Pedal Far With A Solar Powered Tricycle

More and more electric bikes have been rolling out into the streets lately as people realize how inexpensive and easy they are to ride and use when compared to cars. They can also be pedaled like a normal bike, so it’s still possible to get some exercise with them too. Most have a range somewhere around 10-30 miles depending on battery size, weight, and aerodynamics, but with a few upgrades such as solar panels it’s possible to go much, much further on a charge.

[The Rambling Shepherd] had a tricycle (in the US, generally still considered a bicycle from a legal standpoint) that he had already converted to electric with a hub motor and battery, and was getting incredible range when using it to supplement his manual pedaling. He wanted to do better, though, and decided to add a few solar panels to his build. His first attempt didn’t fare so well as the 3D-printed mounts for the panel failed, but with a quick revision his second attempt survived a 50-mile trip. Even more impressive, he only had his battery half charged at the beginning of the journey but was still able to make it thanks to the added energy from the panels.

If you’re thinking that this looks familiar, we recently featured a tandem tricycle that was making a solar-powered trip from Europe to China with a similar design. It has the advantage of allowing the rider to pedal in the shade, and in a relatively comfortable riding position compared to a normal bike. Future planned upgrades include an MPPT charge controller to improve the efficiency of the panels.

23 thoughts on “Pedal Far With A Solar Powered Tricycle

  1. This looks like a great idea. You can panels in sizes oaf 180 Watts or 240 Watts from house installations that would drive a motor easily.

    Keeps you out of the sun and the rain.

    In my area the concept would really take off … cyclones, tornadoes.

  2. Without knowing anything about the specifics of this, I may be talking through my hat, but it looks like he’s only using about 48/70 (69%) of the power generated by the panels, simply by voltage mismatch. Another pair of panels (rotate them 90º and make a wider array rather than a longer one) would allow parallel/series connections that would produce roughly the correct voltage and quite a few amps so the motor would have more than enough to go without the battery (or fit a smart controller). Either that or lose one or more panel to carry less weight at the same power usage.

    Just for fun, here’s a similar treatment for the water using a homebrewed drive and a model airplane propeller.

    1. His later system with 4*50W panels that is 68V and around 3A at the maximum power point. Deduct 20% for mounting them horizontally. So simply having a simple voltmeter for measuring the array voltage, he should be able to keep his panes at around 64V when riding for best efficiency. Also flexible panels hate flapping and need rigid backing or they will break. Found this out the hard way.

    2. The way I interpreted his build was that he was using four 12V panels for a total of 48V, which actually matches his battery voltage. However, he measured 70V at no-load, and a 12V panel can easily produce 20V when it’s in an open circuit state. Subtracting a few volts for not being pointed directly at the sun and you can get to 70V open circuit. Under load, though, that’ll drop down to 48V but it would still be more efficient for him to get a MPPT controller.

    1. Well, the trailer will take less damage than I will when he dashes past me with that sharp corners in abdominal height. Here in Germany, there are many paths where cyclists and pedestrians have to get along with each other and I do know that passing a tri-cycle even with the most careful driver can be a problem at some places. This moving barn-roof is totally out of the question here.
      Not too impressed with it, especially when I see that I can make 45 miles with one charged battery on my e-bike and could easily carry another for extended range.

        1. >bi/tricycles aren’t allowed on highways here in the States

          This is incorrect. Bicycles are allowed on highways. They’re not allowed on interstates in most states but there are a number of states that do allow cycling on the interstates.

  3. 3D printed bracket for structural frame??? No way it’s going to hold, maybe some carefully designed and injected PC+ABS part, but definitely not 3D printed.
    A simple stick welded bracket would have been 10x faster to make, and almost everyone has a stick welder. (of course, a TIG welded part would have been perfect as it could be soldered on the aluminium frame)
    3D printing is simply not yet the universal response for part manufacturing, sorry.

      1. Ok, let say everyone with a garage and a bunch of tools. They cost 50€, sure, do a bunch of straight lines and be confident with it, but once you get it, a whole world opens to you with durable, custom and sturdy parts!

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