E-Bikes are in great demand across Europe and beyond. There was even a suggestion at the Velo-City conference in Taipei a few weeks back that the bike would become obsolete and be replaced by e-bikes.
But an e-bike needs charging, so you are always going to be cycling with one eye on the “fuel gauge”, and would probably want to plan any longer ride to be able to call at known charging points for a top up. Unless you dream of an e-bike that doesn’t need charging.
Perhaps that dream could come true. Eindhoven based Solar Application Laboratory (“SAL”) have succeeded in developing the first “S-Bike”, or solar bike, working with Eindhoven University of Technolgy (“TU/e”) and Dutch ebike manufacturer Segula.
Marc Peters, founder and owner of SAL, established that the average commuting distance for his fellow Dutchmen is 17km, which means that even in the Netherlands most opt for the car, which creates peak hour traffic jams and produces undesirable emissions. He therefore feels that having a Solar Bike that recharges itself during the commute would be a great alternative.
“Solar energy is the future” said Marc “but right now we waste a lot of solar power. We have developed a technology that is up to twenty times more effective, making it possible to generate enough energy from small surface areas – even on your bike. What could be more Dutch? The world’s premier cycling nation takes on a whole different meaning, literally and figuratively”.
He goes on to explain that “we have sought active cooperation with industry and education, selecting the TU/e campus as our home base. This means that we can utilise the technical knowledge which is available there as they are actively researching developments in alternative energy supply.” Together they are trying to fostera European Solar Tour for the bike, where students compete to resolve societal challenges, working out how to put new technology to work to bring about positive change. “We are also looking at different options for the S-Bike, which include the recovery of braking energy and the wireless sharing of power with other bikes, with the aim that every cyclist can contribute to a better society.”
Joop Schaffels of bike manufacturer Segula added “our company made a public splash in 2013 with the Stella Lux family car which uniquely used solar power, having worked on this with the Solar Team Eindhoven. Then we met SAL. We were able to contribute our extensive knowledge and experience regarding solar power for propulsion. Segula is closely involved in the development of this unique product, is responsible for the system architecture of the S-bike, and is involved in the development of the charging strategy. It all makes a very interesting business case for the market.”
Arno Cup, CEO of E-Bike Netherlands & Ebike4all, commented “from day one, our company has moved forward with motor-assisted bikes. Our company develops, manufactures and distributes electric bikes throughout Europe, so we are planning to offer the Solar Bike via our retail channel so we can give clients the correct technical support and guidance. From the first moment when we took a test ride, our team were very impressed with the solar bike, whichwe think is a key part of the future for sustainable transport. We have already established that there is huge enthusiasm for this wonderful product in the food delivery sector.”
Several weeks have gone by since SAL presented the prototype of the S-bike and SAL are now working on the next steps. “We’re going to test our technology on a hundred bikes and are pleased to have the involvement of TU/e as having a campus bike would be a definite bonus, giving us the opportunity to test in a real-life situation on our doorstep that everything is working properly.”
This will give SAL the important opportunity to test the bikes at different times of the year. “The cells must work in all weather conditions” says Peters “not just on a sunny day in July but also on a rainy day in September.” Another concern is to make the bike vandal-proof before they have a full public launch.
Behind the scenes, there have been meetings with several interested parties, but Peters makes no secret of the fact that he would like to talk to investors who can help take this exciting product to full commercial realisation. The Netherlands is already one of the top cycling countries in the world and this product could help it to maintain that position.
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