Friday, September 30, 2022

Can You Charge an E-Bike With a Generator?

How do you charge an e-bike battery? How often can it be charged? Can I overcharge the battery? These are all questions that people ask when figuring out how electric bikes work. There’s certainly a lot to understand about charging the battery.

And, if you camp, travel, or live off grid, a common question is whether you can charge it with a generator.

You can charge an electric bike with a generator. However, the generator must supply the same watts that your e-bike battery needs to charge fully.

To find this out, you’ll have to know the wattage of the generator and how much power your bike battery needs to be fully charged.

I’ll go into detail about how to charge an electric bike battery with a generator and other alternative ways of charging it in this blog post!

How Many Watts Does It Take to Charge an Electric Bike?

The wattage of the generator is a measure of how much electrical power it can produce in an hour.

This number is important to know when you are charging your battery with a generator. This is because if the output wattage isn’t high enough, then it takes longer for the e-bike’s battery to charge. Or, the battery won’t reach its full charge at all.

For example, if you have an electric road bike with a 500 Watt battery, then you’ll need a generator with more than 500 Watts of output to charge the battery fully.

I’ve looked into some highly-rated generators matching or exceeding various electric bike watts on Amazon (paid links) and here’s what I found:

Electric Bike WattsGeneratorWattsCostRating
250WPortable Power Station Solar Outdoor Generator300W$2494 stars
500WEF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station600W$3494 1/2 stars
750WPowerSmart Generator, Portable Generator1000W$1894 1/2 stars
1000WChampion Power Equipment, Inverter Generator2000W$4494 1/2 stars
1500WChampion Power Equipment, RV Ready Portable Generator, CARB3000W$3794 1/2 stars

If you have plenty of time, then it’s no problem because your generator will just take longer to complete its task. However, if your bike needs a quick recharge and there isn’t enough power from the generator, then that means you’ll be waiting for hours on end.

For instance, if your battery requires 500 watts and your generator has a 1,000-watt capacity, then you should be able to charge your electric bike quickly without any issues.

Even this small, portable generator can charge 250W electric bikes while on the go!

Orange and grey Portable Power Station 300W,Peak 600W Solar Outdoor Generators
Portable Power Station 300W, Peak 600W Solar Outdoor Generator

Can You Charge an E-Bike With a Generator?

In general, you can use a generator to charge your electric battery as long as it has a power output that’s higher than your e-bike’s battery.

If your generator has enough watts, then it’s just a matter of plugging your generator into an outlet and connecting one end to the battery.

This well-rated generator should easily charge your 250W or 500W e-bike:

Black EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station 600W
600W EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station with LED Flashlight

It’ll take a while for the battery to charge because it will be using power from both sources (itself and the generator).

But once you have enough power from the generator, then you’ll be able to charge your battery without any issues. You can check the battery charge on your e-bike’s controller display.

How to Charge an Electric Bikes With a Generator

If you’re still not sure that the generator has enough power to charge your ebike battery, you can do the following. Take the output wattage of your generator and compare it to what is needed for charging the battery.

If they are close, then you should be able to charge your bike’s battery using a generator. But if not, then you’ll have to use alternative methods of charging (which I discuss below).

Once you’ve done that, plug one end of a charging cable into an outlet and connect it to the electric bike’s battery.

Now, when you turn on your generator and let it run for a while, then that will allow your electric bike battery to charge up!

How Do You Charge an E-Bike When Camping? (With a Generator)

You can charge electric bikes while camping as long as you have an RV generator, or a portable generator, that has the same or greater watts than your electric bike.

This is no different from any other charging situation as far as the battery itself goes. However, there are a few things to consider before you assume your generator will work while camping.

Using a generator while camping

Once you have a generator that’s powerful enough for your e-bike and other power needs (like air conditioning in your camper), you’ll want to make sure you can actually use it.

So, make sure that:

  1. your campsite has power outlets
  2. there is a power outlet specifically at the campsite you’re reserving
  3. and that your particular camping area’s power grid is reliable

To ensure that they’ll be adequate, call ahead and/or research it to make sure you won’t be left hanging without a power source.

First, plug the charger into a campsite outlet and connect it to your bike battery.

When power is coming from the campsite’s outlet, there should be enough wattage for charging up!

Look here to make sure you’ve got all the important electric bike travel accessories!

Buying a portable generator

The only thing you have to worry about now is making sure that the generator you buy has enough watts to power up your electric bike, especially for longer trips.

You can calculate how many watts are needed to charge your e-bike by multiplying its wattage by the number of hours it would need to spend charging. So, it’s a good idea to know how long your battery typically needs to power up when charging it in a regular wall socket at home.

Now, compare that with what a generator’s watts can provide (in terms of watt-hour). Watt-hours will tell you how long the generator can power up and provide electricity.

If your electric bike’s watts and the generator’s watts are close, then you should be able to charge up your e-bike battery without any problem! Don’t skimp and try to buy a small generator with too few watts. This could backfire and leave you without a bike to ride for the entire camping trip!

However, if you’re camping, then you’ll likely want to have additional watts for cooking, air conditioning, and charging your mobile phone and laptop. In this case, make sure your generator has much greater wattage than your bike.

For instance, this RV generator below will power up your e-bike and pretty much any of your camping needs!

Black and yellow Champion Power Equipment 3500W RV Generator
Champion Power Equipment 3500W RV Generator

Find out what a generator’s wattage is before you buy it. Further, talk to an RV specialist to make sure your generator is sufficient.

Read the USA e-bike travel guide to get the most out of your adventures!

Can I Charge My Electric Bike with a Solar Panel?

So we know how to use a generator to charge an e-bike’s battery but what if there are no power outlets nearby? Can you charge an electric bike with solar power or wind energy instead?

If you’re in a place where there’s full sun, then it might be possible to use a solar panel. But if not (or if the weather is cloudy), it might not work well!

Here’s how to charge your e-bike with solar energy:

  • First, make sure that your solar panels are big enough to cover the wattage of your electric bike. You may need a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) that matches up the solar panels with your electric bike battery power.

    You can also calculate by multiplying its watts with how many hours it needs charging and dividing that number in half. Therefore, for a 100W battery, you need 100W x 16hrs = 1600W. Divide that in half and you’ll need 800W to power your e-bike.
  • Second, make sure your solar panels are facing the sun. You can use a compass app on your phone to make this easier and more accurate!
  • Third, for good solar charge, make sure the panels are clean and not shaded by trees or other things.
  • Fourth, make sure your solar panel is connected to a controller that has enough wattage for charging up with solar power!

If you’re camping, then these controllers could be something like an inverter (usually called a generator-inverter) which can help use solar charge.

Find out more about how to charge an e-bike with a solar panel!

Can I Charge My E-Bike with a Wind Turbine?

Electric bikes can be charge with wind turbines, but the equipment to set up may cost too much. Saving a few dollars over 10 or 20 years is probably not worth it.

However, there are companies experimenting with this. Flower Turbines is one company that wants to make it easy to charge electric bikes and scooters with wind, as well as solar power. Their goal is to provide both on grid and off grid energy.

So, you won’t need a wall outlet, second battery, or fuel cells to produce more power!

Can You Charge an E-Bike Battery with an Inverter?

Inverters can be quite efficient at charging e-bikes. However, it’ll require a powerful continuous inverter like this one.

Red metal inverter box
DC24V to AC110V 60Hz 2000W Continuous Output Power Pure SINE Wave Inverter with LCD Wire Remote

What you need to know before buying an inverter

Inverters are typically less expensive than a second battery, so it makes sense to consider using one. If you are often far from electric outlets and/or outdoors a lot, having an inverter can come in handy.

Plus, having extra batteries on hand can be a hassle, as well as costly.

But be aware that an inverter powerful enough to charge your e-bike can actually damage your car’s fuses. In this case, you may need a separate circuit to be wired. Unless you’re handy with electricity, you’d best get someone to help you do this. This is a great long-term solution for charging your e-bike, so it may be worth the time and effort.

For example, you can use an RV inverter to connect directly to your electric bike’s battery to charge it. You’ll need a power inverter or “inverter-charger” for this and they can be purchased at any RV repair store.

Find out what an inverter’s wattage is before you buy one (or ask the salesperson). This should tell you how many watts your e-bike will need to be able to charge up.

The great thing about an inverter is that it can convert DC batteries into AC power for your recharger! This makes it possible to use a car battery if you’re in need of one, or even the solar panels we mentioned earlier!

Inverters have limits too though: They won’t work with electric bike batteries that are over 30Ah (which won’t be a problem for most electric bikes).

There are also two types of inverters: voltage and wattage.

Voltage is how much surge in volts the inverter can withstand before it malfunctions, while wattage is simply its power capacity (i.e., 2000 watts).

I suggest you read the Amazon customer reviews on inverters before purchasing.

Can I Charge My Electric Bike Battery With a USB Cable?

A USB cable is 5 volts DC and e-bikes are typically 24 volts or 36 volts. So, you can’t charge your electric bike battery with a USB cable.

Not only is it not powerful enough to charge your bike battery, but the receiving end of the plug wouldn’t fit anyways!

As a side note however… you can add a USB port to your e-bike to charge your mobile phone! Buy a cable. Glue it to your e-bike (with a glue appropriate for metal and plastic together). Done.

Many e-bike brands now come with a USB outlet included, so you won’t even need a cable.

Conclusion: Can you charge an electric bike with a generator?

Generators have long been used as backup sources for electricity and can also be helpful when charging bike batteries.

If you’re concerned about being out in the world without enough capacity to charge your electric bike, then having a generator is a perfect option for you.

Just make sure your generator has as many watts or more than your e-bike!

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