My Electric Bike Story

Jeff Cantin, Reno, NV

As gas prices continue to climb I wanted to find an alternate mode of transportation for my small errands--trips that were 5 miles or less. I started checking the odometer to see how far my most frequent trips were and discovered they were all under 5 miles round trip. I bought a 21 speed mountain bike approximately ten years ago and decided to check it out mechanically and get it road worthy. Turned out all I had to do was inflate the tires! I went for a test ride not noticing I was going with the wind... return trip to home against the wind was brutal... my stamina after my last heart attack is not the greatest and I feared that I may not be able to pedal against the wind for 2 or 3 miles so biking was looking like it wasn't the answer.

I researched street legal mopeds, small motor scooters, etc. on the web for pricing and details. Too expensive, still used gas, required licence plates and insurance, price range $2,000 to as high as you want to pay. I looked at electric scooters and the majority looked like toys and not what I wanted. E-Bay showed a picture of an electric bike kit and I followed links to the source. Very interesting... I read every page! For months I balked at hitting the "buy now" button. It wasn't until I flew to Michigan to drive my mom's car back to Reno that gas prices really hit me, especially when I crossed the Nevada state line with a 50 to 75 cent jump in price per gallon. I ordered my kit the next day!

I guess it's about time to show some pictures... (click on images for 100% view)

  I did some test runs... two cars clocked me at 25 MPH before I bought a speedometer/odometer, that's the normal speed limit for the neighborhood I live in, so I'm going as fast as cars can legally go. Then I started doing distance runs, first to the local stores I frequent, about 1.5 miles each way. Then I tried some hills and found I slow down to about 11 MPH but still don't have to pedal, although going up-hill is much more of a strain on the batteries. My longest run has been on flat ground 16 miles round trip -- full speed most of the way. At about 14 miles the speed controller would not let me go full speed, but it would let me cruise at 10 to 15 MPH so I got home without pedaling and learned something important. I added an inexpensive speedometer/odometer (see image below click on image to see full view) that lets me keep track of each ride, how long in time and miles, and average speed -- very nice addition.  

Totally Green Recharge Station

The next part of my project was to go totally green with free energy to charge my e-bike... I bought a 45 Watt Solar Array set, a big 125 Amp Hour deep cycle marine battery, and a 700 Watt continuous/1,500 Watt peak voltage inverter. I installed the solar array on a flat area of my roof and ran the cables through a window into my "bike/workroom." (See images below.) I'll explain these parts shortly for those of you who want to know "why & how."

  Solar Array  
  The roof top solar cells are connected to the controller box (see below).  
  Recharging Station  

The battery is a deep cycle, 12 Volt, and 125 Amp Hour -- Deep Cycle means it can be discharged completely and not be damaged. The Amp Hour rating means if you had something attached to it that used 1 amp per hour this battery would last for approx. 125 hours (5 days). So, the bigger the better for energy storage.

The solar cell controller is part of the solar set and has built in over-charge protection, it will not damage the battery by overcharging it, it just turns itself off. As you can see in the image, at the time I took the picture the solar array and battery was at 13.2 volts, meaning the battery was being charged. Also on the front panel are jacks for 3V, 5V, 6V, 9V and 12V of DC power to run stuff like a walkman or other things that you could plug into a car cigerette lighter.

Next is the Inverter, this converts the 12 volts DC (direct current) into 120 volts household AC (alternating current) and has places to plug in 2 household appliances (one of which is the charger unit to re-charge my bike batteries). Inverters are rated by watts continuous and watts peak, some appliances use more Watts at turn on time (peak) and then settle down to their continuous watt usage. My bike charger uses approx 350 Watts when charging so I bought an inverter with double the capacity just so I could have "power" to spare.

With this set up, from this time forward, all my powered bike rides are FREE!