Bicycles built specifically to carry cargo, instead of just one person and what they can fit on an aftermarket bike rack or panniers, can open up a lot of options for wider use of bicycling for transportation for more people. And when you combine the load-carrying ability of a cargo bike with the option for electric pedal-assist, it not only allows for more flexibility for daily use, but also makes getting around with a full load of gear much easier on the body. Integrate a solar panel for charging, and you've got a potential game changer in green transportation.
As a family guy and former bike commuter, I can attest to the fact that getting the weekly groceries home on a bike was pretty challenging, and only after getting a bike cargo trailer (mine is a BOB Trailer) was I able to manage it without feeling like I was one of the Joads, but with a bicycle instead of a truck. During that time, I also knew many people that wouldn't use their bicycles for running errands because they not only had no space for it on their bikes, but also felt like they didn't have the energy or weren't fit enough to haul their stuff, even with a trailer. But if they had an electric cargo bike that would enable them to ride farther and faster, while carrying their gear with them, then those types of excuses wouldn't carry any water.
Electric cargo bikes aren't new, but the most recent release from NTS Works, the SunCycle, adds a twist, by integrating a renewable energy aspect to the bike with a 60W solar panel and charging system. The SunCycle is based on the company's LockerCycle, which has a locking cargo area and electric assist from its front hub motor, but with the solar panel, it's possible to also get a charge without plugging in.
"The NTS SunCycle integrates an incredibly small, lightweight and powerful solar panel. It weights about two pounds and is rated for 60 watts of power. We also make our own solar charge regulator that protects the battery from overcharging.
The noncrystalline solar cells used on our panels are over 19 percent efficient. Our panel is approximately 4 square feet." - NTS
According to company tests on the SunCycle's performance, the solar panel exceeded its rating of 60 W, which is more power than used on the low power setting for the electric assist, and could translate to being able to fully power the SunCycle with solar alone on sunny days.
The bike is powered by a 36v Li-ion battery (14.3Ah 517Wh), which is said to give the SunCycle about a 25 mile range (assuming no solar input), and the batteries from NTS come with a Lifetime Rebuild Warranty, so they can be repaired and rebuilt when needed for about half the price of a new battery.
The SunCycle will be available this spring, and is available for pre-order right now for about $4000.