An electric bike is a modern-day automobile that has successfully reduced the dependency on gasoline-powered cars, bikes, and public transport across many countries.
Maintaining an electric bike is all about keeping its battery charged. While charging an electric bike at public charging stations is already significantly less costly than refueling a gas-powered bike, using solar panels for charging can further help you save money.
Can You Charge an Electric Bike with Solar Panels?
An electric bike may look like a traditional bike; however, the addition of the chemical battery makes all the difference in its performance and price.
Like many modern-day electronics and inventions, an electric bike is designed to run on a battery.
The battery can be built inside the electric bike’s design or come as an individual, easily detachable component.
Battery-powered devices can be charged by a number of sources, including solar panels.
Continue reading to learn how solar panels can be used to create electricity to charge an electric bike’s battery, and how long it will take for a full charge.
Let’s get started!
How Are Solar Panels Used to Charge an Electric Bike’s Battery?
Solar panels were first invented in 1954 and soon began to be used in industrial, commercial, and residential localities to create electricity using renewable energy from the sun.
To fully benefit from this fantastic invention, solar panels are also used to charge the batteries of different electric vehicles, including electric bikes.
All one needs is the appropriate number of solar panels, other required electrical components, connective wiring, and direct, uninterrupted sunlight.
How Does the Solar Panel Mechanism Work?
Every basic electrical circuit or charging system built around solar panels uses some similar electrical components. These necessary electrical components include:
- Solar panels
- A regulator
- A battery (all types of battery chemical composition can be charged using solar panels; however, their ability and rate of storing and retaining charge will vary with different battery chemistry)
- An electric inverter
As light from the sun hits the flat surface of the solar panels, it heats up the liquid in the panels. The stored heat energy gets converted to DC electric current.
The solar panels are arranged in series or parallel to one another to increase the current or voltage respectively.
The DC current passes through the electrical regulator. The regulator is an electrical device that regulates the flow of electric current from the panels to the electric bike’s battery.
It prevents an excessive flow of electric current that could potentially overcharge the battery and lead to permanent battery cell damage.
Solar regulators have a built-in switch-off mechanism that allows the flow of electricity to stop once when the battery is fully charged.
Most electric bike batteries use direct current to charge. However, if an electric bike’s motor is designed to run on alternating (AC) current, a solar electrical inverter is also needed.
The inverter is used to convert the DC solar electricity that flows into an electric bike’s battery to be converted into AC current before it flows into the electric bike’s electrical motor.
Once the stored electric charge, which is stored as chemical energy in the battery, is passed to the electric bike’s motor, it gets converted into kinetic energy.
The newly produced kinetic energy is passed to the electric bike’s tires via the built-in energy transmitters, and as a result, the electric begins to pick up speed.
Hence, like all charging sources, solar panels can also be used to create DC electricity for the electric bike’s battery. The only difference is the renewable energy source and the system’s mechanism.
How Many Solar Panels Are Used to Charge an Electric Bike’s Battery?
Different electric bikes come with different-sized battery power packs. The battery pack size depends on the electric bike’s size, design, and intended usage.
For instance, if an electric bike is bulkier and heavier than others, it will require a bigger battery pack to pull the electric bike’s weight to ensure that the performance is not compromised.
Similarly, the number of solar panels used to charge an electric bike’s battery will depend on the size and capacity of an electric bike’s battery pack.
A larger battery will need more solar panels to put out the required energy to charge it.
On the other hand, for a smaller, lightweight electric bike, the relatively small battery will need less solar panels for a full recharge.
Moreover, the number of solar panels will also affect the duration it will take to fully charge an electric bike’s battery.
The higher number of panels will get the job done in less time, while a lower number of panels will take more time.
In general, the most common pedal-assist electric bikes come with 36-volt or a 48-volts battery. For such batteries, two solar panels that could create an output of 200 watts would be enough to fully charge the battery.
However, for a larger 52-Volt or 72-Volt electrical battery, three or four solar panels will be needed to charge the electric bike’s battery fully.
How Long Will an Electric Bike’s Battery Take to Fully Charge Using Solar Power Energy?
Charging an electric bike using solar panels will help reduce the annual electricity bills while encouraging the use of a renewable source of energy. However, not everyone will benefit from charging their electric bike this way.
The duration it takes to fully charge an electric bike’s battery will depend on multiple factors. These factors are listed and explained as follows:
- The size of the electric bike’s battery plays a huge part in determining how long it will take for the battery to get charged using solar power. A bigger high-voltage battery is designed to have a high charge capacity and a higher range. To charge such a battery using solar power, it will take significantly longer than charging a smaller low-capacity battery.
- The energy output of the solar panels.
- The battery’s chemical composition will also affect the energy storage and discharge rate. Most modern electric bikes now sport lithium-ion batteries. Unlike nickel-cobalt or lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries store excess solar power and charge faster. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries have a very low self-discharge rate and can retain their for longer. These qualities make lithium-ion batteries ideal for solar power charging.
- The number and size of the installed solar panels will also determine how long it takes to fully recharge an electric bike’s battery. A higher number of panels and a wider solar power plate will offer a greater surface area to volume ratio for sun exposure. As a result, they will be able to capture more sunlight, create more DC electric current, and hence, charge the battery faster.
- The quality and age of the solar panels will significantly influence the charging duration. Moreover, the quality of other electrical components and the wiring will also affect how long it takes to charge the battery.
- The amount of sunlight will have a massive impact on the time it takes to fully charge an electric bike’s battery. In countries or regions with high sun exposure and clear skies, it will take less time to charge an electric bike’s battery. On the other hand, regions with frequent cloud cover and less sun exposure will lead to a longer charging duration.
In general, a 12 ampere per hour electric bike battery will take up almost 5 to 6 hours to fully charge using solar panels.
How Do You Know When Your Electric Bike is Fully Charged?
All electric bikes have a built-in LED light designed to let the rider know of the bike’s charge status.
If the electric bike’s battery is fully discharged or the battery charging level is below 20%, then the color of the small LED light turns red.
When the electric bike’s battery is plugged into the charging source, the LED light usually turns a bright orange or yellow.
At times, some electric bikes come with a blinking LED light that notifies the owner that the charging process is ongoing.
Once the electric bike’s battery is either fully charged, or when the charging is above 85%, the LED light will stop blinking and turn green.
At this point, the owner can either unplug the battery from the charging source or wait for the battery to reach 100%.
The display meters are usually connected to the bike’s handlebars. They display battery level, the range, and notify if a battery is too hot or cold.
Another way to check the electric bike’s charging is by checking the LCD screen. A small battery charging bar in one corner of the screen will notify the owner of the exact charging status of the electric bike’s battery.
Pros and Cons of Using Solar Panels to Charge an Electric Bike
When charged using solar power, eBikes reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.
Pros of Using Solar Panels for Charging an Electric Bike
- Solar panels create electric energy using the sun’s light, which is a renewable and environmentally-friendly source of energy.
- Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy is ever abundant and unlimited.
- Charging an electric bike using solar panels is the least expensive way to charge an electric bike (after taking setup costs into account compared to charging via the grid).
- With more budget-friendly solar charging stations available, more people are encouraged to shift to electric vehicles.
- If the eBike owner can afford batteries, they’ll be able to use solar power to charge their eBike even on days when the sun isn’t shining at its brightest or for too long during the day.
- Many solar-powered EV charging across America offers free EV recharges.
- Sunlight is abundant in most countries; hence, this energy source is easy to acquire.
Cons of Using Solar Panels for Charging an Electric Bike
- People cannot benefit from charging their electric bikes using solar panels in countries or regions where sunlight is scarce or the weather is mostly cloudy or rainy.
- Solar panels are useless during the night unless they are also connected to a battery that stores the energy gained during the day.
- The initial price of investing in solar panels can be very costly.
- What’s more, to store excess energy produced by solar panels, one needs to invest in costly batteries. All this just serves to increase the initial price of charging an electric bike with solar panels.
With fossil fuel reserves nearing depletion, now is the time for the world to shift to non-renewable sources of energy.
The sun produces and sends an endless supply of energy our way. Therefore, it is unsatisfiable to not benefit from it, especially considering that this energy is free and does not harm the environment.
Hence, if you have an electric bike to charge at your home, choose solar energy over traditional electric power means.
Not only will solar energy help reduce your annual electricity bills, but it will give you the opportunity to reduce your dependency on power produced by non-renewable means.
All you need is the right amount and size of solar panels, along with direct exposure to sunlight, to enjoy a fully charged electric bike for your everyday commute.
You may like the following electric bike articles:
- How Much Does It Cost to Rent An Electric Bike In the United States?
- How To Adjust Electric Bike Brakes
- Can You Overcharge an Electric Bike Battery?
- How Steep A Hill Can An Electric Bike Climb?
- Are Electric Bikes Safe to Ride?
- Can Electric Bike Batteries Be Repaired?
My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.