My builds started about two years ago. First with getting an Azub T-Tris, and a HPVelo for my wife, and then accessorizing them to be touring rigs. With the extra weight we couldn’t do the distances we wanted, thus the need for electric assist was born.
We went with Bionx D500 but one of the motors failed and we couldn’t get it repaired or replaced and so switched over to Bafang BBSHDs. Before that switch though I’d setup our trikes with solar panels to help charge the spare Bionx battery, of which each trike had two, and the system worked good.
For those curious about this system it consisted of a 100W Renogy semi-flexible solar panel, a Genasun charge controller, a 12V 20AH LifePo4 battery. I than used a boosting voltage converter to output 26V to the Bionx battery from the 12V system. Also, for those wanting to know the BMS inside the Bionx battery wouldn’t allow the battery to charge and run at the same time, so had to charge the spare while running on the other one.
When the Bionx died I redesigned out system. I didn’t want to hassle with charging a spare battery while running a second one. I designed the new system to feed the power coming from the solar directly into the etrike system. Because the Bafang wasn’t a closed protocol system this worked. I ended up going with 3 Lunacycle Wolf 52V 13.5AH batteries wired in parallel, diodes on the output side, just paralleled on the charge side. I also doubled our solar with 100W on the trike and another 100W on each of our Bob trailers. This gave my system a 52V 40.5AH battery but because of the weight we were carrying I still wanted to extend that with solar charging. Our final goal is to be independent of AC power while out touring. We didn’t achieve that this year because of lack of time to get the new system fully build and in place. What we did achieve though was extending out range with the solar.
Our average days were 65-70 miles, 2000~ feet elevation gain, keeping our assist mostly in 300W range but kicking it up for hills and headwinds. At the end of most days we still had 60% battery remaining. Our longest day was 82 miles, Santa Fe – Taos NM, 3800 feet of elevation gain. We gain about 1800 feet of that over a 5 mile stretch within 25 miles of Taos. At the end of that day we had 40% battery remaining but if the climb had stayed the same that was only about 20 miles. After that climb though we went downhill into Taos which is part of the reason we had what we did remaining.
On this vacation we stayed at RV parks with electrical sites to fully charge our batteries each night.
Since that vacation I’ve made some changes to our solar system. A big change was replacing the cheap 7210A eBay charge controller with a Genasun controller. I’d always intended to go with the Genasun, but our budget didn’t permit this before vacation. For anyone considering going with solar, it is well worth the money to go with the Genasun over the 7210A. While the 7210A works the Genasun performs significantly better and is worth the difference in price.
Now onto the changes to the system that I made. Originally, I mounted the 100W panel on top of an Ed Miller, Big Leaf canopy which I still highly recommend for anything up to a 100W flexible panel. I wanted to upgrade the panel on my trike, which necessitated me building my own frame for the 160W Renogy semi flexible panel. I went with the flexible panel over the rigid one in part to save weight but also because of the pebbled surface collects power better when the panel isn’t perpendicular to the sun. My frame is rigid because I didn’t want to try and build a frame that could tilt and because I mount accessories to my canopy, phone, dash cam, headlight.
For those wanting numbers. On my last ride this Sunday, on in town trails. This included lots of intermediate shadowing from trees and such. We left at 8:30 returned home 12:20. With only my 160W panel I collected 274WH, 4.92AH and had a peak input of 132W. In comparison the 7210A on clear open roads with no shadows, 200W of panel, was only able to collect a maximum of 83W. This is because design inefficacy with the 7210A.
Definitely an improvement over the old charge controller but still the goal is to cut the cord on AC. Thus, I decided to add two more smaller panels to my trike. These “wings” are foldable and thus lets me control my width depending up the road conditions and I can fully extend both sides while stopped. This will give me 260W on the trike and I’m keeping the 100W panel on the trailer for a total of 360W of solar. Hopefully that will accomplish our goal of not having to worry about finding AC each night.