Solar Power in the E-Scooter Industry: Future or Fluke?

Paul Strobel
Paul Strobel
October 20, 2020
Solar powered electric scooter charging station
Table of Contents

With society moving towards a future powered by clean energy, it should come as no surprise that technological advancements from the solar power niche have made their way into many industries.

The e-scooter space, a niche that has been focused on being environmentally friendly from the start, is one of many areas that solar tech has aimed at. This isn’t too surprising since there has always been one big counterargument against electric vehicles: generation.

Proponents of fossil fuels will remind EV supports that the power used to charge their batteries is still primarily generated through coal, oil, and other “dirty” methods. That could all change if more scooters were powered by the sun.

In this article, we’re going to go over some of the benefits that solar scooters bring as well as shine the spotlight on the frontrunners in this race towards harnessing the energy produced by our star.

The benefits of solar scooters

Zero emissions

Let’s start off with the most obvious benefit of using solar scooters: they don’t produce any carbon emissions. In fact, their emissions are technically lower than bicycles since the rider won’t be pedaling, so the reduced exertion will thus cut down on the amount of CO2 they exhale.

A paper from the European Respiratory Society states that human breathing increases eightfold during exercise. This is why cyclists will produce a lot more carbon dioxide in their bodies than those riding an electric scooter.

Reducing the carbon footprint that your respiratory system has on the planet is more significant than you think since the average human breathes out a kilogram of CO2 in a single day. To summarize, solar scooters would output fewer greenhouse gases than cycling or even walking.

No fuel costs

I’m going to be frank; if you couldn’t care less about the environment and wouldn’t think much of the entire arctic circle melting, you should still get a solar-powered e-scooter. Why? Because I’m pretty sure everyone can get behind spending less money.

Energy from the sun is not only virtually unlimited (with five billion years remaining in its lifecycle) but it’s also totally free. The only thing keeping every budget-conscious person on the planet from switching to solar — whether in their homes or vehicle — is the upfront cost.

As it stands, solar panels are still too expensive to completely replace existing systems. However, the price is rapidly dropping due to the fast evolution of solar technology. Elon Musk himself has publicly said that a $25,000 electric car is just a few years away.

Before the decade is up, people may be liberated from paying for fuel thanks to solar scooters.

Low maintenance

Finally, a major advantage of using solar-powered vehicles is the fact that they don’t require nearly as much maintenance as more carbon-heavy alternatives. Unlike combustion engines, solar panels have no moving parts.

This makes them practically exempt from wear and tear. All you have to do is keep the panels clean and replace the inverter once per decade then you’re golden. Solar panel cleaning services are both available and affordable at roughly $30, depending on where you are.

The abysmal maintenance costs will offset any initial expense that you have to cover when you first acquire the unit. In essence, a solar scooter would be an investment that pays for itself in no time while saving the environment!

Solar Electric Scooters Inc: where it started

Back in 2013, Mike Donnell and Tony VanMeeteren launched a startup intending to put their solar scooter into production. To achieve this, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to get $100,000 in startup costs.

The specs were pretty impressive for the time, with the ability to accelerate to 15 mph in 3.7 seconds and an eight-hour charging time through sun exposure alone. This charging time drops even lower to four hours if you charge it through a wall socket instead.

Despite the efforts of both founders, the startup didn’t make it as far as they hoped. Their domain is seemingly for sale and there hasn’t been any Twitter activity for years. It may not have worked out for Mike and Tony, but that didn’t stop others from improving their design.

Solarrolla: shaking things up

The Oregon solar power couple Brett and Kira Belan may have started out with vans and RVs, but their electric scooter looks far more interesting. One obvious issue with the 2013 prototype showcased in Solar Electric Scooters Inc’s demo video is the placement of the panel.

Credits: Solarrolla Instagram

Because of its placement on the deck, the scooter wouldn’t be able to charge very well while being ridden since the driver is standing on the panel itself. By mounting their solar panel to the front of the scooter, Sollarrola circumvented this issue and ensured continuous sunlight exposure.

This three-wheel design comes with extra features like a phone mount, phone charger, and even a waterproof Bluetooth speaker so you can blast tunes while riding through the rain. The fact that you can see your charge level and incoming power on the dashboard is also quite cool.

Swiftmile: the missing link

Until solar panels become efficient enough and batteries with higher energy densities become available, charging stations are still a part of the commute for most e-scooter riders in the city. The problem is that conventional stations use conventional power to charge EVs.

Swiftmile charging station outside a subway render
A rendered visualization of how the charging stations could look (Credits: Swiftmile)

That’s where Swiftmile comes in. The company is determined to give riders a zero-emissions option by rolling out (no pun intended) solar-powered charging stations. This could serve as the perfect solution for electric scooter enthusiasts until more breakthroughs are made in EV tech.

The company has raised a total of $11 million to date, with $5 million of that coming from a single round of funding. That round acquired investments from large corporations, including Verizon Ventures. Yes, that Verizon.

"When in full sun, our solar panels can generate up to 750 watts of power per hour. This power is stored in batteries inside the Swiftmile Charging station, and used to re-charge the scooters. Scooters get you where you need to go. All compliments of the Sun. That's why we like to say "Ride the Sun!"

Swiftmile

Conclusion

As you can see, the progress rates in both the solar power and electric vehicle industries show no sign of slowing down. At this rate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see EV use skyrocket before we get to 2030 — similar to the meteoric adoption of smartphones after the iPhone. Did you enjoy reading this article on the innovations that are bound to drive us further towards ecologically sustainable transportation? If you did, be sure to share it with a friend or two so they know that change is coming faster than anything we’ve seen before!

While we wait for solar power to really manifest itself in the scene, why not check out the best electric scooters to buy at the moment?

Paul Strobel
Paul Strobel

Owner and editor of ERideHero. This website is the culmination of my passion for electric rideables, gadgets, and thrill-seeking. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions.

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