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Ebikes are gaining serious traction in the RV community for many reasons. They offer lightweight motorized mobility with super-low energy costs. They’re fun to ride and keep you fit in a low-sweat kind of way. RV life is nomadic, so if you’re going to invest in an ebike, having several charging options for your new electric pony will keep it ready for action wherever you are.
Charging ebike batteries in an RV can be done in many ways:
- Plug the ebike battery and charger into 120V AC shore power
- Charge with a solar-powered DC-AC inverter
- Connect RV batteries to an inverter
- Use a power bank
- Portable gasoline generator
- Solar generator
As most RV owners admit, having a second vehicle to conduct short distance errands is a handy accessory to have hitched or strapped to the back of their motorhome or trailer. Ebikes strike a healthy balance between bicycles, motorcycles, and gas-guzzling cars. The question is – how do you charge an ebike in an RV?
Ebike Batteries And Chargers
At face value, an ebike functions much like a cellphone, with a dedicated AC charger that converts 120 Volts to the lower DC Voltage of the battery.
You can charge ebike batteries in the same way you charge cellphones using DC power sources (such as battery banks and solar panels).
But it doesn’t end there as far as ebike charging options go. Let’s investigate the many ways you can charge your ebike in your RV.
1. Charging Your Ebike Using Shore Power
RV parks and most commercial campsites offer shore power, enabling you to charge your ebike in the same way you would at home – by plugging the charger and battery into a 120 Volt receptacle inside your RV or at the campground power pedestal.
Ebike battery chargers convert the 120 Volts to the specified voltage of the ebike battery and ensure the battery is safely charged to avoid damaging the battery.
You can remove your ebike battery from the bike for indoor charging. You can also charge an ebike battery while it’s on the bike.
An empty 48Volt ebike lithium-ion battery takes as little as two hours to reach 90% charge.
2. Use Your RV Battery To Charge Your Ebike
You can plug your ebike charger into an inverter connected to your RV battery. The inverter converts your RV battery’s 12 Volt power to 120Volt AC power.
Whether you are driving your RV or have it parked in a campsite, with your RV batteries fully charged, you will be able to charge your ebike battery with the charger plugged into a pure sine wave inverter connected to the RV batteries.
The inverter itself draws power from the RV battery, which will place an extra burden on your RV battery (or batteries), so keep an eye on the charging process or install a battery monitor on your RV battery to ensure it doesn’t run dry of charge.
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3. Can You Charge Your Ebike With An RV Solar System?
If your RV is equipped with a solar power system it’ll have solar panels, a solar charge controller, a battery bank and an inverter. This makes ebike charging possible in the same manner as plugging into shore power. Plug the ebike battery charger into the inverter and allow it to charge the ebike battery.
The power generated by larger RV solar systems (400Watts or more) is ample for charging most ebike batteries without compromising the solar system’s ability to power other appliances in the RV. The advantage of having a full RV solar system with a large battery bank is that it enables you to charge your ebike while you’re off grid or boondocking.
Here’s my Complete Guide to Installing a Solar System on Your RV or Trailer.
4. Charging Your Ebike Using A Gasoline or Propane Generator
A gasoline generator puts out 120 Volt AC power, enabling you to plug in an ebike battery charger directly. The charging efficiency is the same as using shore power. If you don’t have an onboard generator there are many reasons you need an inverter generator in your RV.
It may be noisy and not as clean as solar, but a gasoline generator will serve as a reliable ebike charging station wherever you are. A gasoline generator is a surefire way of keeping your ebike battery powered up for remote camping and biking trails in the wild.
I use the Champion dual fuel generator as my portable generator because it can run on gas or propane and has a 30A RV outlet built in to connect my RV if I ever need it.
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5. Use A Solar Generator For Charging Your Ebike
The advances in lithium-ion and lithium iron phosphate battery performance have resulted in efficient, compact portable solar generators becoming standard accessories for outdoor enthusiasts.
Solar-powered generators range in power output from 100 Watts to 2000 Watts. A solar panel charges the lithium-ion or lithium iron phosphate battery in a portable solar generator. The battery powers a built-in 120V AC inverter.
Your ebike battery charger will plug into the AC receptacle on the solar generator and charge your ebike battery. The size of your ebike battery will determine what power output you’ll need from a solar generator.
A 300 Watt ebike battery on 50% charge will charge in under three hours with a 500Watt portable solar generator powering the ebike battery charger.
6. Charge Your Ebike With An MPPT Boost Solar Charge Controller
Your ebike charger acts as a step-down transformer, converting 120 Volt AC to a lower voltage to charge the ebike battery. Interestingly, it is possible to charge your ebike battery without using your ebike battery charger using a solar panel and an MPPT Boost solar charge controller.
A word of warning – don’t try this route to charging your ebike if the battery is still under warranty and, you’ll need a set of DIY electronic skills.
An MPPT boost solar charge controller manages the solar energy produced by the sun, converting it into Volts.
Solar panels produce around 18Volts in direct sunlight. The MPPT boost controller has variable voltage settings to increase the voltage from the solar panel to supply the voltage needed to charge your ebike battery.
If you’re tech-savvy, this option is streamlined and portable, giving you the ability to charge your ebike battery when you’re nowhere near your RV. All you need is the boost controller, a 100Watt solar flexible or foldable solar panel, cabling, and connectors.
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7. Charging Your Ebike Using A Step-up Voltage Converter
A step-up Voltage converter works much like an MPPT boost controller, increasing the voltage supplied by the source generator. In this case, the voltage is generated by a solar panel.
This DIY method of charging your ebike without its charger is the same as example #6. The advantage is that step-up voltage converters are cheaper than MPPT boost controllers.
Again, if your ebike battery is under warranty, only use the factory charger it came with.
If you want to experiment with an old battery, a step-up voltage converter, and a 100Watt solar panel, you could be on your way to ebike heaven – the freedom to charge your ebike battery using the sun cheaply.
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Check out this video on using a step-up Voltage converter with a solar panel to charge your ebike battery.
So far we’ve covered both conventional and alternative methods of charging your ebike in your RV, plus two examples of how to charge your ebike battery untethered to your RV.
There are many more ways to make sure you never run out of battery power on your ebike by using power sources wherever they present themselves. Let’s take a look.
8. Charging Spare Ebike Batteries In Your RV
If you’re aiming to cover significant mileage on your ebike in a single ride, you should carry at least one spare battery, which you can charge while the other is in use.
Charge your spare ebike battery in your RV using whatever power source you have available, be that 120 Volt AC, solar power, RV batteries, a power bank, or a generator.
Take the fully charged spare battery with you if you’re going on a long ride.
9. Charging Ebike Batteries In Your RV While Driving
You can charge your ebike battery while you drive to your next destination, which may entail several hours on the road.
You can take advantage of the power generated by your RV’s engine and plug your ebike battery charger and battery into an inverter that will plug into a 12 Volt socket inside your vehicle.
If you have solar panels on the roof of your RV and the sun is shining, you can charge up your ebike battery while you cruise the highways and byways.
The 12 Volt socket in your RV or towing vehicle can also charge a solar generator or power bank while you’re driving.
10. Charging Ebike Batteries While Riding
Having portable ebike battery charging equipment in your backpack or strapped to your ebike that you can use when you’re out on a ride and miles away from your RV will spare you a lot of walking.
Apart from carrying a fully charged spare battery, the following charging options will give you added confidence:
- Carry a small, fully charged power bank or small solar generator with a foldable solar panel.
- Keep a a mini solar power generator on hand.
- You may plan a meal at a restaurant or venue as part of your bike ride. Take your ebike battery charger with you to top up your battery using your host’s 120 Volt AC power (with permission, of course).
- For the DIY maverick, ride with a flexible solar panel and MPPT booster rigged to the ebike rack to charge the ebike battery while you’re riding the bike (yes, it is possible).
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Ebike Battery Charging Tips
Taking good care of your ebike battery entails more than charging it up when it’s depleted. By adopting a diligent ebike battery care regimen, you’ll add life to your electric pony’s batteries and save yourself a lot of money.
Follow these guidelines for more battery life and more time in the saddle:
- Charge your batteries to 90% for more riding time. The last 10% of the charging process is a trickle charge and is a lot slower than the time taken to reach 90% charge.
- To prolong battery life, avoid draining the battery completely.
- Recharge the battery often, even if you’re not riding the bike, but don’t charge it fully. Storing fully charged batteries degrades the cells. An 80% charge is safe.
- Do not subject your ebike battery to extreme temperatures.
- Remove the battery from the ebike when in transit to avoid battery damage. Despite appearances, ebike batteries don’t like hard knocks.
- It’s important to remember that how you ride your ebike also affects battery charge levels. Go easy on the throttle, use regenerative braking prudently, keep your tires inflated to the optimum pressure, and use those pedals!
How An Ebike Works
Ebikes are driven by an electric motor that receives power from a battery. Both ebike motors and ebike batteries are available in a range of power ratings.
- Ebike motors range in power from around 250 Watts to 1000 Watts.
- Two types of motors are available for ebikes – hub-mounted motors that directly drive the rear or front wheel hubs or a center-mounted hub-drive motor that drives the pedal crank assembly of the ebike.
- Ebike batteries vary in Voltage, Amps, and Watts. Most manufacturers use standard battery voltage ratings for their ebikes ranging from 36 Volts to 72 Volts.
- Ebike batteries are charged using a proprietary smart charger, powered by 120Volt AC, plugging directly into a standard residential wall outlet.
- Typically, lithium-ion batteries power ebikes, but lead-gel, nickel, and lithium iron phosphate batteries are also used in some ebike models.
- A variable rule of thumb when charging an ebike is 400-500 Watt-hours to charge an ebike battery.
- On average, 15 Watt-hours of battery energy will give you 22 miles of ebike travel.
Having an ebike in your RV will add a new level of freedom and health to your overall RV experience. With your ebike batteries suitably charged, your ebike will not only assist you in executing your errands to get supplies, but it will allow you to discover places you wouldn’t get to visit if you were solely reliant on your RV.
With these ten ways to charge your ebike in your RV, you have a handy roadmap to total ebike battery efficiency and exciting times out in the country, peddling with power and peace of mind!