Solar Station Pilot Launches to Charge Ebikes

The pilot program will use solar canopies to power the stations that automatically charge docked ebikes.

Today the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Lyft, the operator of Chicago’s Divvy system, announced they have installed two solar-powered stations capable of charging Divvy ebikes. The pilot program, in partnership with Skyhook Solar, will use solar canopies to power the stations that automatically charge docked ebikes, which in turn helps bolster ebike availability and reduce vehicle miles traveled associated with operating the Divvy fleet. This charging technology builds upon Divvy’s installation of first-in-the-nation grid-connected charging stations earlier this year.

The new solar canopies serve as a portable power source that can quickly bring electricity to Divvy charging stations in solar-appropriate locations such as next to a park or plaza, without the need to open up the street or sidewalk to connect to the power grid. The first two solar-powered stations are located at the intersections of Lexington Street and Loomis Street, and Madison Street and Green Street.

“Divvy is continuing to lead the country in shared micromobility innovation,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “After incorporating electrified stations to charge ebikes earlier this year, the addition of solar power technology will continue to make Chicago’s bikeshare system more sustainable and efficient by reducing the number of battery swaps. This pilot program is good news for Divvy riders and our environment.”

Divvy riders have taken over 2.6 million ebike rides so far this year. Ebikes have helped to accelerate decarbonization of the transportation sector through sustainable modeshift, as they emit significantly less carbon than cars.

“Ebikes are a transformational mode of transportation that’s exploding in popularity and electrifying our stations to charge them holds vast potential to unlock benefits for both riders and Chicago’s climate goals,” said Caroline Samponaro, VP of Transit, Bikes and Scooter Policy at Lyft. “Together with CDOT we’re partnering to explore how to bring electricity to the curb quickly and efficiently. Solar stations have the potential to be a valuable complement to grid connections, helping us bring ebike charging to more of our most used stations.”

"Skyhook Solar Stations can reduce the carbon footprint of bikeshare operations and charge ebikes at docks between rides, effectively increasing the availability of ebikes to Divvy riders," said Daniel Delano, CEO of Skyhook Solar. "We are truly excited to be working with Lyft and the Chicago Department of Transportation to launch our new solar technology in a great American city."

The predominant model for keeping ebikes charged is having drivers visit stations throughout our networks, manually swapping dead batteries with charged ones, and bringing the dead batteries back to the warehouse. This leads to bikes going offline when they run out of power and increased vehicle miles traveled than an in-station charging model.

Bikes automatically charge when docked in a station that is either connected to the grid or powered with solar energy, which builds off the same docking behavior that is familiar to riders already. In addition to reducing operational emissions, this helps enable more rides by keeping the bikes in service for longer periods of time.

In 2021, over 400,000 new riders tried Divvy, and a total of 5.5 million rides were taken, breaking every previous record. Meanwhile, CDOT and Lyft aim to make Divvy affordable for all Chicagoans through low-cost Divvy for Everyone (D4E) memberships for income-qualifying Chicagoans, which currently has over 8,000 members, an all-time high.