A white longtail cargo bike sits on grass with fenced-in planters behind it. The bike has a basket made of black metal tubes on the front and a passenger compartment behind the rider seat for children made of similar black metal tubes. A white canopy is above the passenger compartment and a solar panel sits atop the canopy.

Solar Powered E-bike Replaces Car Trips

E-bikes can replace car trips for some people, and adding a solar panel can make the fun last longer. [Luke] did some heavy modifications to his RadWagon to make it better, stronger, and faster than it was before.

The first step was replacing the stock 750 W controller with a 1500 W model to give the motor twice the power. [Luke] plans to replace the motor if it gets fried pushing too much juice, but is planning on just being careful for now. To stop this super-powered ride, he swapped the stock mechanical discs out for a hydraulic set which should be more reliable, especially when loading down this cargo bike.

On top of these performance enhancements, he also added a 50 W solar panel and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller to give the bike a potential 50% charge every day. Along with the OEM kid carrier and roof, this bike can haul kids and groceries while laughing at any hills that might come its way.

Checkout this other solar e-bike or this one making a trip around the world for more fun in the sun.

Ebike Charges In The Sun

Ebikes are slowly taking the place of many cars, especially for short trips. Most ebikes can take riders at least 16 kilometers (10 miles) without too much effort, at a cost that’s often a single-digit percentage of what the same trip would have been with an internal combustion engine. If you’re interested in dropping the costs of your ebike trips even further, or eliminating it entirely, take a look at this small ebike with integrated solar panels.

While any battery can be charged with a sufficiently large array of solar panels and the correct electronics to match the two systems together, this bike has a key that sets it apart from most others: it can charge while it is being used to power the bike. Most ebikes don’t have charging enabled during rides, so if you want to use the sun while riding to extend the range of the bike you’ll need to find one like this. This bike uses two 50 W panels on the two cargo areas of the bike, attached to a 400 W MPPT charge controller. The Lectric XP 2.0 ebike has a motor with a peak rating of 850 W, but in a low pedal-assist mode the solar panels likely output a significant fraction of the energy used by the electric drivetrain.

Even if the panels don’t provide the full amount of energy needed for riding around, the project’s creator [Micah] lives in Florida, so just setting the bike outside in the sun for six to eight hours is enough to replenish most of the battery’s charge. It’s probably not going to win any solar-powered bike races anytime soon, but for an efficient, quick bike to ride around town it’s not too shabby.

24 Hours Of Le Airplanes

There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.

In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.

It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.

Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.

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Bee Motion Combines ESP32 With PIR Sensor And USB-C

There’s no shortage of ESP32 development boards out there, with many of them offering some “killer app” feature which may or may not align with whatever it is you’re trying to do. But if you’ve got a project that could benefit from the pairing of a powerful WiFi-enabled microcontroller and a passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor, the Bee Motion created by [Paul Price] is certainly worth a close look.

This breadboard compatible package combines an ESP32-S2 module with a top-mounted PIR sensor, making it a turn key solution for all sorts of motion sensing projects. In addition to the expected onboard voltage regulation, there’s also a LiPo charge controller and status LEDs for mobile or battery-backed operation.

While there’s far too many variables involved for [Paul] to give a specific runtime for the Bee Motion, he’s run some numbers and found that a 1500 mAH cell could potentially keep the board running for over a year if you’re taking advantage of the MCU’s deep sleep capabilities. When it’s time to recharge, whenever that may be, the board’s USB-C connector means you won’t be searching around for the proper cable.

Schematics and CAD files are available in the Bee Motion GitHub repo, and [Paul] is also selling assembled boards on Tindie. All you need now is to get inspired by some of the slick PIR projects we’ve covered in the past.

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Tracking Maximum Power Point For Solar Efficiency

In days of yore when solar panels weren’t dirt cheap, many people (and even large energy companies) used solar trackers to ensure their panels were always physically pointed at the sun to make sure they harvested every watt of energy possible. Since the price of panels has plummeted, though, it’s not economical to install complex machines to track the sun anymore. But all solar farms still track something else, called the Maximum Power Point (MPP), which ensures that even stationary panels are optimized for power production.

While small MPP trackers (MPPT) are available in solar charge controllers in the $200 range that are quite capable for small off-grid setups, [ASCAS] aka [TechBuilder] decided to roll out an open source version with a much lower price tag since most of the costs of these units are in R&D rather than in the actual components themselves. To that end, the methods that he uses for his MPPT are essentially the same as any commercial unit, known as synchronous buck conversion. This uses a specially configured switch-mode power supply (SMPS) in order to match the power output of the panels to the best power point for any given set of conditions extremely rapidly. It even works on many different battery configurations and chemistries, all configurable in software.

This build is incredibly extensive and goes deep into electrical theory and design choices. One design choice of note is the use of an ESP32 over an Arduino due to the higher resolution available when doing analog to digital conversion. There’s even a lengthy lecture on inductor core designs, and of course everything on this project is open source. We have also seen the ESP32 put to work with MPPT before, although in a slightly less refined but still intriguing way.

Thanks to [Sofia] for the tip!

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Let The Solar Free

Anyone tackling solar power for the first time will quickly find there’s a truly dizzying amount of information to understand and digest. You might think you just need to buy some solar panels, wire them together, and just sort of plug them in. But there are a hundred and one different questions about how they’ll be connected, the voltage of the panels, and the hardware for driving a load. [Michel], [case06], and [Martin J├Ąger] have set out to create a simpler and easier to understand charge controller named LibreSolar.

a diagram showing how the libre solar is wired up

A charge controller is fundamentally a simple idea. The goal is to charge a battery with solar panels, which means it’s essentially just a heavy-duty DC/DC buck converter. What makes this project different is that it is an open platform built for extensibility.

There are UEXT connectors included for adding extra peripherals, and with some tweaks to the STM32 firmware, it would be easy to handle small wind turbines (with some rectification to convert to DC, of course). LibreSolar seems to be designed with an eye towards creating a nano-scale localized networked grid. For example, they’ve developed a Raspberry Pi Zero module that uses WiFi to create a CAN bus allowing the boxes to communicate their maximum voltage to each other. This makes the system as plug-and-play as possible, as the bus doesn’t require a master controller to communicate.

With features such as MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking), 20 amp peak charging, a USB interface for updating, and several built-in protection mechanisms, it’s clearly a well thought through project. We look forward to seeing it deployed in the real world!

Improved Outdoor Solar Harvester Now Handles All The Parts

[Vadim Panov]’s 3D printed solar harvester is in effect a rechargeable outdoor battery, and the real challenge he faced when designing it was having it handle the outdoors reliably. The good news is that part is solved, and his newest design is now also flexible enough to handle a variety of common and economical components such as different battery connectors, charge controllers, and solar panel sizes. All that’s left is to set it up using the GoPro-style mounting clamp and let it soak up those solar rays.

We saw his first version earlier this year, which uses inventive and low-cost solutions for weatherproofing like coating the 3D print with epoxy (the new version makes this easier and less messy, by the way.) It was a fine design, but only worked with one specific solar panel size and one specific configuration of parts. His newest version makes a few mechanical improvements and accommodates a wide variety of different components and solar panel sizes. The CAD files are all available on the GitHub repository but he’s conveniently provided STL files for about a dozen common sizes.

When it comes to harvesting light, staying indoors offers less power but requires a far less rugged setup. If that interests you, be sure to check out the Tiny Solar Energy Module (TSEM) which can scrape up even indoor light.