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Thursday, June 18, 2009

8th Grader Builds Solar-Powered Bike With GPS, iPod Dock

Eighth-grader David S. Dixon–along with his dad David G. Dixon–has built a street-legal quadricycle powered by a solar-charged electric motor. The bike not only carries his dog and three friends, but it has also has an iPod dock and GPS. Ya, it’s that cool!

Coined as the Solar Human Hybrid (SOHH), the vehicle was launched as part of David Jr.’s middle school project for the Novato Charter School.

David Jr. told that “I watched my dad install solar panels at home, I have had an interest in them ever since. I have had electric remote controlled cars, boats and helicopters that I would always take apart - and usually getting them back together with some kind of improvement.” David Sr. confirmed that “even his pinewood derby car in cub scouts back when he was 8 or 9 had LED taillights and headlights and ended up getting exhibited at the Marin County Fair.”

The vehicle’s Scott 24-volt motor provides 1 horsepower and it has a top speed of 14 mph. First geared to 18 mph, but it was then re-geared to provide enough torque for making steeper hills.

The SOHH uses GreenSaver Silicone Gel Cell batteries. The batteries, iPod, and GPS are all fed by 20-watt solar panels. They used a small motor as to keep pedal-power the priority for the bike. By doing so, the battery remained light-weight and the solar panels a reasonable size.

The base vehicle used, and the priciest part of the project, was a Switzerland-built ZEM (Zero Emission Machine) 4cycle. It’s made out of an aluminum frame and each rider can pedal at their own pace. In fact, the 4cycle took 3rd place at the human powered vehicle world championships at Interlaken, Switzerland.

And while the ZEM 4cycle is no longer produced, they got one from a dealer in Maryland who purchased the last 3 from the US distributor. It cost them $3,900.

“[The SOHH] has replaced our cars for errands around town, and it has grown into more than we envisioned with a lot of interest from the community,” David Dixon Sr. told

And for the win, they documented the project on their website with all parts and schematics so that anyone can build one. They don’t plan to mass produce the vehicle but would love it if someone else does. Though David Sr. did express an interest in updating the bike with a lighter battery “such as lithium polymer, but no budget for it yet.”

Of course, we’d love to see that too. But I had to ask if the dog actually rides in the SOHH.

David Sr. told us “Not really, but she [Mimzy] would rather come along than be left behind.”

Source: and The SOHH Project