There’s just something so natural about charging an e-bike from solar power. Electric bikes are already such eco-friendly alternatives to cars that they make me want to go all the way and charge them in a form that also feels eco-friendly – with the solar power that I myself produced on site.
I have already played with different methods of solar charging my e-bikes. Some of them look a bit more like a high school science fair project than others.
But the easiest method I’ve tried so far has been with the Jackery Explorer 1000 Solar Generator.
This is a large solar generator with a robust 1002 Wh internal battery that can be charged with Jackery’s SolarSaga solar panels. You can also charge it from a wall outlet or car socket, but it was solar charging that intrigued me.
Once it charges its internal battery from the solar panels (or also during), you can plug in just about any device you want. In our case, we are going to plug in an e-bike charger that comes with an e-bike.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 has multiple power outlets in addition to the three 110V AC outlets, so you can get creative with what you use from your solar power. In addition to your e-bike, you can plug other devices or appliances into the 110V AC outlets or USB ports.
I often charge my phone from the device just because it’s fun to think about how every call or swipe is powered by the energy I’ve harnessed from the sun.
To charge an e-bike, you must first make sure your Jackery unit is at least partially charged. Think of it as an energy buffer. You fill the Jackery with solar energy and it stores it until you are ready to discharge that energy into your e-bike.
You can take both the Jackery Explorer 1000 and the solar panels outside and simply point the panels towards the sun.
Or if you prefer a more permanent setup, you can leave the main unit indoors and run the wires through a window. This could be useful for anyone living in an apartment with a window facing the sun.
The panels are each 100W, although Jackery also makes 60W panels for the smaller units they sell. You can use a single panel or connect two together for more power.
Jackery includes a useful parallel connector for such an occasion. For our use, one panel is sufficient as we will slowly charge the Jackery throughout the day, but two panels will charge the unit twice as fast.
With two 100W panels, I can get 110W of input power in the worst conditions (morning light, partly cloudy, etc.) and over 150W in good conditions.
A typical e-bike battery is around 500-700 Wh. The Jackery Explorer 1000 has a capacity of 1000Wh and can therefore perform approximately two full charges. Most people come back with a partially discharged battery instead of a completely empty one, so 3-4 partial charges are more likely.
The beauty of this system over direct solar charging is that solar power is there when you need it. I usually ride my e-bikes during the day and charge at night. If I relied on direct solar charging, which pumps electricity directly from a panel to the bike battery, I would never be able to charge after the sun went down. But with the Jackery setup, I can easily recharge with solar power when I get home, even after dark.
Now, there’s a big downside to this setup, and most tech-savvy readers will surely have landed on it by now. This is not the most efficient way to charge a solar powered device. The two-step system of first charging the Jackery with solar power and then charging the bike battery wastes energy at each of the steps where energy is transferred from battery to battery. The second stage is even less efficient since you are converting to AC first and then to DC instead of staying DC all the time. It’s not as efficient as direct solar charging, but if you’re not able to direct solar charging during the day, it doesn’t really matter.
I use the Jackery Explorer 1000 unit as it is large enough to afford me a few loads. But it’s also a little pricey at $999. Jackery makes several smaller models that work just as well for e-bike charging, they just don’t store as much energy. I bought a Jackery Explorer 300, which is only $299, because the smaller 7lb device is much easier to carry than the 22lb Jackery Explorer 1000, and I can still get about half of that out of it. an e-bike charge. As I usually ride with about half a load this is still very useful. The Jackery Explorer 500 is a bit larger and splits the difference.
And if you want to go even further, the Jackery Explore 1500 Wh unit is coming out in a few weeks. Michelle Lewis will have a hands-on review of this new beast of a unit here on Electrek. So be sure to check out our thoughts on the massive new unit based on its testing.
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