Solar-powered bike

Luis Fourzan, left, students and staff at Montana State University, center, and Sushil Reddy, right, meet at the university to discuss solar energy and electric-powered forms of mobility.

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Sushil Reddy and Luis Fourzan stopped in Bozeman this week on their nearly 7,000 mile cross-country journey through the United States.

The two are riding on electric bicycles to raise awareness about solar energy and sustainable electric mobility. It’s part of an outreach project called Sun Pedal Ride, which Reddy began in India in 2016.

“It’s a good way to connect with people and showcase the technology,” Reddy said. “Rather than just talking about it, people appreciate it more when they see something happening. That, hopefully, translates into inspiring people to make a change at the individual level.”

Reddy worked for in the solar energy industry in India at a time when the solar energy sector was booming in the country. In 2016, he realized there was a need to spread more information about solar-powered technology in a way that better connected people to it.

That’s why that same year, Reddy rode a solar-powered bicycle on a nearly 5,000-mile trip through smaller towns and villages in India. He spent that time showcasing the technology and dispelling misconceptions about it, he said.

On that tour, Reddy won a Guinness World Record for longest journey on a motorized bicycle.

Later on, Reddy did more cross-country trips through India, France, California and Iceland. This summer, he came back to the U.S. to do a loop through the country with Fourzan. Their trip started in North Carolina on Aug. 15. Their plan is to finish the ride in Houston, Texas.

“We still have approximately 3,500 miles to go, and about another 70-odd days of riding,” Reddy said on Tuesday. “We’ve been visiting some universities along our journey.”

On Monday, Reddy and Fourzan stopped in Bozeman for a rest day. They connected with students and members of the Montana State University’s sustainability program, Reddy said.

Fourzan and Reddy got their bikes tuned up at Owenhouse Cycling, then took a tour at the Bozeman Brewing Company. By Tuesday, they’d made it to Whitehall.

Reddy rides a pedal-assisted electric bicycle with solar panels on the back, which means he still has to put physical effort into riding the bike, but can switch the motor on if he needs to.

“Usually, on a good sunny day, the solar panels add up to 40 or 50 miles for me as an assist from the motor,” he said. “On a cloudy or a rainy day, I put in more physical effort and take less power from the motor.”

Reddy said a common misconception about electric-powered bicycles is that they are much more expensive than other conventional forms of transportation.

Up front, they are, but over the lifetime of the technology, solar powered forms of mobility are cheaper and require less maintenance, he said.

“The technologies have been improving over the last five years, and the efficiencies of solar panels have also been increasing,” he said. “It will only get better in the coming years.”

An earlier version of this article misspelled Sushil Reddy's last name. The mistake has been fixed.

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