more and it's an investment. Bigger batteries do have better charging potential, which means that they are better overall. Stationary charging stations will also reduce the likelihood of theft and vandalism, especially when you install them inside your property.
Nevertheless, they can be a limitation to your journey as they will limit your journey's length. This is why they are a better fit for short, daily routes. As you might know, these are better when you discuss the price.
Foldable and Portable Solar Panels
If you're into more flexible options, we advise you to check these portable panels. They are great for those who love adventures, as you can take them with you with no worries. Portable chargers come in handy for those trips that take more than just a few days - even if there is no electricity, you're good to go.
So, when using these panels, there is no need to worry about your battery running out and you not having a way to return home. On the downside, the relatively small panels will not give you as much power and capacity as you might have expected.
There are fewer options available if you decide to get foldable panels, and these are usually a little bit pricier. These will also add to the weight of your already heavy electric bike, and they will be tougher to store as it creates more clutter. All that needs to be kept in mind.
Pausing your journey to charge the battery is also something that may bother you, as you won't be able to charge it during your journey. The weather could also create additional problems for you, sometimes really unexpectedly. If it's raining all day, and you don't get enough sunlight, you might not be able to use your solar charger.
Solar Panels on a Rear Pack
Some people decide to get a bike trailer that can carry the solar panel, and this essentially gives you greater power coupled with more practicality. This is pretty convenient for people who know they will go on lengthier trips on their electric bikes. This type of setup also makes it possible for you to ride while the battery is being charged, which is probably the greatest advantage of this type.
However, the trailer isn't the most route-friendly accessory, especially for complicated routes. Don't count on venturing 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
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.
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.
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!
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!
Thanks for the great article Emma. So you do need a charge controller between the bike charger and the solar panels?