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The Current State Of Solar Powered Motorcycles

Updated on January 31, 2009

I received a request from easegiri on my CanAm Spyder Hub to discuss solar powered motorcycles, so here we go. I should warn you that if you're expecting to read this Hub then walk into a dealership and ride out with a usable, effective solar powered motorcycle, you may be strongly disappointed.

Donald Dunklee built his own solar-powered scooter in Michigan. He utilized a stock EVT 4000E as the core drive fed through a Xantrex C-40 charge controller, and a total of four, count 'em four, Atlantic Solar 6" x 25" 30 watt panels set up two to a side like an orbiting satellite provide a broad collector plate to grab all those lovely photons. The solarscoot is set up so that the panels unfold to charge and fold up to ride. Good thing or a stiff wind could have him ending up in Oz looking for Toto.

Although not strictly a motorcycle other than the fact that it has a motor and is a two wheeled cycle, the E-V Sunny Bicycle from Toronto based Therapy Products (which markets therapeutic pillows and compresses... the jump from that to solar bikes is rather befuddling) features light absorbing solar panels adhered to the bicycle's wheels which are supposed to maintain a constant charge to the 17 AH batteries which feed a 500 watt front hub motor. This design is highly suspect as the orientation of the wheels perpendicular to the ground would likely only collect sufficient solar energy when the sun is very low in the sky, such as at sunrise, sunset and during the winter... which, let me tell you from frigid and painful experience, is a very difficult time to ride around in two-wheeled transport in Toronto! Been there, done that, got the hypothermia.

Unfortunately all the other directly solar powered motorcycles exist right now only in the AutoCAD files of fanciful engineers. The bizarre Solar Two Wheeled Armadillo from Spanish company SunRed is supposedly set up so that the solar panels open up like a fan for riding and close right up for parked charging. Not only does this design provide for significant solar panel area but it's also handy for leaving your valuables in the scoot! Design flaws... only a few zillion: Placing solar cells all the way around the Armadillo Shell is pointless. It's a motorcycle, so you can park it with one side facing the sun. The other side would absorb precious few photons, so why jack up the price with all those expensive cells that do nothing? I think perhaps the engineers need to lay off the Sangria. No permanecer toda la noche en el bar de tapas y vino por lo que puede pensar correctamente cuando usted esta en la oficina, Cono, chico!

The Sunny Day is set up for a ten to thirty minute ride on a full sun charge, a claim I would strongly dispute given the fact that the square inches of solar panel would barely charge up a laptop battery. Place this one under the "Yeah Sure" category.

Lightning Motors made worldwide headlines well over a year ago by announcing that they would soon launch a solar powered motorcycle, then went off the radar screen and haven't been heard from since. Their Yamaha F1 has been gutted and fitted with an AC regenerative motor run from an electric throttle and enough LiFePO4 lithium batteries to seriously deplete the world market and leave millions of bipolar patients without medication: A total of 28 batteries, each 90 amp-hours at 3.2 volts and 6.6 pounds. That's 185 pounds of batteries alone. However, this Lithimaha is not solar powered in any direct way and I heartily await their solar powered whatever. A good piece of advice: Don't hold your breath.

So what's the bottom line? Solar motorcycles are nowhere near ready for prime time. At least not yet, and barring a huge battery technology breakthrough, not for several years to come. The only presently "even-remotely workable" option would be to go with something along the lines of the Lithimaha, cram a couple of hundred pounds of very expensive and fragile batteries into a motorcycle frame (can you imagine laying that bike down at speed... yikes...) then cover the roof of your house and garage with solar panels to charge the bike overnight. At current prices for both solar electric technology and US real estate that option might cost just about as much as the house.



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    • profile image

      thomas collins 5 years ago

      this is a good nise motorcycle

    • profile image

      adair_francesca 7 years ago

      If more manufacturer will have vehicles that are solar powered, it would definitely decrease pollution and save the environment.

    • berrtus profile image

      berrtus 9 years ago from Beaverton, Oregon

      My only comment is why bother? The electric motos use small amounts of energy anyway. Just leave the solar panels at home and let them charge a spare battery during the day. Then swap batteries at night. Common Sense is rare!