On the first day of SOLAR 2008 in San Diego, the SOLAR TODAY staff motored a few laps on the ASES Photon, the University of Florida’s slick, fast Solar Trike. It’s a recumbent tricycle with a hub motor on the rear drive wheel, powered by a 48-volt, 10-amp hour lithium-iron phosphate battery. The 80 pound trike accelerates briskly to about 25 mph, and can cruise at 12 to 15 mph for about 20 miles, without pedaling. Pedal a bit to extend the range. The trick to maximize range is to pedal briskly when accelerating and relax in cruise.
The PV modules on top can be oriented to face the sun, and recharge the battery at about one amp. If you park it in the sun while at work, the battery will hold a full charge for the commute home.
The thing is incredible fun. It accelerates and rolls easily on pedal power alone. When you hit the thumb-button accelerator, it zips along quickly enough to evoke little squeals of joy from some drivers, and yips of surprised panic from overtaken pedestrians. Use the horn!
Cornering is go-kart quick but the narrow low-drag bike tires can skip a bit if you’re too aggressive.
University of Florida’s Nate Mitten said the parts are worth about $4,500. A less-expensive production version would make a practical commuting vehicle in any town with good weather and a well-developed network of bike trails.
In the photo, SOLAR TODAY”S Brooke Simmons grins as she peels off, headed for trouble, leaving UF’s Dan Robinson (blue tee shirt) in her dust. –Seth Masia
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