E-biking across America for 7000+ miles

E-biking across America for 7000+ miles

July 29, 2022 | Author: Sushil Reddy, HEC Paris Sustainability & Social Innovation | IIT Bombay The SunPedal Ride

Who would have thought that we would embark on such a journey! As we ventured the SunPedal Ride in the United States of America, Luis and I considered ourselves lucky to be a part of this unique solar and human powered journey covering a whopping 7000+ miles on electric bicycles. This landmark journey was made between 15th of August 2021 to 19th of January 2022. We wanted to start a conversation around solar power, electric mobility, and environmental consciousness. An additional benefit is that the e-bike is a medium of healthy living and sustainable mobility. We recorded our journey on the biking app ‘Strava’. Our journey is shown in the map below. Due to safety issues during Hurricane Ida, we had to take a U haul between the Penn State Area and Pittsburgh (shown dotted in the map below).

Combined Strava Map of the journey — Winston Salem, NC to Houston, TX Learnings from the journey I thought that taking the journey would be the most difficult task in this entire scenario, but I feel penning my final thoughts on the entire journey is even harder! Fortunately for both Luis and I, people from all walks of life were very kind to us and we had so much help and support available to us when we needed it the most. From random strangers helping us with flat tires to the anonymous food donations in restaurants, I was literally moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of people during the entire journey. To be honest, I had not expected so much generosity from people around us. It was the motivational honking by the passersby on the Interstates and the good wishes of people which kept both of us going on the saddle everyday for over 5 months.

I remember one of the team members from ACA telling us that cycling restores one’s faith in humanity. I think he was right. Most of the people we interacted with were appreciative and supportive of e-bikes and solar power as one of the solutions of sustainable mobility and clean energy. This instilled a sense of confidence and consciousness in people about the technology which, even though it has been around for decades has not reached its highest potential. We were happy to have a conversation through this journey with as many people as possible and hoped that this journey would inspire people to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle choice. Personally, I was happy to see the younger generation curious, aware, and willing to make that shift. As for cross-country biking in the United States of America, it is definitely doable!

I initially had this perception that the country is a car-dominated one and therefore cycling would be a challenge. I was surprised by the excellent biking infrastructure, both InterCity and IntraCity. We were further enabled with the help of the best routes, trails, hosts and camp grounds made available by active organizations like Adventure Cycling Association, Warmshowers.org and Rails-to-trails conservancy. An underrated application throughout our journey was the Google Maps bike route, which was our guide for most accurate bike paths for navigation. However, it is always a good idea to talk to the locals who have a better sense of the latest road routes, traffic conditions, and any ongoing construction work. With a smart battery and charge management, longer distances can be covered on an e-bike with minimal physical effort. The 100Watt solar panels gave an average 30% of the energy to charge the e-bike batteries on the go, which reduced the wall charging time of the battery considerably. In that way E-bike touring can open avenues for cycling for a lot of people and with solar power one can go off-grid partially or fully. This journey turned out to be stress testing for the components. We both are impressed with the performance of the e-bikes in all weather and road conditions under extreme endurance, which proves the worthiness of e-bike technology. From our journey experiences, we have realized that the demand for e-bikes in the country has increased tremendously in the last couple of years and is expected to grow exponentially.


On a concluding note, one must not forget that climate change is a reality and its catastrophic effects are growing rapidly. We personally experienced unexpected weather conditions in certain parts of the journey which are proof of the dynamic weather patterns caused by climate change. This was corroborated through our interactions with many people who have felt the pang of unusually extended drought conditions in states like North Dakota and California.

 


 

Sushil Reddy is an Energy Engineer Alumnus from IIT Bombay in Mumbai and a recent alumnus from HEC Paris, MSc Sustainability and Social Innovation.

He started the project called ‘The SunPedal Ride’ in 2016 as a means to raise awareness and outreach about clean energy and sustainable mobility in order to inspire people to adopt them. He has done thousands of kilometres/miles on solar(+human) powered electric bicycles as a part of this project, while meeting various people along the journey.