Hi-Power Cycles HT-1 Electric Bike with Portable Solar Charger: Harnessing the Power of the Sun

By Gary M. Kaye

This is a quiz.  What’s the biggest constraint for an e-bike?  The answer is its battery.

Clearly if you’re off for a long day’s ride you can’t count on finding a convenient wall outlet to use your charger.  Besides, who wants to carry that thing anyway?

But what if you could harness solar power, and do your recharging in a reasonable amount of time so you can get back on the road?  Well, that’s the solution that Hi-Power Cycles of Chatsworth, California has come up with.

Hi-Power Cycles makes e-bikes that live up to its name.  They are very high power.  The Striker high torque electric motor that came with the HPC HT-1 bike is rated at 2800 watts.

Obviously that’s well over the 750 watts of output that’s considered street legal under federal law.  However, when Hi-Power ships its bikes, the wattage is regulated to stay within the legal limit, allowing the user to easily reprogram the bike’s computer to enjoy the full 2800 watts for off-roading.

We spent a few days with the HPC HT-1 tooling around Vermont during foliage season.  We were strictly on public roads, so didn’t even think about reprogramming the bike.  We didn’t have to.  The HPC HT-1 handled even the steepest grades we encountered without any strain, and without forcing us to work up a sweat.

The HPC HT-1 is throttle controlled and that throttle was very responsive.  It took a little bit of learning to keep it under control.   It cruised along easily at the 20 mph prescribed by law, though we did nudge it up a bit (well, more than a bit) passed the limit.

The bike is solidly built.  Even on some pretty well rutted dirt roads, the substantial front suspension kept the ride pretty smooth.   The bike weighs in at 54 lbs.  That’s light enough so one person could get it on and off the hitch mounted bike rack without too much strain.  The bike comes with hydraulic front and rear disc brakes, as well as an air-filled front suspension.

The HPC HT e-bikes start at $2,599 and the price of the HT-1 as tested is just about $3700 before you add options like a higher power battery (which Hi-Power tells us most customers do opt for). Maximum cruising range on the flats is 39 miles, but with average ups and downs you can expect 30.  We figure in the hilly terrain of Vermont, that’s probably even lower, though we had it out for some 20+ mile rides and it was still going strong.

Hi-Power offers a complete line of high end mountain e-bikes.  The company builds to order and assembles each bike by hand in the U.S., which is why it can take up to three weeks to get one built.  Models include both full suspension as well as front suspension.  The company has recently introduced a folding e-mountain-bike, and it’s also bringing out a mid-drive system that uses a Kevlar belt transmission.

Now, about that solar charger. Since I first saw the big commercially available foldable solar panels I fantasized about whether I could use one to charge up my e-bike.  Several years ago the answer would have been a resounding “no way!”

But then the maximum output in those panels was 12 volts, and that meant it would have taken the better part of a day to charge up a 36 volt battery.  But now there are foldable solar panels with higher outputs and dramatically greater efficiency.

Hi-Power claims a 24% efficiency rating on the panels it uses.  That means, depending on the size of the battery and the size of the solar panel, you may be able to fully charge the battery inside of a couple of hours.

So, if you’re off to an early start and exhaust the battery after 30 miles, you can pause for a long lunch, charge up, and be ready for the return ride. Of course, that means you’ll have to find a way of carrying the panel with you, a bulky, but not insurmountable problem.

While the sunlight that powers the panels is free, the panels themselves are anything but.  Depending on size, Hi-Power’s SunCapture panels can run between $900 and $2300.

Overall, the Hi-Power HPC HT-1 hardtail bike is really aimed at the enthusiast who wants to hit the trails full throttle.  It may be overkill for a recreational e-biker, unless you’re in a part of the country where you really want the power to flatten the hills.

There’s no question that the solar power charging option is going to be very attractive to some riders (including me).  But remember that option also brings with it a pretty stiff price.

- By Gary M. Kaye

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!

Comments

    • says

      check out the prices of most good electric bikes, batteries are 6-800 to start. Yes you can get less expensive ebikes, but in my experience you get what you pay for..have you priced out a regular mountain bike that has street cred lately, we are talking upwards of 6 grand..w/out power

  1. Rob says

    Hi Pete.. nice to see some alternative charging systems. I was hoping to see you do a review on the HPC bikes. They really look like a well built bike. Have good new year

    • says

      define affordable and reliable. I have been selling ebikes for 4 years and in my experience, the 2000 price point is the standard for a reliable and affordable ebike..unless you are going for SLA bikes. Just curious as to what bikes you are referring to..and ripping off is a bit much, the real test is how they honor their warranties, ’cause if you can’t get the bike fixed then its a rip off, if you can then you can put in the term “reliable”. We service all kinds of ebikes, and if we don’t sell them, they are mostly “affordable and reliable” bikes that have broken down and the manufacturer is no longer in business or won’t honor the warranty by either taking so long that the bike sits forever or fight you on remimbursement. Thats just my experience. On the other hand there are a ton of ebikes out there that I think are way too expensive for what you are getting, and most of them are comproble to what HPC is offering at a much affordable price.

      • Dave Wright says

        As cool as they are… electric bikes will never truly be practical until batteries become more efficient, and affordable, to the masses. That such a large percentage of the total cost of ownership is in the battery pack is still absurd. It is advancing, but still in it’s infancy–give it another five to ten years for the battery technology to catch up. The early adopters always pay for the tech. If you always have to be on the “bleeding-edge”, like myself, later users will ride on your monetary coat tails! Eight years ago, I paid #8000.00 for my first Sharp Aquos flat screen TV. Sure, I enjoyed it for a long time while most other people were still watching CRT’s. But it was a lot of money for a TV in retrospect.

  2. Lynn Ellsworth says

    Why do some companies go to the trouble of developing a great (or at least a promising) idea and then mate that idea to an obsolete chain and derailleur and put the motor in the wrong place?

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