Solar-Powered Electric Bicycle Charging Station Network

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $6,000

Letter of Intent:


With the growing popularity and evolution of electric bicycle technology, we believe that college students will soon turn to electric bikes as an alternative mode of transportation to and from campus, due to both a cost efficiency and sustainability standpoint. Through a partnership with UW Solar and PotentiaLi, a student led company participating in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Competition, we will build a solar powered electric bicycle (e-bike) charging station to demonstrate and spark a means for meeting this future demand for e-bikes on campus. If granted support from CSF, we will be able to develop, assemble, and test a network of charging stations on the UW campus supported by a battery and solar canopy. The stations will incorporate repurposed second-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries for storage so that the system can be independent from the electrical grid. Our project team includes UW Solar members, who are currently conducting a study of the solar power viability of existing bike canopies on campus based on how much sunlight each canopy receives. Based on initial calculations, one charging station can charge up to ten e-bikes using only one second-life EV battery, five solar panels, and a maximum power point (MPPT) charge controller.

Prior to implementing the physical system, we will conduct a feasibility study. This involves the previously mentioned solar power site capacity study as well as discussions with UW Transportation and UW Facilities to assess and gain approval for the location of the charging stations. UW Solar already has a partnership with UW Transportation through a Seattle City Light sponsored project for managed electric vehicle charging in conjunction with the ECE capstone course. We can leverage that relationship to extend to this project. Additionally, we are aware that UW Mail Services uses e-bikes (due to a CSF grant) and will reach out to them as a potential first use-case. Another consideration is that the system may require maintenance. We plan to talk to the team that initiated the bike repair stations at UW to gain insight as to how a similar system can be set up for the charging stations. After conducting a feasibility study and gaining approval for a location, we will purchase off-the-shelf components for the system. The appropriately sized components are shown in Table 1 along with an estimated cost. Therefore, to implement the first prototype of the charging station, we are requesting approximately $6000. Since this is a mid-sized project, we would like guidance from the CSF to determine whether this project should be funded in one or two stages. We are also aware that construction will require approval from and participation of UW capital projects and engineering personnel. Therefore, we anticipate working with them as well as with UW Transportation for a feasibility study, approval, design review and support, construction, and maintenance.

The solar-powered electric bicycle charging station is the ideal project to showcase UW’s commitment to sustainability and to clean technology innovations. Since the system is solar powered and off-grid, there are no emissions associated with using the system. Additionally, the use of a second-life electric vehicle battery not only eliminates grid dependency, but also provides a use for Lithium-ion batteries that would likely otherwise go to a landfill. Additionally, this project can demonstrate to UW Transportation (which currently has 39 Chevy Bolts in the fleet) an application for downcycling (reuse) of batteries. At the end of their useful life in a vehicle, EV batteries still contain about 80% charge capacity. Once repurposed, these batteries are ideal for small-scale energy storage systems. The idea of repurposing is at the forefront of technology and several pilot projects have been implemented with second-life EV batteries at universities such as UC San Diego and the University of Delaware. Finally, the system encourages the use of sustainable transportation; electric bicycles are sustainable alternatives to a conventional vehicle and thus every electric bicycle that is used can be thought to replace a conventional vehicle on the road. Each charging station will be equipped with an interface to display the state of charge for each bicycle that is plugged in. These interfaces can also be used to display solar power production. In order to provide even more publicity on campus regarding the system, we will place signage near the canopies describing the system and its environmental benefits. Finally, we plan to choose the first locations based on not only solar power feasibility, but also visibility to people walking through campus. For example, one potential site we have identified is outside of the electrical engineering building near Red Square, which is a heavily trafficked area. Long-term, we hope to create an entire network of charging stations and provide a model for such a system that can be replicated at other universities or businesses that have large campuses. 

Table 1: Estimated Cost of one Solar Powered E-bike Charging Station



Primary Contact First & Last Name: Kelsey Foster