On the back of a recent post on the SunRider solar powered electric cargo bike, we thought it might be worth looking at another innovator. SRAM is also working on the application of solar power in bikes. Although it’s not quite as ambitious as what SunRider has created, it’s still an interesting step.
The idea itself is fairly simple, solar panels will be fixed to a bike, pretty much anywhere where they can fit. Those solar panels will be used to charge the batteries for SRAM’s AXS groupset. This has the advantage of needing a significantly lower power level than what’s required to power a full bike. That makes it easier to implement effectively. Although to be clear both this and the SunRider fit into entirely different niches. Neither can do what the other is aiming to do.
SRAM’s AXS Groupset
The AXS system allows a rider to control their bike electronically. It allows for electronically shifting gears and control over the chain. This means riders are ensured a very smooth ride. The whole system is also highly customisable, with riders being able to configure controls and setting who they want. All of this is possible through an app. All in all it’s a cool piece of kit for any rider to have.
What the AXS system isn’t is an electric bike. While it might provide a smoother ride and help reduce effort sometimes, it is still powered by a rider’s effort. That means it doesn’t have the same speed or aid levels as an electric bike. It also -importantly for this patent- doesn’t require anywhere near the same energy output from the battery.
Solar Powered AXS
Since it requires a significantly smaller battery to operate it is a lot easier for the AXS battery to charge by solely solar power. In turn the solar panels required to charge it are much smaller too. That means they can fit on a regular road bike and the innovation isn’t confined to cargo bikes.
According to the patent, SRAM is creating this system due to bikes being “increasingly equipped with electronic components, such as shifters, derailleurs, power meters, and dropper posts”. By allowing the pieces themselves to harvest solar energy there is less risk of a rider being left without charge. They point out that internal reactions may mean even an unused spare battery isn’t fully charged.
The solar panels are also set up so that even if part of the bike is completely shaded the other cells will still provide requisite power.
Will Solar Power Work For The AXS System?
The energy needed to power the AXS system is comparatively little. That makes solar power much more viable than on electric bikes. The placement and size of the panels may also help to protect them from taking any damage on. That damage is still possible though.
If a solar panel gets scratched it’s efficiency drops. If you’re unlucky and it breaks then you aren’t making use of that solar power without getting it fixed. A solar powered AXS system seems completely viable, but depending on the cost of repairing the panels it may not be for more casual riders.
The other thing to take into account is what kind of bikes it’s best for. Low impact cycling will provide much safer conditions for the panels. Mountain biking on the other hand might be too rough for them. If they need to be replaced after sending your bike down the trail then they aren’t much good for the application.