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Build Your Own Solar-Powered Scooter 181

Posted by michael
from the soapbox-racer dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CBC is reporting that the Biomod company in Montreal has released plans for building your own solar scooter for only $1600 (in Canadian funds, no less!) Hopefully the engineering community will take an interest, and add brakes to the blueprints..."
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Build Your Own Solar-Powered Scooter

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  • Hey (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:06AM (#10346444)
    That's almost enough reason to go outside sometime.
  • HA! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:07AM (#10346450)
    Solar scooter? It'll never go fast enough to need brakes ;)
  • Scooter? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Thunderstruck (210399)
    I'll stick with the 1979 Ironhead Harley, it conveys me from place to place in style, and re-seals the driveway when I get home!

    (That means it leaks oil)
  • No methane? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jarich (733129) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:09AM (#10346456) Homepage Journal
    I just assumed that whoever built a reall cool self-powered scooter would have a little methane in their somewhere... you know, for rainy days!

    ;)

  • Add chicks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EtherAlchemist (789180) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:10AM (#10346458)

    Everything is better with hot chicks, but somethings are just cool on their own [wheelman.com.au].
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Q. What do a scooter and a fat chick have in common?

      A. They're both fun to ride - but you wouldn't want your friends to see you on one!

  • Bah (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sophrosyne (630428) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:10AM (#10346461) Homepage
    I will buy one when it runs on my cynicism and comes with an ipod holder.
  • by idesofmarch (730937) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:10AM (#10346462)
    solar-powered headlights?
  • by DustyShadow (691635) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:10AM (#10346463) Homepage
    why are there linux penguins on an msn page?
    • Re:penguins...? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Those aren't penguins, they're Microsoft's answer to AOL's "Oscar" icon. They're supposed to be people, but they look like a failed attempt at bringing eWorld's people back from the dead...
    • why are there linux penguins on an msn page?

      After many unsuccessful attempts, finally adding the Tux penguins eventually got the article submission accepted by the unbiased slashdot editors.
  • there are two solar cell recipes in Simon Field's book (Electronic Gizmos). They only produce power in the milliamperes range. Are the cells are homemade or ordered from somewhere?
    • You can always hook up cells to get more amperage or voltage. I use cells that are roughly 40x40 mm and put out .5 volts at 500 ma, just about 1/4 watt. You can readily purchase the kind used on the NASA Pathfinder airplane, but they are expensive.

  • by bizpile (758055) * on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:12AM (#10346466) Homepage
    Hopefully the engineering community will take an interest, and add brakes to the blueprints..."

    If it's solar powered, maybe your feet will be enough to stop.
  • by tsch (593024) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:13AM (#10346469)
    does insanity come with the scooter, or do you have to provide that yourself?

    from their message board:

    Well BioModers' - Yesterday we did it! - For the first time on Earth (as far as we know), a SOLAR ELECTRONIC VEHICLE traveled over 100 kilometers in one day - on the streets and roads of this planet!

    ... A Black family took offense at our efforts to hook up with a neighbors' socket after a deserted factories outlet had suspiciously failed. Earlier, an African electrician cab driver had examined the vehicle during a brief stop, and rushed away vibrating with revealed inspiration, a Chinese family as well. After a short hop, we got permission from a factory gardener to use his outlet, with a good sun exposure - and then the cops showed up! They claimed that someone had hopped over a nearby fence! But the rattled OIL OCCUPATION ARMY was no match for the assembled prayers of native circles meeting yesterday around the world!

    ...So there we were, in the gathering darkness, BLINDED by the oncoming lights of S.U.V.s', going the WRONG WAY down a one-way highway - right through the RED LIGHTS of major urban cross-highways, wiggling through and between oncoming traffic of the acursed MOTOR CARS and TRUCKS - to their complete SHOCK! ....I wouldn't have had it any other way! (emphasis mine) link to the post quoted [msn.com]

    also, it looks like you have to log in to access the "files" part of their site.

    • OK, more good quotes:

      ....So anyway, all five sets of batteries "pooped out", at the foot of the final hill: so in one final act of improvisation, I placed Mary Chu on the THRONE OF LIGHT - TRAVEL (her first time, of course) - and told her to steer straight ahead!

      ....My thanks to Will, who accompanied the "voyage" on a 10-speed bicycle, waving down traffic at nearly every intersection, and nearly having heat-stroke as a result. Behavior over-and-above the call of duty! And of course to the millions of RAI

    • But the rattled OIL OCCUPATION ARMY was no match for the assembled prayers of native circles meeting yesterday around the world! ...So there we were, in the gathering darkness, BLINDED by the oncoming lights of S.U.V.s', going the WRONG WAY down a one-way

      My god! Needless caps, bolding for no reason, semicoherent sentences... do you know what this means? This scooter is certified safe by none other than Steve Gibson!
  • Why not just bike? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:13AM (#10346470)
    Instead of a huge rickshaw-like contraption, perhaps a standard bicycle might be the answer? There are many available for less than $1600. This looks like a solution looking for a problem to solve. :)
    • by Thunderstruck (210399) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:22AM (#10346491)
      These bikes you mention, I've seen some that are solar powered too, they use cool biotech drive mechanisms to convert solar energy to chemical energy... then they burn the chemical energy and give off nothing but CO2, water, sweat, and depending on the means used to covert the solar energy, methane.
  • The reality is that solar-powered transportation is totally impractical. Its sole purpose is to provide interesting material for the basis of a graduate disseration at the university.

    If you really want to change the world, devise an efficient hydrogen-powered fuel cell. That would be practical and would change the automotive industrial and the dynamics of geopolitics. In one fell sweep, the hydogren cell would (1) clean the environment, (2) end American dependence on the Middle East, and (3) spark a re

    • neon case lights (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zogger (617870)
      You may be able to replace oil with hydrogen for energy (a big maybe), but it's still used extensively in various manufactured products. That's a seriously overlooked part of the "peakoil" controversy.

      With that said, and as a solar proponent and owner, and in the alpha design stages (that means I'm committed in me pea brane to do it) of my own little solar powered buggy*, this thing is ridiculous looking, and I agree, a normal human pedaled bike is a better idea. But... I'm not one to rain on any hardware
    • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @01:51AM (#10346767) Journal
      How would an efficient hydrogen-powered fuel cell solve all our problems? Do you believe that an even more efficient (approaching 100%) internal combustion engine would solve all our problems? Yes, it'd mean we'd be using 1/4th as much gas as we do now which would head-off our dependency on Middle East oil for some time (possibly rather short, given we'd probably just expand our power desires with that increase efficiency).

      But the truth of the matter is, oil isn't a renewable resource. Hydrogen isn't either (do you see any natural generators lying around?). Sun-based mechanisms might be the answer (a la the pig fart/methane of Mad Max). But, that's where the real "solution" begins. Even a rather utterly inefficient engine with a limitless fuel source (well, reasonably limitless) is better than very efficient engine with a limited fuel source, in the long run.

      It sounds like you're just focusing on the short-term solution to get people interested in finding a long-term energy source. The thing is, without a cheap long-term energy source, the current inefficient engines and their cheap short-term source will continue to look more attractive. I think this counts as the cart before the horse.
      • oil isn't a renewable resource. Hydrogen isn't either

        Wahahahahaaaa

        Be sure to let me know when we've run out of hydrogen! :-)

        • Be sure to let me know when we've run out of hydrogen! :-)

          Be sure to let me know when we run out of carbon and oxygen. So if you say we can't run out of hydrogen, you're saying we can't run out of oil. The thing is, we already did run out of hydrogen. Except for methane-splitting perhaps, you could argue that counts since it is so cheap to do. But methane is not a renewable resource.

          • Be sure to let me know when we run out of carbon and oxygen. So if you say we can't run out of hydrogen, you're saying we can't run out of oil.

            Making oil just isn't as simple as combining carbon and oxygen, as you make it sound.

            HOWEVER, getting hydrogen out of water IS as simple as applying electric current to water.

            Until the oceans dry up, extracting hydrogen is just a matter of having enough electricity.

            But methane is not a renewable resource.

            That's not true, it's just a matter of nobody attempting

            • Methane is being produced from manure and waste here (in Denmark). The amount of methane produced seems to be far less than you believe. At least it hasn't made a significant dent in the consumption of natural gas.

              Anyway, in the context of energy sources, "running out" means that we're unable to get any more energy from that source. Since the amount of free hydrogen is negligible on Earth, we ran out.

              • Since the amount of free hydrogen is negligible on Earth, we ran out.

                "free hydrogen"?

                You don't drill a hydrogen well, you have to extract it from something. Until the oceans run dry, we have an easy source of hydrogen, making it a very useful energy storage medium.
                • You don't drill a hydrogen well, you have to extract it from something. Until the oceans run dry, we have an easy source of hydrogen, making it a very useful energy storage medium.

                  The problem then becomes one of finding enough electricity to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Then the question is, is it more efficient to use the electricity to produce hydrogen which then acts as the primary power source, or bypass the hydrogen producing process and just use the electricity to power the d
      • Thing is, there isn't such a thing as a 100% efficient internal combusiton engine (not even close to that, in fact - check http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/212_fall2003.web.dir/ B en_Townsend/Heat_Engine.htm [uaf.edu]).

        I agree with you though, as it is, we're still dependant on fossil fuels and combustion engines. I think stuff like BioDiesel will be vastly more common in the near future than H-Cells.
    • The reality is that solar-powered transportation is totally impractical.

      A vehicle with solar as it's only source of power is impractical, indeed. However, as a method of recharging the batteries in an electric car, they would do quite a good job.

      Just imagine less frequently used vehicles. If you only go, say, 10 miles per day, a solar panel on your car, recharging the batteries while it's sitting around, would be all you would need.

      Run out of fuel in the middle of the desert? Don't bother walking to t

    • Actually, people are just taking the wrong approach to making solar powered transportation practical.

      The UMaine Solar Vehicle Team [maine.edu] has it right. The site's outdated, but the truck is still running - I see it around town periodically.

  • $1600 CDN? (Score:1, Funny)

    by shiftless (410350)
    What is that, like $12.89 USD?
  • What I want (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:38AM (#10346549) Homepage Journal
    I would like to have a little power module that attaches to my regular mountain bike. It would store energy when I'm pedalling, and when I tell it to it would release energy to help me get up a hill. I live in a hilly area, and most of the time I can ride without assistance. When I hit a hill, I could use some help.

    As an alternative, the device could be charged at home all night. It wouldn't need too much capacity, since it would be just used to assist me on hills. I can pedal normally on flat road.

    • Although it's a cool sounding idea, unless there's a big advance in motors, it's not very feasible.
      For a 'hill assist' you'd need a lot of torque from a motor - and electric motors with a lot of torque don't come cheap, and they don't resemble anything small enough to put on a bike.

      Very neat idea though - I bet it'll happen eventually!
      • Then I could get what I want by getting a really fast motor, and reducing the speed with gears, converting all that speed into torque.
      • Re:What I want (Score:3, Informative)

        by mrgreen4242 (759594)
        You can get electric motors with plenty of torque hella cheap. It's the basis of most electric assist bike conversions. It's 2am and I dont feel like googling it for you, but take a look. There's plenty of commercial bikes that are for sale that have this sort of feature.

        Also, I would be willing to bet that the starter from a small 4-cylinder car would provide the torque that you need for something like this. They run on 12v DC, and usually have an internal flywheel that spin up for a second before engagin

    • ...Well, there are quite a few "conversion [electric-bikes.com] kits" [wildernessenergy.com] out there, but because of the bulkiness of the batteries, I don't think they're quite practical for trail riding.

      I don't know if I've seen anything that stores energy from pedaling (b/c when you're riding you really don't want something dragging on the wheel & slowing you up). There were some kits that, I think recharged during breaking, but from what I remember because of the light weight of bikes (?), the amount of energy gained from this wasn't too g

    • When I hit a hill, I could use some help.

      And why is it that you can't down-shift? You said you're on a Mountain Bike.

      You need very little strength, just the ability to move your legs around faster. It takes very very little energy if your bike is geared well.
      • There's hills, which you seem familiar with. Then there's HILLS, which we have around here. After climbing 600 feet in 85 degree weather, you're a little sweaty to sit in a cube all day.
        • There's hills, which you seem familiar with. Then there's HILLS, which we have around here.

          I'm basically sitting on a mountain here, so I don't need a lecture on hills.

          After climbing 600 feet in 85 degree weather, you're a little sweaty

          I'm also in the desert, so you don't need to lecture me on heat either.

          If it's too much work for you to bike up a hill, you probably need to install a lower gear on your bike.
          • Damn, you are sensitive. If that's a lecture, then you must have had some very inattentive parents.

            As I said before, I can get up the hills no problem. That is not the issue, cocklicker. The problem is that unlike you, I want to be considerate to my colleagues and not be a sweaty pig after riding to work.

            Asswipe. Learn to read.

            Signed, Profane MuthaFucka.
    • Re:What I want (Score:3, Informative)

      by toastyman (23954)
      Those already exist [electric-bikes.com], kinda. They have regenerative breaking on some models to put power back in the battery when you hit the brakes when going down hill.

      None of them actually store energy while you just pedal though, as far as I'm aware.
    • Actually I remember reading about something similar in a Mountain Bike Action magazine about 4 or 5 years. It was the story of one of the magazine's editors who had been riding behind a pudgy out of shape professor type on some singletrack trails. Even though he seemed pudgy and out of shape, the editor was having trouble keeping up with him. Eventually he caught up, and noticed something funny about the professor's bike, and at the top of one of the hills, asked him about it.
      It turns out that the pro
      • Sorry to reply to myself, but; something like you're looking for can be bought at http://www.wildernessenergy.com/unibikekit.html
    • Title says it all.
  • Am I the only one that thoroughly laughed at the "Cool site for girls" link at the bottom of their MSN Groups page?!
  • hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by GreenKiwi (221281) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:56AM (#10346611)
    so that's like what, $100 usd?
  • by Jardine (398197) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:58AM (#10346618) Homepage
    Jokes about how much $1600 CDN is in US dollars in 3...2...1

    (it's about $1255 according to xe.com's currency converter)
  • Why do I have the feeling that the speeds obtained by this solar scooter will rival those of the Slowmobile from the Bureaucracy ("How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back") episode of Futurama?

    Bureaucrat: "Oh no, now you've got my slowmobile off course and I'm going to crash!"

    Slowmobile moves very, very slowly into a pile of boxes over the next five seconds.

    Bureaucrat (in mock fear): "Ahhhhhh."

  • Too slow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hash Browns (202534) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @01:04AM (#10346639)
    At least with a gas powered scooter, you might be able to move fast enough to avoid getting beaten up.
  • Um.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)
    and if a big wind comes up, it doubles as a hang-glider
  • Slightly OT. (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by evilviper (135110)
    Since the conversations about this scooter are going nowhere, I'd like to change the subject.

    I was looking into electric cars not long ago, and all I found were vehicles that could go maybe 30 miles on a charge. I wonder if anyone can explain why this is.

    Fully electric cars like the EV1 can get over 100 miles per charge, and it's a quite large and heavy vehicle. But most importantly, it wasn't very high voltage... That small change would easily have increased it's range tremendously.

    Why is it that all
    • Well.... Ford bought th!nk and then killed it.

      Still the city works for me and they have chargers at work....

    • What makes you think that high voltage will help significantly? (Significantly as in "double the range"). Batteries just don't store enough energy. Cheap batteries even less. The only cheap, efficient (measured by size/weight) batteries are alkalines, and they can only be recharged 10 times or so. There is research going on to fix that problem, but whether they will still be cheap after the fix is unknown.
      • Thunder Sky LiON batteries cost approximately the same as Lead Acid batteries and have approximately 10x the storage capacity for a given size and weight. They can be recharged hundreds of times. (read that as hundreds of thousands of miles).

        The technology has been around for a few years and the costs are now down to the point where it's economically feasable. It's odd that the major car manufacturers have switched their research yet again to technologies which are another decade into the future.
      • What makes you think that high voltage will help significantly? (Significantly as in "double the range").

        Okay, a quick lesson on electricity...

        Energy is measured in WATTS. The ammount of work you can do is the wattage you can get.

        Since wattage is a combination of voltage and amperage, increasing the voltage will increase the wattage. Doubling the voltage will double the wattage.

        If you want to verify this, just take a look at the specs on your computer's power supply. At 240volts, your power supply wi

        • There really is no need to lecture me on electricity, but feel free to continue for my amusement. You were implying that you could somehow magically increase the voltage without decreasing the amp-hours stored in the batteries. How do you plan to do that?
          • There really is no need to lecture me on electricity

            You can say you know what you're talking about all you want, but you continue to say plenty of stupid things to prove you don't know what you are talking about.

            You were implying that you could somehow magically increase the voltage without decreasing the amp-hours stored in the batteries. How do you plan to do that?

            I don't need to "do" anything. Look up batteries, you will find plenty of examples.

            Let's compare, say, truck batteries versus car batteri

            • It's easy to find many examples where batteries of half the size are almost half the AMPs as well, but the same voltage.

              Hopefully you mean amp-hours; that's the interesting thing when it comes to batteries. If so, you're saying that a battery half the size stores half the energy. Not all that surprising, really.

              By using two of the smaller batteries (wired in serial, but of course you knew that, right?), you get much more power out of the deal...

              No, I get twice the voltage but the same number of amp-

              • No, I get twice the voltage but the same number of amp-hours. That isn't "much more power".

                Since power is watts (not only AHs), that most certainly is "much more power".

                As I said, double the voltage and you can nearly halve the current draw.
                • Since power is watts (not only AHs), that most certainly is "much more power".

                  You cut away the rest. Let me repeat it then:

                  It is twice the stored energy [in Wh or J] of the smaller battery from before, and exactly the same amount of stored energy [in Wh or J] as the full-size battery we started with.

                  • It is twice the stored energy [in Wh or J] of the smaller battery from before, and exactly the same amount of stored energy [in Wh or J] as the full-size battery we started with.

                    No it isn't... It (nearly) the same current (AHs), with double the voltage

                    Let me quote your own post for you:

                    No, I get twice the voltage but the same number of amp-hours.

                    Exactly... Same AH with two smaller batteries, with double the voltage.

                    • Exactly... Same AH with two smaller batteries, with double the voltage.

                      You are confusing yourself with selective reading again. Do I have to explicitly put "as the smaller battery" and "as the larger battery" into each sentence so you are unable to quotefuck? Not that it would stop you, probably.

    • 30 mile range vehicles usually use Lead Acid battery technology.

      Good electric cars have had 200+ mile ranges for a few years now. The car called the Solectria Sunrise did 373 miles on a single charge using NiMH batteries in 1997, well batteries have improved substantially since then and existing LiON batteries should be able to approximately double that, and coming Li-S batteries promise to double that again.

      Home builds and conversions often use obsolete lead acid batteries and heavy steel shelled vehicle
      • 30 mile range vehicles usually use Lead Acid battery technology.

        So do the 100 mile range vehicles...

        Yes, NiMH/Li-Ion can just about double that, but I don't think the extra cost is worth it, especially since just increasing the voltage in a Lead Acid battery-based vehicle (primarily by, let's say, using twice as many batteries that are each half the size and half the AMPs).

        Home builds and conversions often use obsolete lead acid batteries and heavy steel shelled vehicles.

        Lead Acid batteries work just

        • One other thing you may not be aware of is that the EV1 used a high-performance motor - such motors are not readily available to the public in surplus numbers, and when they are, they are still damn expensive.

          I was once looking into the idea of using hub motors for an electric car - brand new, each motor (made by a company in Germany) would cost me $600.00. I found similar motors (which would be OK for a bike or electric motorcycle, maybe) surplus for $300.00 each.

          So, it isn't just battery technology, but m

        • "Yes, NiMH/Li-Ion can just about double that, but I don't think the extra cost is worth it"

          NiMH would double the 100 miles for a lead acid powered vehicle, LiON would triple/quadruple it. In terms of cost, Thunder Sky sell LiON batteries which are comparable in price to Lead Acid batteries but 1/4 the size/weight.

          "Lead Acid batteries work just fine thank you."

          No, they don't. 100 miles isn't remotely enough. A 400 mile range is required for a viable electric vehicle. Hence the retirement of the EV1.
          • 100 miles isn't remotely enough.

            Doubling that with standard lead acid batteries is easily done.

            A 400 mile range is required for a viable electric vehicle.

            Wow... You're 100% certain that a 300 mile range electric vehicle that is dirt cheap and can be recharged in seconds won't sell, but a more expensive vehicle with that extra 100 miles per 16-hour charge will be successful... Amazing insight you have. Why aren't you working for the auto industry?

            Hence the retirement of the EV1.

            Now that's not true


      • They can't do that if your vehicle is purely battery powered, you can charge it at home or work.

        Unless you can cheaply generate electricity locally at home or work, then the power companies still have some slack in which to charge you money.

        MyElectricMonopoly charges about US$0.10/kW-hr, while solar PV panels, IIRC, come out several times that much. I think they are economical in remote areas with lots of sunshine.

        Given the homeland security issues associated with a centralized electrical generating pl

    • Why is it that all the conversion kits, and home-built electric cars have terrible range?

      Because the major car manufacturer's haven't figured out how to make a commercially viable electric car yet. The closest things to "real" cars were GM's EV1 and Ford's Th!nk. Both were limited experiments which have since ended. Both companies appear to have decided that the market did not have enough critical mass yet. The cars were thought to be too expensive for the mass market. Both companies have withdrawn f

      • Because the major car manufacturer's haven't figured out how to make a commercially viable electric car yet. The closest things to "real" cars were GM's EV1 and Ford's Th!nk. Both were limited experiments which have since ended. Both companies appear to have decided that the market did not have enough critical mass yet.

        You can't use their actions as proof of lack of a market. I don't know Ford's story well, but I do know plenty about the EV1. GM never made them available for sale, only limited leasing, a

  • by bobv-pillars-net (97943) <bobvin@pillars.net> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @06:54AM (#10347548) Homepage Journal
    By far the coolest-looking solar bike I've seen is the XR2-solar [rqriley.com] that won the 2001 Australian Solar Challenge. It's just a slight modification of the standard Ground Hugger XR2 plans [rqriley.com] that are available online. [securedweb.net]
  • $1600? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shotgun (30919) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#10348816)
    So it is only $1600 if you use surplus parts.

    Surplus parts are priced low due to the seller wanting to get something instead of have to pay to have the junk hauled off. Furthermore, once the supply runs out, there won't be anymore since people tend to get smarter the second time around. Not to take anything away from the guy (who is not an entrepeneur as the article suggest, but is an awesome geek), but saying that you can throw something together for cheap from junk parts does not mean you have an economically viable product. What would the real cost be if all the parts have to be purchased new?

    He does DESERVE an honored position on the next Junkyard Wars episode, however.

  • Brakes not needed, it'll stop automatically at sunset, I guess.

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