Can you Charge an Electric Bike With Solar Panel?

Solar power has been around for ages, but can you use a solar panel to charge your e-Bike?  You see solar panels on the roofs of homes, in a grid on a yard, and they are big.  As large as they are, how could you transport them to be useful when you are on a trip and need to charge your e-Bike?  Is it even possible?

Can you charge an electric bike with solar panel?  That is a good question with all the talk about alternative energy sources.  The answer is yes, and the reason is that some manufacturers have produced portable solar panels.  They have turned it into an e-Bike charging station. 

In this article, we will talk about this portable solar panel, how it works, and how many you will need to charge your e-Bike’s battery.  We will also discuss other alternative power sources, and why you need a solar charger for your e-Bike.

Why you Might Need a Solar Charger for Your E-Bike

The main reason you might need a solar charger is that with it, you will never be stranded if your battery dies and needs a charge.  They are not expensive, are lightweight, and are portable.  It will give you a feeling of safety knowing that you will never be stranded or need to pedal your e0bike to get home.

It is economical to use to charge your battery at home at night as it is a green way to go.  When you use it, you are contributing to saving the planet.  Although it won’t be as efficient as when you put it under bright sunlight, you can still get a charge in gloomy weather.

Can You Charge an Electric Bike With Solar Panel And How to Do It?

Yes, you can charge an electric bike with solar panels.  With the technology of today, these are portable solar battery chargers that can easily be carried with you.  They are not the size of the ones that power homes.  There are many ways in which you can charge your e-Bike using a solar panel.   You do need to be sure that the solar panel you use has a decent wattage output and a fair size.

Can You Charge an Electric Bike With Solar Panel

Portable, foldable solar panel chargers

Using this type of solar panel will give you more flexibility when you take them with you on your e-Bike ride.  They are great if you want to do an overnight camping trip or want to ride long distances.  They are necessary if you plan to go somewhere there are not any electrical outlets to plug into.

Portable foldable solar panel chargers

For storage reasons, you will be limited on the power capacity and size of these portable solar panels.  There is not much choice on the market right now when it comes to folding, portable panels.  They are not always reliable or efficient and can be more expensive than stationary solar panels.  They will also add more weight to your e-Bike.  You will also have to figure out how to store them, so they do not take up a lot of space, even when they are folded.

When you are riding, they cannot always be charging because they are put away and not getting sunlight.  As a result, you will need to figure out how you are going to find the time to expose them to sunlight so they can charge.  If you rely on these portable solar panels, you need to also realize that the weather will have an impact on their charging.

If you hit a patch of bad weather, there may not be enough sunlight to charge them so you can charge your e-Bike.  This could prove to be a challenge, or hindrance, in charging your e-Bike if you do not have a backup plan for charging the e-Bike.

Stationary solar panels

If you decide that you want to use the type of solar panel that powers your home, you can use them.  They are robust and designed to be stationary.  The drawback with this type is that you are still limited as to how far you can ride, and you have to be sure you have a power source when your battery gets low, and you are not at home.

Stationary solar panels

One way to use this type of solar panel is to have two batteries.  You can charge one during the day when there is maximum sunlight.  When you get home, you can use that battery to hook it to your e-Bike to charge it once you are home.  This can be expensive to have very large panels but the larger they are, the greater the charging potential.

Since they will be stationary, there is no risk of them being stolen while you are on a ride or off-the-grid camping.  They are also less likely to be damaged.  It is a good option for an e-Bike rider that does not do more than short commutes each day.  You also do not have to worry about more weight on your e-Bike if you use stationary solar panels.

Using a trailer/rear rack

Some will set up a solar panel bike trailer so you can have larger solar panels that are more powerful.  They are attached to a trailer that you take on your travels.  This means that sometimes you can charge your panels as you are riding.  It all depends on how it is set up.  This is what some competitive e-Bike racers use.

Using a trailerrear rack

The downside will be restricted as to where you can go with your e-Bike.  With this type of solar panel, you will not be able to squeeze into tight e-bike lanes or do any major off-roading.  It can also add a lot of weight to your e-Bike.  With it being on a rear rack, you have to keep in mind stability and balance issues too.

It is also the most expensive of the three listed.  The reason is that you will have the cost of not only the solar panel, but the trailer and the attachments needed to hook it to the e-Bike.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Charge a 48V Battery?

Although 24V and 12V solar panel systems are the ones that are the most commonly used, you will have to make sure that you are getting the right solar panel size for your 48V battery.  For this type of battery, there are 350-watt solar panels you can use to charge your battery in one day.

If you live in a cold area, you will need a panel VOC that is between 67 and 72 volts.  For hot conditions, it should be 80-82 volts.  To figure out the voltage you need for your solar panel, you have to make sure that it is 1.4 to 1.8 times greater than your 48V battery.  No matter what, the voltage of your solar panel has to always be greater than your battery.

To produce a charge for your 48V battery, the voltage of your solar panel has to be higher than 48 volts.  How many solar panels you would need to charge your 48V battery would depend on the voltage of each solar panel.  You may need just one or several.

To increase the voltage of your solar panels, you can just connect them.  For example, if you take three 24V solar panels and connect them, you will have 72V, which is enough to power your 48V battery.

Can You Connect a Solar Panel Directly to Your Battery?

It is not advisable to connect your solar panel directly to your battery as it could damage the battery.  Instead, you should make sure that you are connecting the solar panel and battery to a solar charge controller.  It is also recommended that you fuse your system.

Can You Connect a Solar Panel Directly to Your Battery

This means that you should place one fuse between the charge controller and the positive battery terminal.  You should then place another fuse between the charge controller and the positive solar panel wire.

Understand the wiring diagram

Make battery cables

You can either use the pre-made battery cables or make your own.  If you are making your own, you need to cut two pieces of wire to the length you need.  Next, strip both ends.  You can make one wire a bit shorter to account for the fuse that will be attached to it.

Put the fuse in the holder designed to hold the fuse.  To find the right size fuse, use the Fuse Size Calculator.  Connect one of the lead wires of the fuse holder to your shorter battery cable.  Use a wire connector of your choice.  Use a heat shirking tubing to shrink wrap the connector using a heat gun.

Onto each battery cable, slide a piece of the heat shrink tubing before you crimp the terminal connectors, which you do after sliding them on.  Look at the battery cables to make sure you know which size connector to use.

To connect your charge controller to your battery, you can follow the instructions in the manual that came with your charging controller or follow these basic instructions.

Connect the battery cable without the fuse, which is the negative battery cable, to the “-“  (negative) battery terminal on the charge controller.  Next connect the battery cable with the fuse, the positive battery cable.  To the “+” (positive) battery terminal.  It is recommended that before you connect the battery cables to the battery, you should connect them to the charge controller.

When you connect the battery cables to the battery terminal, you need to connect the negative before you do the positive.  At this time, your charge controller should light up or turn on to indicate that everything is connected properly.

Once it is connected properly, you will need to refer to the manual to let you know how to program the charge controller for your battery voltage, type, etc.

Connect solar panel to charge controller

Most solar panels you purchase come with MC4 connectors pre-attached.  To connect the solar panel to a charge controller, you will need these types of adaptor cables if they are not attached.

Connect solar panel to charge controller

They are about the length of a solar PV wire that is stripped at one end and has an MC4 connector at the other end.  For the positive cable on the solar panel, connect the MC4 inline fuse, then you will need to attach the positive extension cable if you are using one, and attach the MC4 adaptor cable.

For the negative cable on the solar panel, you will connect the negative extension cable if you are using one and then the MC4 adaptor cable.  Make sure that you do not let the exposed wires touch in any way.

Look at the charge controller manual to see how you connect it to the solar panel or you can follow these instructions.  Connect the negative solar cable to the charge controller first before you connect the positive one.  At this time, the charge controller should light up or turn on.  This will indicate that the solar panel has been connected properly.

Put solar panel in the sun

This is the final step.  Once you have your solar panel in direct sunlight, the charge controller should show that the battery is charging.

Charging a Battery With a Solar Panel:  how Long Does it Take?

The answer depends on a lot of factors such as the size of the solar panel, the type of battery, and the charge controller.  You can use the solar battery charge time calculator to find out the time for your particular solar panel, battery, and charge controller.

For example:

  • 12V, 33Ah lead-acid battery
  • 100-watt solar panel
  • PWM charge controller.

With this setup, it will take approximately seven hours of direct sunlight to charge that particular battery from 50% to a full charge.

Benefits of an E-Bike Solar Charger

There are many benefits of using a solar charger for your e-Bike.  There is the environmental impact, increasing how far you can ride your e-Bike, and never being stranded.

Benefits of an E-Bike Solar Charger

Environment

When you use your e-bike, you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint.  Using a solar panel to charge your e-Bike makes it more sustainable.  You are relying on a natural way to charge the e-Bike and not depending on electricity.

Increasing your ride distance

If you decide to take a longer ride than your battery can produce electricity for, a portable solar panel is ideal.  You can ride as long as you want without having to worry about finding a power station.  This is good for those riders who want to go off the grid or go for long bike rides.

Not getting stranded

If you decide you want to go off the grid for a few days, this type of power will help to prevent you from being stranded or having to pedal your bike home.  You can rest assured that you will always have a source of power for your e-Bike, even if you are not around an electrical source.  Using the sun as a form of power will give you more flexibility and freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Can you charge 48V battery with 12V solar panel?

Yes, you can charge your 48V battery using a 12V solar panel, but it will just take lager to charge.  You should use a bigger solar panel though.  For a 48V battery, you should have a 72V solar panel so to get that you would have to use six, 12V solar panels and connect them to get the voltage you need.

Can you charge an electric bike with a portable charger?

Yes, you can use a portable charger is something that you should consider purchasing if you plan to ride off-road or go on a long trip.  They will help out in areas where there is no electrical outlet to plug into.  A portable charger will give you more freedom as to how long and where you ride your e-Bike.

Can I charge my e-Bike with an inverter?

Yes, you can use an inverter to convert the energy from the car battery into your e-Bike.  You just need to be careful you do not take all of the charge from your car battery, leaving you with a dead car.  That would be more trouble than having a dead e-Bike.  To cut the charger off when the battery in the car gets too low, you should also have an alternator tester.

Final Thoughts

As you can see from all the information in this article that you Can you Charge an Electric Bike With Solar PanelWe have even covered the type of solar panels, and how you can use them to charge your e-bike

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