Electric bikes have many benefits and help us get to place to place in a fast and efficient way. The only thing that would make electric bikes better is if we didn’t have to charge them. What if there was a way to charge them using the sun? In fact, there is a way to solar-charge your bike!
You can use solar panels to charge your electric bike. Using solar panels can save you money and reduce your overall charging time. However, this process isn’t DIY-friendly, and you will need additional tools like a battery inverter and solar charge converter.
Installing and using solar panels to charge your electric bike isn’t easy. However, if you’re up to it, installing solar panels can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience with great benefits. Not to mention it is an environmentally-friendly way of charging your e-bike. Here’s everything you need to know on how to charge your e-bike with solar panels!
Yes, you can charge electric bikes with solar panels. There are many ways to do this, and not all of them are DIY-friendly. You will need to acquire the right solar panels, a solar charge controller, and a battery inverter to charge your electric bike with solar panels.
Using correct solar panels is crucial to your solar charging set-up. Using the wrong materials can reduce the efficiency of the solar panels, resulting in a slower charge time. The right solar panels will be determined by your battery’s capacity.
Your battery’s capacity is determined by its total amp-hours(Ah). To charge a 48V battery with 9.6Ah, you’ll need a minimum of two 200Watt solar panels. This will take you around 4-6 hours to fully charge.
You can find solar panels (on Amazon) at affordable prices. For our example below, we’re using a 100Watt Polycrystalline 12V Solar Panel (on Amazon).
Besides solar panels, you’ll first need to purchase a solar charge controller (on Amazon) and battery inverter (on Amazon). The power rating of the inverter you are buying should be capable of handling the energy demands of your bike charger. You’ll also need adapter cables and fuses for this project.
The solar charge controller will regulate the voltage and/or current coming from the solar panels to keep your batteries from overcharging.
The battery inverter converts the DC electricity from sources such as batteries or fuel cells to AC electricity, allowing you to power your e-bike like an appliance in your house.
You can find solar charge controllers on the internet for relatively cheap. We recommend the Renogy Wanderer Solar Charge Controller (on Amazon), as it’s affordable and reliable. For battery inverters, we recommend the BESTEK 150W Power Inverter (on Amazon).
As always, make sure these parts are compatible with your e-bike model and bike charger before making a purchase! That way you won’t have to deal with making any returns or being stuck with incompatible parts.
Caution: If your e-bike has a battery in the 72V range, be aware of the risk of electrical shock when designing or riding your electric bike with a solar panel. Your skin can protect you if you are shocked from voltages up to a 40 – 45V range, but higher than that leaves you at risk.
However, most bikes don’t have batteries with voltages over 48V, unless they are custom-made. Regardless, be cautious and safe when setting up and using your electric bike.
Without further ado, here is how to install a solar panel to your electric bike:
The first step is to connect the solar charger controller and inverter to the battery. For the best safety practices, be sure to place a fuse on the positive leads between the battery and both the charge controller and inverter.
Both your charge controller and inverter should turn on, indicating that both components have power.
Next, connect your solar panel to your charge controller. As always, the best safety practices here are to include a fuse on the positive wire between the two.
You should see a number for the inbound PV voltage on your charge controller’s screen, signaling that your solar panel has been successfully installed and connected.
Here comes the fun part! Finally, to ensure your solar panel is working correctly, place it in the sun and check the PV voltage on your voltage regulator. Your PV voltage might read around 0.8 amps.
If your solar charging system is working correctly, you can plug in your e-bike charger to the outlet on the inverter to begin charging.
48V lithium-ion batteries require 55.2 to 56.6 volts divided across the cells to be fully charged. A 24V charger only produces 27.6 to 28.3 volts. Theoretically, you should be able to use a 24V charger with a 48V battery, but it will just take much longer. That being said, get yourself a proper charger to be safe.
Using a 36V charger on a 48V battery will damage the battery. So even though it will charge, it is not recommended for this reason. Regardless of battery type, if you hook up a 48V battery to a 36V charger and let it charge to completion, you’re going to ruin your battery.
If you’re using lithium-ion batteries, you could cause a fire or other potential damages.
You can find 48V battery chargers on Amazon for under $30. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so purchasing the correct charger is crucial. That way, you won’t damage your battery.
The size of the inverter you need will depend on your e-bike’s battery voltage. A 36V electric bike battery may only need a 250Watt-350Watt inverter. On the other hand, you can purchase an oversized 1,000Watt inverter to be safe.
Can You Connect a Solar Panel Directly To an E-Bike Battery?
You can only connect a solar panel to an electric bike battery using a power inverter from what we’ve seen. Luckily, power inverters are relatively cheap and easy to come by. You can find 150Watt power inverters (on Amazon) for under $20.
One of the most important questions we can ask is, “How efficient are solar panels at charging e-bike batteries?” Well, the answer varies on multiple factors.
Your battery’s charge time will depend on voltage, amp-hours, battery type, solar panel wattage, and your solar controller. You can use a Solar Panel Charge Time Calculator to figure out the approximate charge time. Typically, it seems the charge time hovers around 8-12 hours of direct sunlight.
To get the most effective charge, the solar panel must be in direct sunlight. Also make sure that no obstacles are blocking the light. As you might guess, on a cloudy day, your solar panel will not be as efficient and will take longer to charge.
If you’d like to track sunlight to get a better idea of your charging conditions, you can get a solar tracker. A solar tracker is a piece of equipment that tracks sunlight so that you can maximize your charging efficiency.
Also, when charging your bike with the solar panel, be sure that your solar panel is at an angle, rather than lied down flat. That way it will capture more of the photovoltaic cells from the sunlight, which will result in a faster charge.
Yes, a power bank can charge an electric bike battery. However, your power station will need to hold more power than your battery requires to properly charge it.
Your power bank will fully charge your battery if your battery capacity is less than the station’s power capacity or if your charger’s power is less than 75% of the station’s output.
However, a power bank can be considered by some to be just a battery with outlets. So in that case you may be better off buying a spare battery and bringing that along with you. Unless, that is, your battery is not removable. In this case the power bank may be a good option for you.
You have the option to charge your electric bike with a solar panel, although it’s not the easiest process to do yourself. But if you ensure you have the right equipment and carefully follow the instructions, it is possible and is a great option to charge your bike on-the-go in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way.