Review: Charging gadgets from SONdelux and Sinewave Revolution.
This post is designed to share my experiences charging devices with the Sinewave Cycles Revolution, know previously as the Bright-Bike Revolution and a SONdelux dynamo hub.
The purpose of the Sinewave Revolution is to convert a wide range of DC voltages (6v - 52v) into stable 5v DC voltage to power USB devices. The intended application for the USB charger is to connect to bicycle dynamos. As it will accept a wide range of voltages, it will work with other power sources such as solar panels or batteries.
The device is small, slick, and solid. It measures about 52x35x15mm with a negligible weight as far as I'm concerned. The charger is waterproof as the internal electronics are sealed with epoxy.
The charger attaches easily to handlebars or frame with a single cable-tie.
More information can be found on the manufactures website
Bicycle dynamos such as the SONdelux hub fitted on my bike are rated for 6v and 3 watts output. Once the power has been regulated by the charger and the output is a stable 5v, the number we are most concerned with is the amperage. This number will dictate how fast a device will charge.
To easily measure this value, I hacked up an old multimeter to allow me to easily place it in series with USB devices.
The bike is a Surly LHT with 700c wheels and Schwalbe Marathon 700x35c tires.
The dynamo is a SONdelux
It should be noted that the SONdelux, compared with the SON28 offers less resistance and weight at the expense of power output at lower speeds. There is very little detail on these hubs. I would love to see someone do something similar with a SON28 or Shimano hubs.
The above graph form Schmidt compares the power output of the SONdelux to that of the SON28. As you can see, the power output of the SON28 is higher at lower speeds, with the curves meeting at around the 20-25km/h mark.
The full SON product brochure can be found here.
Test 1 - Apple iPhone 5s
To give some perspective, the charger that is included with the iPhone 5s has an output of 1 amp (5 watts).
A USB 2.0 port on a computer has an output of .5 amp (500mA)
This means that by my tests, and my average touring speed, the sinewave will charge my phone at about half the speed of the Apple wall charger and at the same speed as a computer USB 2.0 port. By my calculations this will be about 3.7 hours from 0 - 100% with the Sinewave.
I will update when I have tested this in the real world conditions.
Test 2 - IOGear 11,000 mAh battery pack
This battery pack began charging as soon as the Sinewave started generating power. It accepted a slightly higher current / speed than the iPhone5s. Unfortunately this battery would not take more than 560mA from the dynamo. Connected to mains power, it draws 1,000mA.
Test 3 - Mophie 6,000 mAh battery pack
The results of this test were very disappointing. I purchased this expensive battery because it would take a charge over 1 amp. As it turns out, it will not start charging until it receives a minimum of .67amp which it will not exceed.
The genius of this charger is that it will allow you to charge picky devices like iPhones directly, without the use of a cache battery (which reduces efficiency). The way this is accomplished is by use of a timer which delays power output for 10 seconds after the dynamo begins spinning, allowing you to gain a bit of speed before power output begins. This function worked exactly as advertised during my testing.
I must stress that the issues I experienced during these test are NOT the fault of the Sinewave. They are a result of a combination of the small amount of power produced by bicycle dynamos and by electronic circuitry designed to protect the lithium ion batteries during charging.
I found that the Sinewave performed as advertised and I would recommend it.
Small, light, simple, and rugged
Works as advertised
Charges picky phones with no cache battery
Interferes with Cateye wireless computer (commuter model) if placed near. (Not the fault the Sinewave. I'm looking at YOU Cateye.
A bit expensive for what's inside.
I would love to see someone complete a similar test with different gear to compare results. If there any questions of suggestions, please shoot them my way.
Thanks for reading.
Update - 1 : When connecting an iPad mini Retina to the charger I get interesting results. If I can maintain a speed which provides over 500mA, the iPad will charge at about the same current as the iPhone. If I drop below 500mA, the iPad will display "not charging" but in fact it does charge, albeit slowly at 390mA. After it "locks" to the 390mA level, it will not climb higher regardless of my speed until I disconnect the iPad and reconnect it.
Update - 2 : During a 100km ride yesterday, I had the chance to test my iPhone 5s with the charger. With LTE on (4-5 bar), screen on and brightness at 100%, GPS on and google maps open, the charger was not only able to maintain the battery level, but actually charge the battery at a rate of about 1% every 15 minutes at a moving speed of around 20km/h, but stopping very often as the bike trail intersected roads.
I'm very happy with this as I was wasn't sure it could even maintain the battery level with this high load on the phone's battery. With my hub, I sense no increase in resistance while charging.
I normally tend to use my phone more like a paper map for navigation, checking it when I need to and then turning the screen off. It's good to know that I have the option for real time navigation though.
With the screen off, it charged at the rate of 1% every 3-5 minutes.
Last edited by Jonnythecanuck; 06-01-14 at 10:42 AM.
Thanks for carrying out and posting your tests. Both the tests and the device look impressive. Is there any chance you could assess the power intake of Sinewave when it is not charging, but stays connected to the dynamo? Power assessment can be tricky, but the current intake (AC) might be easy to measure and most telling quickly. On their website they say that it takes practically zero power when not charging, but that is not a quantitative. Thanks.
Sure, I could do that. I'll throw an ammeter in line with one of the leads from dynamo. That would be interesting to see how it performs.
Edit: I believe I spoke too soon. My multimeters don't measure AC current. Sorry. Any ideas?
Last edited by Jonnythecanuck; 05-30-14 at 10:38 AM.
Thank you very much for your detailed review. The Revolution looks like a great addition when I convert my bike to Dynamo.
Thanks for the review and testing. I plan to do the same tests with cheaper Kemo 172N, Biologic Reecharge and two DIY versions.
I like the compact size of the charger (especially the upcoming Reactor model). They are a bit pricey though.
I wonder how IOGear manages to squeeze out more power at the same speed.
Regarding the no load power consumtion, they claim 0.025W at 35 km/h.
Are you sure? The cheapest multimeters these day would have the setting. In any case, if you have a diode and a capacitor, you could set up something like this:
Originally Posted by Jonnythecanuck
As a further option, you might use any DC source to feed the Sinewave, e.g. one of your battery pack, and measure the current going in. Though not the same as the case of feeding by a dynamo, it would be telling already something.
Cheap multimeters are usually not true-rms, so they will not give correct readings when measuring non sine wave signals. The voltage and the current coming out from a hub dynamo are not sine waves, especially when loaded with a full wave rectifier:
Also, some converters will not work with DC sources, Biologic ReeCharge for example.
All true, but does not matter. The device is supposed not to load the dynamo - if it loads, it is hopefully not a significant load. The manufacturer claims that the power consumption under the circumstances is practically zero, but does that zero translate to 50mA, 10mA, 1mA or 5uA of current? We do not know the order of magnitude at this moment.
Originally Posted by choa
The iPhone seems to require a minimum current to charge. Also, the iPhone seems to have current "levels". For example, the draw will jump to 500mA when I reach 25 km/h, but if I reduce speed to 20km/h, the current will remain the same. My graph shows the speed at which it first reaches the recorded current.
Originally Posted by choa
The IOgear simply draws the maximum current that I'm able to produce at all times it seems, right down to the few mA I'm producing as I slowly come to a stop.
I think the variation between the draw from the iPhone and the IOGear is simply due to Apple's more complicated charging circuitry.
In an e-mail, the manufacturer replied to tell me that the no load draw is 1.6mA.
Originally Posted by 2_i
Thanks, this is useful and the leakage current is not so bad. In my designs, I'd aim for 10 times less, but then I'd be busy for the next year perfecting the design, while I might here just go ahead and purchase what is available.
Originally Posted by Jonnythecanuck