The ZolarBike is a bike roof which protects against rain and sun during the bike ride and can recharge your e-bike battery on the go using solar power.
First solar version of the ZolarBike
Battery charge controller of the ZolarBike
E-bike battery being charged via the two 100 Wp solar modules
The concept of the ZolarBike is quite simple. A wood construction is attached to the bike frame via clamp-connection. On top of the wood construction a fabric covering or leight-weight, semi-flexible solar modules are attached. This provides rain and sun protection.
During rain an additional fabric covering can be attached to the front to protect from head-on rain.
The solar version of the ZolarBike has two 100 Wp solar modules mounted on the roof. These enable the recharging of the e-bike battery on the go. A charge controller boosts up the 18 V of the solar modules to the 41 V charging voltage. It also limits the charging current to 4 A (depending on the allowed charging current of the battery) and stops charging once the battery is fully charged in order to protect the battery.
How many km can be driven purely uing solar power depends on the power requirements (amount of electric assist, hilly vs flat terrain, etc.) and the amount of sun available. In northern regions (e.g. central Europe) the lower avarage position of the sun means a reduction of the solar power available due to the non-optimal angle of the solar modules and shadows from buildings and trees. Still it should be enough to cover the typical commute distances. Real world data from the first ZolarBike with solar modules shown above will enable a more precise solar range estimation.
For equatorial regions the higher position of the sun means that the mounting angle of the solar modules is now optimal and shadows from buildings and trees will also be reduced. This should result in a significant boost of the solar range of the ZolarBike.
The ZolarBike provides an effective rain protection similar to that an umbrella. During stronger winds a jacket might still be helpful. And against splash water over-shoes are still useful.
Especially during midday you are protected against direct sunlight. This makes a more relaxed bike ride possible and protects you (your eyes) from harmful UV radiation.
Visibility during rain is not reduced by a front shield. Other road users can more easily and quickly spot the bike.
Additional wind resistance is minimal due to a small front surface (subjectively not noticeable up to 20 km/h). Sensitivity to side winds is much lower than could be expected from the appearance of the roof. During very stormy weather it is however not recommended to ride the bike with the roof (but also not without it).
No wet clothes any more – on your body or in your bag. Rain protection even when pushing, locking or unlocking your bike. Children in child seats will also remain dry.
Total weight is approx. 3.5 kg (non-solar version).
Instead of relying on expensive custom made parts the roof is made of standard components available at normal hardware stores. Everybody can build their own roof themselves and get replacement parts locally and cheap (sawing, drilling and screwing needed). Assembly kits will probably be available soon, simplifying the construction (only screwing needed, s. below).
Because of the remarkable appearance and size of the roof thieves might be discouraged. Casual thieves have to be afraid that the bike will be recognized. Professional thieves who use small transporters to steal many bikes at once will need to first dismount the roof or will only be able to transport much fewer bikes. For the solar version the solar modules might still be attractive for thieves. Here a suitable insurance might help.
Are you always taking your bike inside because of fear of theft instead of leaving it locked outside (very expensive bike, dangerous area)? Then the ZolarBike will likely not be suitable for you because of its size. Still, for people living on the ground floor or where a bike celler is available putting the ZolarBike inside during the night might be an option.
The same is true if you regularly take your bike with you into the train. While it is possible, it can lead to complications especially in full trains.
Because of its mounting principle the bike roof is compatible with most but not all adult bikes. Requirements are separate top and down bike frame tubes.
I got the idea of the bike roof while thinking about a solar electric assist trike. The solar panel is supposed to function as a roof and give the trike the advantage of a velomobile (rain protection) while simultaneously producing electricity for the propulsion. More information about this idea under Zolar Trike.
I asked myself if the same principle could be applied for normal bicycles. Early July 2014 I built prototype 1 out of wood and cardboard. The main purpose of this prototype was to test balancing and riding under windy conditions. Prior to riding it I was quite skeptical – as most people would be. But I was positively surprised by the quite stable handling performance.
Early August I built prototype 2. The cardboard was replaced with water resistant fabric covering, more stable (screwed) joints are utilized and the whole construction is significantly more stable and allows for flexible mounting even if a basket or child seat is present. During the following months I regulary used the ZolarBike and built new versions improving on the stability, design and handling.
Prototype 7 packaged for transportation
First solar version of the ZolarBike