People are using surplus shipping containers for all sorts of things from the practical to the paranoid, from trendy pop-up clothing stores to survivalist shelters from the apocalypse.
In Quikbyke's case, we want to convert one into a semi-mobile electric bicycle rental kiosk that can be transported anywhere in the world by truck, train and ship where it can be loaded on a fairly common tilt-bed trailer and placed anywhere there's 240 square feet of dry, level ground.. and this is important... good solar access. We want our electric-assist bicycles to be entirely, if possible, powered by the sun.
This past Friday morning, we took the first tangible step towards that goal when a semi-truck hauling two shipping containers pulled in front of Predator Customer Trailers and Motorcoaches, our subcontractor here in Papillion, Nebraska. They are providing the shop space, the equipment, and most importantly, the expertise to turn CPIU 2524490 (the container's registration number) into our first Q•pod rental kiosk. Also present was Harry Baulisch (U.S. Navy, ret.), who is a dedicated cyclist and skilled bike repair technician. He is going to help us with the configuration of the interior cabinetry so that we can do bike repairs, as well as rentals. And as you'd expect, despite a bitingly-cold December wind, he rode over to the shop, becoming the first bike rider inside the container.
As you'll see by the below video we shot, unloading the container was a surprising operation. The driver, who brought them up from Missouri, skillfully backed the trailer into position and then got out of the cab and proceeded to both manipulate the trailer lift bed and drive the truck by remote control. He carefully inched it into position and slowly lowered all 6,990 lbs. of it onto the gravel, just next to and behind a custom trailer Mark, the co-owner of Predator, told us was used by a local group of Sasquatch -- the legendary Big Foot -- hunters. (Both Harry and I would love to meet those guys!)
Now that the container is just two-miles away from my home, the next step is to start engineering the solar power system. Basically, we have room on top of the container for about 6 solar PV panels. Depending on the panel wattage, that's around 1,500 to 2,000 Watts of electrical energy per hour. Assuming a good 5-hour solar day, that's maybe 7,500 to 9,750 W/hrs per day. Given each bike battery is around 400 W/hrs, theoretically that should be enough to charge 24 batteries, or a dozen bikes and one spare for each... theoretically. Of course, we'll need to run low-voltage LED lights and power our tablet-based POS, as well as security and communications system, along with possible environmental sensors. My instincts tell me, we'll likely need to add a solar awning, as well as figure out some sort of backup power supply: ideally a small solid oxide fuel cell that runs on locally produced biofuel: ethanol or biodiesel. But that's what this prototype is for: to figure out critical questions like this.
Fortunately, I have been talking to some very bright people locally who can help us figure this all out, starting in January. In the meantime, I've been doing my own research in what panels to select - one criteria being, they must be certified for saltwater applications. While this first Q• may never get near the ocean, the plan is to locate most of them, at least part of the year near the sea. Being able to resist salt air-induced corrosion will be important for the container, its components, the bikes, and the panels.
And then there's the backup battery system. One of my investors and advisors is suggesting we use the lithium-ion battery pack from a wrecked Nissan LEAF. Turns out that's not such a crazy idea as I discovered over the weekend. Someone's already done it. Check out MyNissanLEAF.com. Theoretically, we could, if necessary, plug into the local power grid overnight and then use the stored power during the day to keep the batteries charged.
One year ago, just before Christmas, I received the ZeHus BIKE+ motor from Italy, which I would mate with my GreenStar Eco-force1 bamboo bike, creating one of the lightest electric bicycles anywhere. This year, I've swung to the opposite end of the spectrum to create a secure, semi-permanent shelter from which to rent, not the K15, but more consumer-ready models that will not only introduce many more people to the delight of riding an e-Bike but also spread that irrepressible "EV-smile" across the land.
Happy Holidays to you all and to all a Good Night!
Posted By: Bill Moore [20-Dec-2015]
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