My good friend Laurence Clarkberg is the one who destroyed my life about a decade ago by selling me my first ebike. He decided to build an ebike that could take him and his wife Judy across the country in comfort and style so he built the Sun Pony. I love this build because it reminds me of what is possible if you ignore what everyone else is doing and think outside the box. Watching this ebike go down the road brings me so much joy it’s hard to describe. This build reminds me of seeing Amish time traveling back from the future. Ironically a lot of Amish communities have been embracing ebikes and solar panel\powerstations for charging which I have to admit I totally love.
Three separate motor/battery systems for her pleasure
One of the main thing that makes this build unique is that it has 3 different shark packs paired with different motors giving it triple redundancy. The two mid drives are TSDZ2 systems which work well with this trike because they actually allow you to pedal backwards which is necessary to activate the coaster brakes that come stock with this tricycle. The BBS02/BBSHD have a double clutch system which means when you pedal backwards only the pedals move and the chain does not move. The mid drive batteries are plugged in continuously to the solar panels which each have their own Genasun 52v lithium battery MPPT charge controller from Grin (max charging speed is 8 amps).
It’s all about the Regen
Originally the trike came with a large drum brake in the front wheel, but Laurence replaced it with a Grin All-Axle motor and a separate shark pack. This Direct Drive motor allows the trike to have regen braking to help recover energy that might otherwise be lost going down hills. Laurence did not like how weak the rear coaster brakes were so he custom welded a brake attachment point on the front steel forks. Also the Grin All-Axle motor comes with a large built-in torque arm so you don’t have to worry about the dropouts ripping out from all the torque on the front motor.
Mid Drives paired with IGH
For hilly terrain like we have in Ithaca it is super nice to have a mid drive vs just using a hub motor. The trike came stock with two Nexus 3 IGH with a coaster brake. Without the addition of the motors this trike was pretty hard to get up any hills and was really designed for level recreation trails. With the addition of 2 mid drive motors it can tackle pretty much any hill with relative ease. The top speed is generally around 20 mph with general feelings of safety and well being dissolving quickly when taken over that speed. The DD motor is generally only used on hills with regen being used when going down hills and an extra speed boost when going up hills. The Nexus coaster brake operates when you pedal backwards but is relatively ineffective with a bike this size. The original Trike design was never really designed to go down (or up) real hills and instead of having adequate brakes it just had a sticker telling you not to use the bike on hills (true story).
340 Watts of Solar Panels allow for continuous travel day after day without having to stop
If the sun is shining the panels then generally the amount of power it is generates is about the same amount of power than it uses. When you stop the eTrike you can pull the position locking cotter pins and adjust the panels to be perpendicular to the sun to maximize the power charging in the mornings and evenings when you would generally want to rest.
An eTrike designed for epic cross country trips
When Laurence built the Sun Pony it was expressly to travel long distances in comfort without having to worry about finding places to charge along the way. The tandem seating is nice for long trips where one person can steer and the other person can read or just enjoy their surroundings. The build cost for the Sun Pony all-in is about $5000 which is a decent investment if you consider how much it costs in gas just to drive across the country. It seems like every time I fill up the tank it is right around $100. It makes a lot of sense to have a recreational vehicle that might be 3x slower than driving, but ends up being a much more enjoyable trip. The solar panels also protect the passengers from sun and helps a bit with the rain (although not much). I love the practicality of this build and how it extends first principles thinking to maximize usability while still minimizing costs. Cargo can be carried in large plastic bins strapped down behind the seats. Laurence also has a large lightweight slow vehicle triangle to help warn vehicles to slow down and not try to run them off the road. There is also double headlights and double taillights powered by the ebike packs with waterproof connectors for safety and reliability.
For more info on this build you can check out an article on Laurence’s ‘Wheels of Fire blog’ here. I also shot a short YouTube video with Laurence you can click above with a little more insight about the etrike. Its hard for me to express how much enthusiasm I have for this build. While Hollywood like to portray large, heavy vehicles with absurdly inefficient off road wheels tooling around the wasteland getting crap for gas mileage the reality is that our post-apocalyptic wasteland will most likely be filled with builds more like this one that combine creativity, ingenuity and crazy efficiency.
Ride On, and on and on and on and on, and never stop just because you need to charge…