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Riding with a solar cargo bike to Glasgow

Riding with a solar cargo bike to Glasgow

Photographer: Tim Wilmes

Noël Wilmes is the entrepreneur behind HairVisit, Maastricht's cargo bike hair salon. He rides his unique Babboe Carve cargo bike with solar panels to visit all his clients. He's ridden around 3,500 km in 2021, completely powered by solar energy. In late October he's biking to the Glasgow climate summit to draw attention to climate change.

Subsidized cargo bike

In 2017, Noël took part in the "Accessible Maastricht" project, which allowed him as an entrepreneur to request a subsidy to purchase an electric cargo bike.

As a hair salon on wheels, he knew he fit the profile they were looking for and saw an opportunity to use his car less in favor of an electric cargo bike. "Knowing that this allowed me to contribute to better air quality gave me a good feeling", says Noël.

Babboe Carve

While hunting down his ideal electric cargo bike, the unique Babboe Carve quickly caught Noël's attention. The combination of the wooden cargo container with an anthracite frame and black parts plus the carve mechanism, which lets the cargo container move along with every turn, seemed ideal.

According to Noël:
"I was searching for an electric cargo bike I could use for my business, and no other cargo bike seemed to fit my needs. The Carve Mountain suited me best personally, but it didn't have a lid. As a creative type, I thought to myself: 'Can't I just make my own lid?' I had worked with polyester in the past, repairing a canoe, and am not afraid of a challenge. But thanks to the round shape of the Babboe Carve, the design was even more of a challenge than expected."

Solar Cargo e-bike

Cargo bike with solar panels

Noël designed his own lid, and placed solar panels on it. He quickly figured out that one solar panel would not be enough to meet the energy needs of the electric cargo bike, especially due to the energy loss from transferring to battery power and the added weight from the lid and larger battery.

After a prototype with two solar panels, he finally landed on the SOLFIE III – his name for this new lid, giving a nod to the sun ("sol") and a wink to the word "selfie," to recognize the self-generated energy. The solar cargo bike now uses three solar panels, two of which can be retracted into the cargo container to leave a trimmer, more standard cargo bike.

Output from the solar cargo bike

This year, after six months of riding, Noël has biked 3,500 km on a full battery, never once needing to plug in. In the winter, the solar cargo bike's efficiency dips to 5% of its summer output.

Noël says: "It feels great to have designed something yourself that works so well. On top of that, I'm very happy with the way the final solar cargo bike looks. Because, let's be honest, the eye also needs to be pleased."

Solar cargo bike
Photographer: Tim Wilmes

The hair stylist on a cargo bike

Noël gets positive reactions from clients, who see a hair stylist on (cargo bike) wheels as a sort of luxury. These clients no longer need to leave their houses to get a haircut, and it's ideal for families with kids, because everyone can do whatever they want while they wait for their turn. Furthermore, Noël is getting more and more clients who specifically want a sustainable hair stylist. After all, it's a concept that goes beyond a cargo bike with solar panels; Noël also makes conscientious choices about the products and packaging.

A bike ride to Glasgow to inspire and be inspired. Because Brexit or not: we're all in this together.

Noël Wilmes

Glasgow Climate Change Conference

In late October of this year, Noël is riding his cargo bike with solar panels from Dover to the climate summit in Glasgow (COP26). During his ride, he'll be dressed as "a climate hero in training" to draw attention to climate change. He'll also be promoting the book First Aid for Climate Change by Anabella Meijer, translated from Dutch by David Klein, one of the people behind the bike ride initiative. And there will also be three additional books along for the ride, all by leading voices in the climate change story. His wife Ilonka will also join the bike ride to Glasgow. They'll take on this adventure together, each on an electric cargo bike by Babboe.

To draw the most attention possible to climate change, this solar cargo bike journey will pass a number of important cities like London, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, and Edinburgh before arriving in Glasgow.

Solar cargo bike Glasgow


Want to follow Noël's adventures on his cargo bike with solar panels? Follow him on Instagram: @solarcargobike.

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Riding with a solar cargo bike to Glasgow