Screenshot from Solar Trails video

Charge An E-Bike With Solar Power For Electrifying Bikepacking Trips

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Riding your e-bike way out beyond the grid doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’re going to end up having to pedal it without electric assist all the way home (or to the next outlet) if you don’t want to. Some crafty e-bikers have been experimenting over the years with ways to charge their batteries while on the go with solar power, but as far as I know, it’s only very recently that a few e-bike brands are addressing the solar charging angle themselves (more on that later).

Thanks to super affordable and lightweight solar panels and easily obtainable charge controllers, putting together a mobile solar e-bike charging kit could be an easy afternoon project, as long as you do your homework and have all your components at hand.

That’s not to say it’s going to be simple, though, as almost every brand of e-bike seems to have their own style of charging connector, and the different e-bike models will have varying battery voltage and capacity, plus each model’s motor and controller will differ in how much power the levels of pedal assist use, as well as the power output for when in throttle-only mode.

In other words, you’ll need to build a solar charging system that is specific to your e-bike, and as they say, your mileage may vary. But if you’re a solar-curious e-biker interested in putting together your own mobile charging setup, a new YouTube channel named Solar Trails might help spark some ideas.

In the caption of his first video, about a bike camping trip in Austria, he lists the equipment he used, and included some details about customizing his pedal assist levels to get the most mileage out of his battery. It appears that he converted his bike to an e-bike by adding a Bafang 1000W mid-drive motor and a 52V 17.5 Ah battery, which is another great DIY project if you’re handy.

The charging system includes a single 100W solar panel on the top of a bike trailer he pulls, plus a 200W solar panel that is stowed in the trailer until needed, plus a charge controller, which then feeds the battery. According to the video, with both the solar panels in use (nominally 300W altogether) the battery management system limits the input to 160W.

With any luck, we might get to see the evolution of this solar charging system into a more robust one over time, but in any case, he links directly to a document with all of his current equipment choices in the video caption, which may help guide others in building a similar system.

Screenshot from Solar Trails video

By the way, the e-bike brand with a mobile solar charging system I hinted at earlier is QuietKat, and it appears as if the output cable is configured to fit the connection on QuietKat batteries, but splicing in a different battery connection for another brand of bike is a simple workaround for that (YMMV).

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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