Indigenously developed solar bicycles, touted to be the first in the world, are ready for rollout from Milk City Anand. What’s more, fitness freaks can simply pedal this bicycle and others can ride it like any other e-vehicle.
The bicycles have been developed by Baroda Electric Meters Ltd (BEM), an Anand-based company, which has been a leading manufacturer of energy meters installed in households in Gujarat.
The solar bicycle project named ‘Worldwide First Solar Bicycle Rollout – Disruptive Innovation in Electric Mobility’ began as a startup with the help of electrical engineering students of the Birla Vishvakarma Mahavidyalaya (BVM) in Vallabh Vidhyanagar. In March, it bagged an award from the India Smart Grid Forum, a New Delhi-based think-tank comprising government officials, environmentalists, technocrats, and other stakeholders.
While several attempts have been made to design a solar bicycle, this one is said to be the first commercially viable in the world, according to ISGF. The prototype of the bicycle was developed two years ago by four engineering students – Meet Mehta, Hitarth Solanki, Mustafa Munshi and Rushi Shah – under the guidance of Dr Vithal Kamat, managing director of Vitthal Udyognagar-based BEM Ltd.
“We indigenously developed technologies like the solar maximum power point tracking charge controller and solar panel mounting suspension to convert a normal bicycle into solar powered. Both these technologies have been patented,” said Dr Kamat.
‘Solar bicycle can be fully charged in 4-5 hrs’
The solar bicycle is fitted with a microcontroller-based battery charge controller to extract maximum power from the 40W solar panel to deliver to the battery. On a normal sunny day, it takes just 4-5 hours to fully charge the 180Wh battery,” said Dr Kamat, an alumnus of Birla Vishvakarma Mahavidyalaya (BVM).
The patented ‘loosely suspended’ solar panel mounting prevents damage or glass breakage when the bicycle falls while stationary or in motion.
“Solar bicycles are the only true net zero vehicles as even electric vehicles (EVs) that are usually charged at night when electric generation is largely fossil-fuel based,” he said.
The bicycles, which weigh about 30kg, can carry a person weighing up to 100kg.
Even a complete body replacement of the solar bicycle can be performed for less than Rs 5,500.
BEM is in talks with state and central governments for conducive policies that will enable subsidies to reduce its cost further.
Unlike other EVs that operate at higher voltages, the solar bicycle operates at lower voltages of 12 volts and 40 volts. Also e-bicycles require a bigger battery due to its one-time charge mechanism while the 5Ah (ampere hour) battery is enough for a solar cycle.