He’s a new-age nomad.
For the past four years, the soft-spoken bike-lover-turned-inventor-turned-adventurer has focused on his latest project — a solar-powered, electric-assisted bicycle. It’s not about speed or notoriety. For 38-year-old Terry Hope, it’s all about freedom.
It’s a bit of a passion, Hope quietly acknowledges while sitting at a table next to Quest University’s cafeteria, where he works. Now in its third iteration, Hope’s bicycle is equipped with eight homemade solar panels and an electric motor. It runs on a little more power than what’s used to power an iPad and, if the terrain is flat and the sun’s out, there’s no end to Hope’s journey.
The push to build the bicycle is to show it can be done, the unassuming looking native of Peachland says. The ultimate goal is to become “range anxiety” free — to travel without the worry of finding a place to plug in or fill up.
“It’s a lot simpler process. Instead of doing 10 steps, you can do one or two and you can be on your way,” Hope says.
In early 2014, he expects new solar technology will allow the bike to go up to 15 kilometres per hour. Add in battery improvements and when there’s no sunshine, his vehicle of choice will have a 100-kilometre range on the electric motor.
“I am just trying to show that it works,” he says, with a slight shrug of the shoulders.
Hope’s love affair with bicycles runs back to his childhood. A year and a half ago, he feared it was over. Hope sustained back injuries from an accident on a local BMX track, leaving him wondering whether he would be able to carry out long-distance rides.
Determined to hold onto that freedom, Hope poured time into his solar-powered bike.
“I thought I won’t be able to ride anymore,” he says. “I thought I had to have this [assisted] bike working if I wanted to do any distance.”
Last summer, Hope packed 50 pounds’ worth of gear — tent, blanket, and bike equipment — onto his solar-assisted electric bike and headed east. At times he would veer off Crowsnest Highway to cut along rocky mountain trails. It was rough, Hope admits. He found himself alone on old roads that wind through thick forest, hours away from help. Finding an outlet for the electric motor wasn’t always an easy task, Hope added. He ended his trip in Creston, 763 kilometres from Squamish.
“I could never do that on a normal bike,” he said.
Next summer, Hope aims to hit the road again. He wants to push the boundaries, heading to less populated areas to see if, with the help of today’s technology, he can become more self-sustaining.
He’s excited about the future and the new freedoms people will discover as research expands.
“It’s kind of a survival thing,” Hope explains. “I am building this bike so I can keep doing what I love to do.”