Living on the Road

SunVolt Portable Solar Power Station


Solar panel quickly charges cell phone batteries

I’ve been trying to live off the grid for a while now. I bought land in Cabo San Lucas that I plan to entirely run by solar and wind turbines.

I also use my cellphone a lot. I burn through batteries so quickly, that I only buy phones that use replaceable batteries. My current cellphone is a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I have a 7500 mAh battery (no, that is not a typo) and a fully charged backup 3500 mAh battery that I keep in my pocket.

With my committment to living off the grid, I have tried those little solar cell phone chargers that you can get in China; I have tried the Solio and I have even tried to fabricate my own solar charger. The problem with all of these devices is that the solar panels are so small that to give your phone even a small bump in energy, you have to keep your charger in the sun for a minimum of 6-8 hours.

Enter the Gomadic Sunvolt Solar Power Station and Solar Cache High Capacity Battery Pack. It is an all-in-one solar charger and high capacity battery in its own sturdy carry case. At first, I thought, wow, it is as big as my laptop, and I would never lug that around. True, it’s big, but this is because it contains a large 10 1/2″ x 10″ solar panel. The case acts as a stand so you simply unzip and position the panel to receive optimal sunlight and you’re good to go. The design of this system is really well thought out — the outer pockets of the case hold the battery and every conceivable connection to every conceivable electronic device. Even if your device connection is not included, all you’ll need is a USB cable to your device as the out port on the battery is a standard USB port. Best of all, the power output blasts all of the other solar chargers in the market. It outputs between 8.0 – 14.4 watts (and I understand that they are coming out with a more powerful one).

The solar panels charge a 3400 mAh battery which is good enough to charge my cellphone for a day’s use, although you can hook up your device to be charged directly from the sun.

I recently brought this to Thailand, where it is 100 degrees in the shade, and I found the system to be extremely helpful, especially in the south where modern electronics were sparse. The case is extremely durable and well made. The near-empty battery was fully charged after two hours in the full sun, which is extremely quick. I found that during the day, I would charge the included battery and then at night would use it to replenish my dying cell phone.

The only thing I would wish for is a charging indicator that would confirm me that the panels were getting enough sun and that I have a proper connection to be providing a charge.

-- Alastair Ong 08/7/13