The future of community bike systems may not require much pedaling at all; Sanyo has just installed two “Solar Parking Lots” that serve as solar charging stations for 100 Eneloop electric hybrid bicycles in Setagaya, Tokyo.
The carbon-neutral bike shelter both charges the bikes and provides low-power LED lighting from solar energy collected by panels on the roof. Based on Sanyo’s own Smart Energy Systems technologies, the panels charge both the lithium ion batteries installed directly on the bicycles as well as an array of lithium ion-based storage cells that reserve power for those rainy days when sunlight is scarce.
The storage arrays also include AC converters that can be used to power external devices, making the stations grid-independent sources of electricity in case of emergency.
Eneloop bikes, you’ll remember, are electric hybrids that do most of the work for you — you still pedal to make them go, but electric motors supply most of the energy needed to propel the bikes forward (for a refresher see the video below). The Eneloops provided at the Solar Parking Lots will be used as community bikes, though it’s unclear if they will be offered free of charge or rely on some sort of payment system.
Green electricity, green travel and some good old-fashioned exercise amid the great outdoors; in the worst-case scenario, your battery dies and you actually have to provide some forward momentum yourself. There’s a lot to like about Sanyo’s scheme.