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solar powered bicycle

Today we are consuming more energy and natural resources in our day to day life. At the same time we are becoming responsible for the earths increasing pollution, deforestation and depletion of the natural resources such as ground water and fuel reserve. Due to this today we are facing with various natural hazards throughout the world which will grow bigger and bigger in the upcoming days. To save ourselves from this we need to conserve energy, we need to take some steps towards a sustainable greener future. A solar powered bicycle is a possible solution to take us towards the greener future.

Solar Powered Bicycle

A solar powered bicycle is a bicycle powered by the solar energy so that one can travel faster for a long time and as it is not using any kind of fuel, it will never caused pollution.

Time Required One can build this bicycle within two days; one day for procuring the necessary items and equipments and another day for assembling the equipments and charging the solar panel. For testing one more day is required. Resource Required

For this project we can use a mountain bicycle as they are generally tough in any kind of situations and they can give a smoother experience. The main equipments are: motor which motor controller, 36V 10Ah SLA (sealed lead acid) battery pack with charger, mounting rack to mount solar panel and the battery, a 30watt solar panel and charge controller to convert the solar power into battery power.

Instructions Basically there are three components-motor, throttle and the battery. They have to be properly connected with the solar panel and the bicycle. First unscrew all the components of the bicycle, especially the wheels and the carrier section. The battery will fit in the carrier section while the motor will get assemble in the wheels. The throttle and the motor will get connected with the battery through the connectors. Secondly, put the battery inside its box as specified in the manual. There are two small holes in the box through which the connecting wires will come out and these wires are directly connected with the battery. Thirdly, put the motor kit in the inside rim of the front wheel and then assemble it in its proper place. Fourthly, unscrew the break at right hand side of the handle (assuming the user is a right handed person) and pull it out. Install the throttle unit in here.

Next, connect the throttle and motor with the battery unit with the help of the connectors. Now assemble the entire cycle together and test it by pressing the throttle button whether the motor in the front wheel is working or not. Once that working, the next step is to work on solar panels. Now take the solar panel and mount it on the front side or on above the battery chamber. Theres a connector from the solar panel comes out which will go to the battery input unit and it will get connected in here. Now once the solar panel is charged, it will provide power supply to the battery to get it charged and provide power to the motor and the throttle.

discussion What is the Solar Panel for? It is there to charge the battery that runs the motor. On long trip or hill area, it will give the extra boost and on short trip it will boost the speed. Is it necessary to pedal? While the solar power is on and the battery is fully charged, it is not really a necessity to pedal but it is helpful always. Is it possible to change the batteries while pedaling?

In theory it is possible but in reality is not very comfortable and needs a lot of effort. Also the new battery may not give the same power as the earlier one. How fast it can go? It can go up to 80 km/h on the downhill, 34-48 km/h on flat ground while pedaling and on solar power, 32 km/h on 100% battery support on flat ground and 13-15 km/h on solar power only. What is the range? With fully charged battery it can go up to 55 km, and up to 140 km on a sunny day with fully powered battery on a flat ground. If the road is hilly the range comes down to half of the stated range on the flat ground.
What is the solar panel for?

Would you believe it's for charging my iPod? Mostly it's charging a battery that runs a motor. Think human-electric hybrid. On long trips, I only use it for extra help up hills. On short trips, I use it to boost my speed and reduce pedaling effort. Imagine commuting 10 miles without breaking a sweat. Imagine riding a bike which pulls its own weight up hills so that it feels weightless.
Do you really have to pedal?

While it's possible to ride shorter distances on flat ground without pedaling, I wouldn't want to. I started this project because I like cycling but I don't like climbing steep hills. This is still a bicycle. If I didn't want to pedal, I would have built a solar electric scooter.
Did you build it yourself?

Yes and no. The bike frame is an HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe touring recumbent. Most of the other components, like the motor kit, are

off-the-shelf items. The lightweight, aerodynamic solar electric module is a one of a kind custom job I designed and built.
Can you charge the batteries while pedaling?

I get this one a lot. In theory, it is possible. In reality, it takes a lot of effort to generate a useful amount of electricity. Imagine riding a bike with the brakes on all the time. How fun would that be?
But what about regenerative breaking down hills and in stop-and-go traffic?

Regenerative braking (using the motor as brakes and using the generated energy to charge the batteries) has attained near-mythical status as a source of free, non-polluting energy. It's like the Holy Grail of energy conservation. Regenerative braking makes sense on an electric car because a car is heavy and has a lot of momentum. Because a bicycle is so much lighter, regenerative braking would only add 2-3% to the battery's range. The added cost and weight simply aren't justified. In my case, I'm using a mid-drive motor with a freewheel on it which allows me to pedal without using the motor or motor without pedaling or do both at the same time. It's a very efficient, safe set-up and has very little motor drag when pedaling. However, the wheels cannot turn the motor. To add regenerative braking I would have to change to a completely different drive system where the motor is integrated into the wheel hub. BionX makes an electric bike conversion kit with a regenerative braking option. It's easier to implement this on a hub motor rather than the middrive motor I'm using. For the technically-minded, here's a great article with lots of numbers for a more comprehensive analysis: Regenerative braking and electric bicycles (PDF) .

What's with the funny looking bike?

Oh, the recumbent? In the earliest days of this design, I envisioned a large, flat solar panel with the rider sitting in a hole in the middle.

Here's a sketch of that idea. I though I would need a low, stable threewheeled platform to carry such a large panel. I figured the panel would need to be that big because I read that a cyclist uses 100 to 200 watts of energy while pedaling and I imagined being able to cruise all day without getting tired. I have since figured out that I don't need a 200 watt panel but that I do need a battery. The panel placement and design have undergone a least a hundred changes since the start of this project. Eventually, I may build a custom bike using carbon fiber composite construction to make it lighter.
How fast can it go?

52 mph (84 km/h) top speed coasting downhill 15-30 mph (24-48 km/h) pedaling with power assist on flat ground 20 mph (32 km/h) batteries driving motor, flat ground, no pedaling (this is the legal limit in California) 8 mph (13 km/h) projected top speed on solar power alone in full sun, no batteries, no pedaling

What's the range?

34 miles (55 km) on a full charge using just the batteries 20-25 miles (30-40 km) a day on solar power with my current solar module (cloudless day in Northern California in May) 40-60 miles (65-95 km) a day on solar power after I finish my next module Up to 150 miles (240 km) a day starting with full batteries, given ideal sun conditions all day between June and August with my current 40 watt module in the rear and a second 60 watt module in the front (under construction). All of these numbers assume mostly flat terrain. Hill climbing can cut all of these numbers in half.

Are you an engineer?

Nope. Would you believe first semester engineering school drop-out? Basically, I'm just stubborn. I refuse to believe it couldn't be done.

How much did it cost?

About US$ 0.25/mile, assuming it lasts 20,000 miles. I have put 3,100 miles on it so far. Put another way, I've spent enough on research and development to buy two or three really nice carbon fiber road bikes.

Quick Tips Anyone can build it with some basic knowledge and it is always better to work on a mountain bicycle. Also with more powerful battery one can increase the mileage and range. Things to Watch Out For After finishing this project one can go for solar powered scooty or bike and then on car. We have to think of the greener future that can sustain and this is the best time everyone to take responsibility for it. There are various companies out there in the market who offered this kind of bicycles and other accessories but it is better to do it yourself by procuring the equipments. This way one can learn and have fun at the same time.