Solar-Powered Electric Bicycle Charging Station Network

Executive Summary:

UW Solar proposes to build a solar-powered charging station adjacent to the Molecular Engineering and Sciences building that will serve ten electric bicycles (e-bikes). This charging station will also contain a second-life electric vehicle (EV) battery for energy storage. The total estimated cost of this system is $28,430, and the estimated time until the installation is complete is 4 quarters. The team has already raised $5,000, and therefore is asking CSF for $23,430 to complete the project. This project serves the combined sustainability goals of promoting sustainable transportation, reducing emissions, and increasing the visibility of solar on campus.

The design idea is a continuation of the product research and development for the PotentiaLi Energy team, which was recently awarded the Clean Energy Prize in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Competition. This award includes approximately $5,000 that the team is making available for this project. Based on initial calculations, one charging station battery can charge up to ten e-bikes using only one second-life EV battery, five solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, and a maximum power point (MPPT) charge controller. The solar panel system will feed the battery, which can support e-bike charging at any time of day. UW Solar students, with assistance of the UW Infrastructure Lab, will track the success of the station by recording the electricity produced in kWh and the number of bikes charged per day, and report these results through the UW Solar website (

Anne Eskridge, Director of Transportation Services, confirmed that there are several bike racks with canopies that offer opportunities to site this project. According to our analysis of solar capacity opportunities, the most promising location is the bike rack by the western corner of the Molecular Engineering and Sciences building. It is a pre-existing structure with proximity to the Burke-Gilman trail and constant exposure to the sun. Our project team includes UW Solar members and two mentors, Professors Jan Whittington and Daniel Kirschen.

Preliminary research from the team suggests that many components are available on the market at reasonable prices. Table 1 below outlines the costs associated with these components. The cost of the battery includes the cost of a battery management system and any testing that will be done on the battery, which can be done at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds.

System Components Function Cost Estimate
Second life batteries  Energy storage $2200
Solar Panels Energy Generation $1800
MPPT Charge Controller Tracks maximum power transfer $500
Charging cables Provide power to bikes $200
Metal lock box Electrical security  $400
Other Electronic Components Current limiting, digital interface $500
Total   $5600

Table 1: System Components Cost Estimate

There are additional costs associated with the project installation, which are reflected in Table 2. The project will have to be installed by a vendor since it involves a change to campus infrastructure. Installation will be overseen by the UW administration and shadowed and advised by the student team. As with past UW Solar projects, students will work with administrators such as UW Procurement to produce and publish an RFP, select a contractor, and oversee construction and commissioning.

Budget Item Function Cost Estimate
Installation Cost Permitting and Installation $20,600
Installation Administration (30%) UW Procurement & Capital Projects $6,030
Sales Tax (8.8%) Tax on installation cost $1800
Total Estimated Cost   $28,430
Existing Funds   $5,000
Requested Funds from CSF   $23,430

Table 2: Requested Funds from CSF

This project is a proof-of-concept which will be useful for improving the sustainability of campus infrastructure, encouraging more environmentally friendly means of transportation and sparking interest in renewable energy.

Student Involvement:

Our team consists of an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students from UW Solar who specialize in different aspects of PV system design and installation.  The participating students are both undergraduates and graduate students from the following programs or majors: Mathematics, Architecture, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Science and Resources Management, and Urban Design and Planning. The team has a partnership with UW Transportation, and has the support of faculty in the Urban Design and Planning and the Electrical and Computer Science Department. The assets will be transferred to UW Transportation, as they will be part of the bike system.

Up to this point, Radha Iyer and Josh Philip have conducted architectural design, mechanical analysis, and site assessment. Owen Johnson and James Clough have been working on electrical design. Kelsey Foster is the team leader, project manager, and initial designer of the electrical system. Evan Gray and Stanislau Kabacheuski are members of the PotentiaLi Energy team along with Kelsey. They are MBA students and provided marketing and financial expertise during the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Competition. The UW Solar advisor is Professor Jan Whittington. Professor Daniel Kirschen has advised the project as well and represents the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. The entire team participated in the proposal and cost estimation process. If funded, the team will expand to include students from all three campuses and additional majors, and will recruit new members through UW Solar.

Education & Outreach:

One of our goals is to demonstrate the feasibility of using second life batteries with solar power to provide energy. Additionally, bringing e-bike charging infrastructure to campus will help publicize e-bikes as a more attractive alternative to commuting by vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Current PV systems on campus are “out of sight and out of mind” for most students on campus. Our system will bring these technologies to a level where all students can learn, interact, and benefit from them. We are designing our system such that the PV systems would be visible from the ground level, and choosing a heavily trafficked location for the installation. As part of the system, each charging station will have an interface to display the state of charge for each bicycle. In addition, there will be a main display to show the power entering the system from the PV panels, and power leaving the systems to the load. The project will provide education about the capacity and benefits of a PV system. We also plan to place signage near the charging station canopy that will explain the project and the campus entities involved. Should we receive CSF funding, this signage will also prominently display the role of the CSF in making the project development and installation possible.

Environmental Impact:
  • Energy Use
  • Transportation
  • Waste
Project Longevity:

The three main components of our project that will need to be maintained over time are the panels for energy generation, the battery for energy storage, and an MPPT charge controller for distribution of energy to the bikes themselves. The longevity and maintenance of these components is as follows:

The standard warranty period for solar panels is 25 years, however, panels can continue to produce sufficient amounts of energy long past this threshold, for up to 70 years. Electricity generation can then be guaranteed to last for at least 20 years.

Batteries will be stored within a waterproof housing, as will the remainder of the  components such as the charge controller. This housing itself will be encased within a secondary steel structure to keep wiring and cables safely stored. The full assembly will then guarantee that all electrical components are protected from the elements, and so will need little to no maintenance. All electrical components will be securely placed within housing that will only be accessible to maintenance personnel. Once the second-life battery reaches the end of its life (which will be a minimum of ten years), it can be recycled and replaced with a similarly rated second-life battery. Additionally, any second-life batteries purchased will have a warranty period of at least ten years.

We expect to receive a warranty from the contractor for 25 years as part of the bid, however, if this is not possible the budget is designed to include enough funds to replace some items such as cables and the battery at least once within the project lifespan. UW Transportation, as the intended owner of the asset, is a self-sustaining organization on campus with its own budget and resources that could be potentially available for maintenance. Overall our project is designed to remain intact and functional for a minimum of 25 years. If more funding is necessary, we look to fund the project as we have done so thus far, with grants and prizes.

Environmental Problem:

Target 10 of the University of Washington’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) is focused on the need for UW to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. The bike station project addresses two of the main action items identified for this target in the SAP: The implementation of the campus solar plan and the electrification of the UW Transportation Services vehicle fleet.  Solar for bike canopies is a potential area of expansion for the campus solar plan. E-bikes are already in use for mail services on campus, and are becoming increasingly popular with students, staff, and faculty, but e-bike charging infrastructure has yet to be considered by UW. The UW transportation electrification plan to convert the vehicle fleet to EVs will result in an influx of end-of life EV batteries. However, once these batteries are no longer suitable for use in EVs, they can be used in second-life applications that are less degrading, such as for small-scale battery storage. The solar e-bike charging station is an ideal application for these batteries.

In addition, the UW SAP includes Target 7, which is to lower dependence on automobiles for commuting to campus. E-bikes offer an easier and more reliable mode of transportation than traditional bikes and may prove to be attractive alternatives for people willing to try riding instead of driving to campus, especially if the possibility of charging the bike is available on campus. For people who want to commute regularly on an e-bike to campus, bike ownership can be more affordable than e-bike rental. Lastly, the UW campus electrical grid tie with Seattle City Light is nearing capacity, and its upgrade will cost $40 million or more---which means that any effort to generate off-grid electricity on campus will be beneficial to the campus as a whole, providing more independent, renewable, and local power.

As a result, our project is an example of sustainable infrastructure from a renewable energy use, transportation electrification, and material waste reduction standpoint. UW Transportation Services has already expressed interest in the ability to charge mail delivery bikes in our proposed facility.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Our team intends to implement a meter that will measure how much electricity is produced by the solar panels and used by e-bikes. The data will be stored as kWh of energy, and can be used to demonstrate the ability for a renewable energy system to meet the demand of electrified transportation in an off-grid application with battery storage. Furthermore, we will analyze the project in a cost-benefit analysis study comparing conventional commuting fuel costs to e-bike infrastructure and charging costs. The electricity saved will be directly compared against non-renewable sources of electricity, but it will also be converted into miles traveled so that we can approximate the amount of carbon emissions that were avoided by using a solar-powered e-bike over a standard gas-powered car. Additionally, we will track the number of bikes charged each day, and we can estimate an upper limit to the number of cars that were kept off the road. In addition to tracking the impacts of solar power, we will also analyze the benefits of repurposing lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles. At the end of their useful life in a vehicle, EV batteries still contain about 80% charge capacity. By repurposing a battery, we avoid the harmful emissions associated with the production of lithium-ion batteries. We will calculate the reduction in emissions for each charging station constructed. The educational impact can partly be measured by the number of students involved in the project, which we are predicting will expand after recruiting for UW Solar in fall quarter 2021.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $23,430
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


This table gives a high-level overview of our budget. For a more specific cost breakdown, see the Executive Summary.
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Installation Cost20600120600
Installation Administration603016030
Sales Tax180011800

Non-CSF Sources:

The money left from the $5000 prize after tax will go towards the funding of this project.
Non-CSF SourceTypeAmount
Clean Energy PrizePrize Money$5000 (before tax)
Project Completion Total: $28,430


This timeline is subject to change, but reflects that the installation should be complete by the end of Spring Quarter 2022.
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
System Component Identification5 monthsJune 7th, 2021
Research and Initial Design7 monthsNovember 1, 2021
Design Feasibility Study and Modeling1 monthDecember 10, 2021
Site Approval4 monthsFebruary 15, 2022
Standards and Regulations Approval3 monthsFebruary 15, 2022
System Prototyping and Baseline Testing3 monthsApril 1, 2022
System Construction and Installation3 monthsMay 15, 2022
Project Publicizing 3 monthsJune 3, 2022