Can Solar Panels Power Your Electric Bike? Find Out Now!

Electric bikes have left a substantial mark on the worlds of cycling, commuting, and road-tripping. And each year, their capabilities seem to increase without signs of slowing down. But their most significant strength is also their weakness: they need electricity, and there’s none of that out in the wild. So, can you charge your e-bike with solar panels?

It is possible to charge your electric bike with solar panels. However, you must connect the panel to a solar generator, inverter, or a battery charge controller and not directly to your bike. But if you use only one small panel, getting a complete charge will take several hours.

Charging your e-bike with a solar panel is one option, but did you know some e-bikes also charge while pedaling?

Understanding solar power can feel quite daunting, and understandably you may be worried about your precious bike bursting into flames. But, if you just follow a few simple principles, you can pump up your flat battery with nothing but the sun.

How To Charge Your Electric Bike With Solar

If you have been wondering whether it’s possible to use solar to charge your bike, you may be happily surprised to learn that you have two options. Both options have their respective strengths and weaknesses, so your pick will come down to your specific needs.

Option 1 – Use A Solar Generator

Solar generators have gained massive popularity in recent months, and for a good reason, even though their name is a little misleading.

By themselves, they don’t actually generate any power. Instead, they are compact battery banks with built-in inverters and some intelligent technology that carefully regulate power output. The generation part kicks in when you hook up a solar panel to the unit, which charges the battery bank.

The Benefits Of Using A Solar Generator

There are a few benefits of opting for a solar generator system. Firstly, you don’t need a YouTube degree in the dark arts of solar power because most of these systems have been designed to plug and play.

This means you can simply plug your bike’s charger into the appropriate outlet and charge up your bike.

The second benefit is that you can charge your bike at night or during cloudy weather, provided the unit has enough charge. Just remember that if you opt for a tiny unit, its battery capacity may be less than your bike’s, meaning you won’t get a full charge. This obviously is fine if you also have a solar panel hooked up.

Finally, having a solar generator means you can power more than just your charger, making it an ideal companion for a camping trip.

The Drawbacks Of Using A Solar Generator

Unfortunately, however, there are two significant drawbacks as well. For one thing, solar generators are pricy. Sure, competition in the market has increased, leading to some price drops, but it will still cost you your golden tooth to get a good unit.

Secondly, because they are battery banks, they can be cumbersome. This means that you can’t strap it to your touring bike and take it along for the ride. Instead, you will need to cart it by truck, set up a campsite, and then operate from there.

Finally, your solar generator must invert the power from DC to AC to power your charger. This means that some of the input power from either the solar panel or the battery bank is used to power the inverter and not to charge your bike, meaning there is some power loss with this setup.

Apart from charging your e-bike with a solar panel, you could also consider using your car for charging.

Option 2 – Use A Solar Panel And Charge Controller

To answer the question if you can charge your bike directly from a solar panel: the answer is no. In other words, you cannot plug the wires from the panel directly into your bike. Nor would you want to because that is precisely how you may end up causing permanent damage.

So, you will need to buy a charge controller and a panel. These controllers capture the power flow from the panels and regulate it based on your needs.

Along with the charge controller, you will also need to get hold of a power adapter that can connect the controller to your bike’s battery.

The Benefits Of A Charge Controller

If you hope to use solar to power your ride for a long tour, then this is the way to go. There is no heavy battery, controller units are quite compact and light, and several modern solar panel options collapse, bend, and fold. This makes it possible to carry a panel around with you, even in a little trailer.

Furthermore, it’s considerably cheaper than a solar generator or battery bank. Obviously, if you are going to buy the most heavy-duty military-grade panel, then your savings might not be as big. But if you opt for a typical compact camping panel, you will have some spare change.

The Downsides Of A Charge Controller

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and the same applies here. Firstly, charge controllers can take a little fussing to navigate and set up. This means it’s not entirely as foolproof as a generator unit. You will probably need to do some homework to ensure that you set up your unit’s power output to match your bike’s battery.

Secondly, you will be entirely reliant on the sun, so if you run into bad weather or are hoping to charge your bike during the night and ride during the day, this won’t work for you.

Finally, you should mentally prepare yourself that charging your bike will take a long time. For example, if you have a battery of 650 WH and a 110 W panel, you are looking at around six to seven hours to get a full charge. And that’s with the panel running at maximum capacity.

True, you can get around the time delay by linking panels, but you will also add extra weight to your trip.

Conclusion

While you cannot hook a solar panel up directly to your electric bike’s battery, it is possible to charge it with solar power. One option is to use a solar generator and simply plug your charger into the unit to charge your bike. Or, you can get a charge controller and then connect your battery to the panel through the controller.

You might also be interested in how to carry your e-bike on your car.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles