I’ve had a couple of solar powered electric bikes running well for the last 6 months so it’s probably about time I wrote a review of the systems.
My wife works 24 km away in West perth & used to commute by car. I always thought this was insane. Apart from the painful drive, it costs a fortune to park. My wife had a few goes at riding to work; starting by riding one way & then getting the train home She’d leave the bike at work and ride home the next day. This seemed like a pretty good compromise between convenience & physical effort and continued until one day when I found myself at a bike shop and saw a Malvern Star with a Solar Bike conversion kit on it. This was the first electrically assisted bike I’d seen that looked like a normal bike & not something your granny would take to the shops with a basket on the front. We took it for a test ride, mulled it over in the tavern with a beer and then bought it. My wife loves it! No more dealing with rude selfish people on the train, she gets a lot of exercise without killing herself and it’s just a lot of fun.
The best way I can describe it is: it completely flattens out the hills; you get all the good bits about riding a bike without the pain. You use the throttle to get you going from a standing start & to pull you up the hills or into a head wind and it’s even possible to tow the kiddie trailer with ease.
We were hooked & I wanted to join in. I bought the online special. At the time it was an 11Ah super tube kit with a solar charging set up. I fitted the kit to a Giant Cross City myself in about an hour. Really quite easy. The only modification I made was to put the thumb throttle on the left side, leaving my right thumb free to change gears.
I set the solar charging kit up in my shed, with the panel on the roof, this was a bit more technical but not complicated. The solar panel charges a lead acid battery during the day & then this charges the bike when you get home in the evening (when the sun is gone). This has worked very well for the three days a week my wife goes to work, but struggled a bit to charge both bikes if we used them at the weekend too. To be fair though, this is during winter with limited sun available. I expect this to change during summer. And even now in spring it’s worked perfectly. I also use it to charge my bike lights. Of course it’s possible to charge from mains if the solar system gets low.
I took the super tube kit out recently for a bit of a distance test. Using the power only when I needed it (up hills & into a head wind). It was going so well I decided to head home via the coast, unfortunately into a strong head wind. Eventually running out of charge at 56.76 Km. I believe if I hadn’t struggled into the wind, I would have made the last 7 Km home. Still a pretty good effort!
My wife averages 28Kph to work, passing many “roadies” along the way. I heard recently that the average speed of cars on the freeway at that time in the morning is 32Kph. Considering the bike takes you from door to door (no looking for expensive parking, & walking the rest of the way), then traveling time is comparable to the car.
The biggest difference is that riding the bike is enjoyable & something to look forward to, not a stressful, frustrating, chore of a car trip. My 1st choice for transport is now the electric bike. Our 2 year old son loves riding in the child seat or trailer. Trips to the shops are a pleasurable adventure and it gives me great satisfaction that the powered assistance comes from the sun.