Editor’s Note: After suffering knee pains, Andrej Berlec invented his own solar bicycle. Now he can ride up to 250 km per day. He doesn’t have a lot of money left after building his prototype so he hopes to launch a Kickstarter Project to fund mass production.
Invention of a New Sun-Powered Electric Bicycle
Have you ever heard of a sun-powered bicycle, which can take you wherever you wish, on one condition: that the sun is shining?
I am Andrej Berlec from Kamnik, Slovenia, and recently I turned 50. Five years ago that unpleasant knees pain started. Orthopaedists didn’t know how to help me so I started to look for a solution in order to be active again. I used to be speleologist, mountain climber and cyclist. As a youngster, me and my friends cycled to Dubrovnik so as a 45-year old I was shocked to find out I would not be able to be active any longer. I was faced with knee surgery and later advised to cycle but not to exaggerate at my age. That was the reason I started to build my own electric bicycle. I started to enjoy life once more.
I noticed solar bicycles on the web. In 2013 there were solar bicycles race organized from France to Kazakhstan. I stopped the cyclists on their way through Slovenia since I was their enthusiast. I met a lot of new friends then and I promised myself I would build my own electric bicycle. I was building it for two years and spent 4000 EUR for components in the first year. I bought a robust mountain bike since I knew that was the kind of bicycle I needed in order to mount a powerful battery and motor on it. It all took place in my living room and on the balcony, during the winter with a cap on my head and gloves on my hands. In such a way electric bicycle was first created. Last year I added a trailer to my electric bicycle and in such configuration I reached Austrian Carinthia, rode to Villach and back. The following trips were even longer, as far as Udine in Italy and back home to Duplica near Kamnik, Slovenia.
In autumn 2014 I decided to build a solar trailer and to produce electrical energy while riding my solar electric bicycle. From China, I ordered solar panels which were rather expensive, 600 EUR each. Due to EU regulations, I had to pay 100% customs and tax duties in addition. When I followed the solar bicycles race, I learned a lot and noticed all the bad and good characteristics of such bicycles. I also noticed difficulties the race participants faced on their long trip to the destination in Kazakhstan.
I mounted two solar panels on the trailer. When I make a break on my rides, I spread the panels and charge batteries of the bicycle. I can use the batteries when there is no sunlight, in cloudy weather, and during the night. Sunlight is helping to move a load of 160 kg which includes bicycle, trailer with luggage and me. I control solar panels with remote control and I monitor sunlight power, charge efficiency, and battery charge level on the display mounted on the handlebar. With two batteries, significant help of solar power and own energy and power I can ride up to 300 km at once. If it is cloudy and there is not enough sunlight on a longer trip, batteries can be charged on the electricity grid as well.
In the summer of 2015, I decided for my longest almost 2,000 km long trip from Duplica via Italy to Monte Carlo. Besides the panels, I had 30 kg of luggage and a tent on my trailer. Even though I took the tent with me, I rather slept in a hotel room every night due to my exhaustion. Before that trip, I took a trip to Hungary with my solar bicycle and trailer where I circled around the Balaton Lake in a day and made 200 km.
One could say I am a kind of innovator since I introduced quite some inventions which eased my travels. Among others, I installed a computer or cell phone connections. Through a special GPS device, my friends and family members can track my location during my travels. I took care for my safety and visibility as well by wearing a visible vest and having my solar electric bicycle equipped with excellent lights making me very noticeable in the traffic.
On every trip, as around Hungary and to Monte Carlo me and my solar electric bicycle attracted a lot of interest from the people, excitedly greeting me everywhere, and asking about my solar wonder on two wheels and a trailer.
Currently, I am thinking to establish my own company. I would like to invite co-workers from different areas to cooperation since I think this bicycle with solar panels trailer for generating electric power could be interesting for broad masses.
One more interesting fact: riding my solar electric bicycle to my work on side roads it costs me around 10 cents while by car it costs me a couple of valuable Euros.
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