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Thread: solar chargers

  1. #1
    No Heroes EvoFX's Avatar
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    solar chargers

    has anyone used solar chargers for touring or long bikes trips, to charge a phone or laptop. if so, what would you recommend in getting?

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    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    I've been looking at those myself, never used one. From what I've read Brunton Solaris are the best ones right now. They're not cheap but they're light (fold nicely) and provide a lot of power and can be linked. But I wonder what others have to say that actually used solar chargers in real life. I've been looking at the Solaris 26 model that goes for $300 on Amazon. The small Solio chargers are cheap but weak, they take many hours to charge a phone. The Brunton panels can actually run a laptop while charging it apparently. You could probably attach it to the pannier to charge gadgets while riding.

    Adam

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    Training Wheel Graduate twodeadpoets's Avatar
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    Check this out: http://www.bikeforums.net/search.php?searchid=129508

    EDIT: Sorry, search only works from my account. Try searching "Solar Chargers" in the search function; tonnes of hits
    Last edited by twodeadpoets; 01-23-10 at 04:50 PM. Reason: revision
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    No Heroes EvoFX's Avatar
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    no matches?

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    Senior Member 82times's Avatar
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    +1 that the Solio chargers are weak and slow. That was my experience on tour Summer 2008. Not really worth carrying. Construction was not very durable either. by mid-way through the tour, the three sections were loose from one another.

    My impression is that unless you spend a lot of money, solar chargers aren't ready for prime time for bicycle touring applications. I'm looking forward to the options getting better and cheaper, though, no doubt.

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    Training Wheel Graduate twodeadpoets's Avatar
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    Sorry I was trying to provide a link to search results in BikeForums, however, evidently I cannot share a link to my search results from my profile. What I was trying to suggest is that there are tonnes of search results in this forum and therefore information from people who have used solar chargers. Just do a search for "solar chargers" in the search.
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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    The problems with any solar system is that the little power they do produce, comes in fluctuating power levels. Bright sun generates more that partly cloudy. So you can't use the power directly or it will damage the device your using. So you need a controler / charger and a battery to store the energy. You then charge from that battery. Those items together are very expensive and don't even work all that great, it's the same reason solar will never be a viable energy source for general use.

    Anyway a better solution is to charge up at campgrounds, restaurants, motels, etc. I've never been turned down when I ask if I can plug in a charger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EvoFX View Post
    has anyone used solar chargers for touring or long bikes trips, to charge a phone or laptop. if so, what would you recommend in getting?
    think in terms of watts, your phone only needs a fraction of a watt, the lap top at least 30 watts. To charge a laptop will require all day from a large array aligned towards the sun. So you either don't move all day and align the large array towards the sun or you wrap your bike with an array and partially charge it while riding.
    Compared to simply plugging it in somewhere for an hour while you use it and it recharges while drawing about 75watts. This is one of those "there's no free lunch" issues where getting the lowest power consumption device possible to do the job is more efficient and less costly than trying to match solar power to a device designed for a 120v wall outlet.

    Solar power makes sense when you won't be near 120v with your 120v device for a long time.

  9. #9
    vintage tourer
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw View Post
    ...I've never been turned down when I ask if I can plug in a charger.

    i have, several times.

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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    think in terms of watts, your phone only needs a fraction of a watt, the lap top at least 30 watts. To charge a laptop will require all day from a large array aligned towards the sun. So you either don't move all day and align the large array towards the sun or you wrap your bike with an array and partially charge it while riding.
    Compared to simply plugging it in somewhere for an hour while you use it and it recharges while drawing about 75watts. This is one of those "there's no free lunch" issues where getting the lowest power consumption device possible to do the job is more efficient and less costly than trying to match solar power to a device designed for a 120v wall outlet.

    Solar power makes sense when you won't be near 120v with your 120v device for a long time.
    Not ALL devices that seem to be 120V are 120V, for example the laptop, if you check the power supply it's often 110-250VAC in and somewhat less out, for example the laptop here is 19,5VDC, a solar cell that can put out 24VDC would be sufficient, although it would need to be reduced to 19.5V for the laptop.

    Of course if you really need to recharge such devices on a regular basis, on a tour, then plan to be near an outlet on occasion. For example, maybe once a week you stay in a motel, do your laundry, unpack and repack all your gear, get all your batteries recharged, etc.

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    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    After trying multiple methods I think i'm going to go this route next. I figure if it sucks.... Costco has a great return policy. Would do everything I need it to do. Don't bring a laptop while touring. Can charge ipod touch and Gps and phone. That pretty much covers everything for me. Figure it should keep me charged until it's possible to do again. It's only around 5 oz. and I like that.

    If anyone has experience with it please let me know.. I'm excited about the possibilities of this. Linky http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product...S&Sp=C&topnav=
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogsterca View Post
    Not ALL devices that seem to be 120V are 120V, for example the laptop, if you check the power supply it's often 110-250VAC in and somewhat less out, for example the laptop here is 19,5VDC, a solar cell that can put out 24VDC would be sufficient, although it would need to be reduced to 19.5V for the laptop.

    Of course if you really need to recharge such devices on a regular basis, on a tour, then plan to be near an outlet on occasion. For example, maybe once a week you stay in a motel, do your laundry, unpack and repack all your gear, get all your batteries recharged, etc.
    I have a typical Toshiba laptop with13" screen and it says 15v at 5amps. While it runs off of 15v it was designed with 120v wall power in mind. Not low power solar panels. Look at how big of a solar panel you'd need for 5amps with the understanding that is full sunlight and the panel is facing the sun and not 30degrees. While you could charge with one amp it'll only be charging the battery and take a LONG time doing it. Most 12v folding panels open up to 2'x3' and that's 1.5amps. That will take forever to charge a laptop. Better off finding a device that doesn't use much power.

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    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    After trying multiple methods I think i'm going to go this route next. I figure if it sucks.... Costco has a great return policy. Would do everything I need it to do. Don't bring a laptop while touring. Can charge ipod touch and Gps and phone. That pretty much covers everything for me. Figure it should keep me charged until it's possible to do again. It's only around 5 oz. and I like that.

    If anyone has experience with it please let me know.. I'm excited about the possibilities of this. Linky http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product...S&Sp=C&topnav=
    I'm not sure how much benefit this will be since it is a rechargeable battery. Once it is expended you will need to recharge it. 25 hours of talk time is about 3-4 charges of my phone. I think a turbo charge or iGo with lithium ion batteries would give you power without an outlet. I bring these when touring as a backup to my wall charger. Also I always turn off the phone when I am riding unless I get separated from my touring friends.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
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  14. #14
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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    I have a Brunton Solaris USB and a Solo 3.4, both work very well. The Solio is not worth your money for outdoor adventures, it has zero weather resistance, and has a poor power to weight ratio. I had one that died from 2 minutes of rain exposure.

    The Brunton Solaris will withstand some rain exposure quite easily, though you should not leave the solo exposed, it will not withstand rain. I have put the solo in a bag with the cable looped so rain does not run down it, and left the solaris out, without trouble. I see now that Brunton is making a product called the Battpack, which seems to be the 3.4 plus a built in battery charger, which would be nice.

    If you want a completely waterproof panel though, get one of the rollable ones for kayakers. My solaris has been fine with rain coming down on it, but i'd imagine it might be toast if left submerged in a puddle of water.

    The solo 3.4 has enough power to charge small devices multiple times, unlike a lot of these other little toy solar panels with power reserves in them, which will perhaps do a phone once or twice. I think it does my phone about 4 times on a charge, it'll also charge a Nite Rider Minewt mini USB. Big plus for touring.

    I have a few things to input:

    The Brunton gear can be had for much less than MSRP if you hunt around a bit.

    The exterior decoration on the 3.4 can be broken off, saving weight, making the unit less ugly, and it's still in a plastic shell and perfectly protected. Why is that junk there in the first place? It's not really doing anything from what I can tell.

    The only thing I don't like about the Brunton solaris itself is that there are heavy, noticeable brunton logos on the panels themselves. I would have preferred something a little bit less tacky and conspicuous, but I guess brunton has an eye for functional design, not aesthetics. A lot of their stuff is ugly.

    There are other brand options out there that seem to do fine. PowerFilm being one of them that i've seen around, and they're not horribly logo heavy like the Brunton models are.

    As for charging a laptop, I couldn't help you. You'd need a pretty big investment to feed most laptops with proper power and not be left with a novelty system. I'd almost recommend that if you can't live without internet on tour and you're committed to this, buy an extremely low power consumption unit like an Asus EEEpc with an SSD in it, or get a smart phone or something.

    Oh, and iPhones / iPod touch won't charge off a lot of these little devices. They have strict charging designs. I know that the solo 3.4 will not charge either of these things, for instance.
    Last edited by Abneycat; 01-25-10 at 12:44 AM.

  15. #15
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodeadpoets View Post
    Sorry I was trying to provide a link to search results in BikeForums, however, evidently I cannot share a link to my search results from my profile. What I was trying to suggest is that there are tonnes of search results in this forum and therefore information from people who have used solar chargers. Just do a search for "solar chargers" in the search.
    Cheers!
    Here's one fairly recent that also happens to mention the Brunton.

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...Solar+chargers

    I have an oldish Silva panel that can be used to charge NiMH batteries as well as phone. That pretty much covers my needs. I've tried to make sure my on tour electronic gizmos work with AA/AAA, with the exception of phone and a laptop (the laptop I rarely carry). I have not used the panel a lot, as it only replaces one charger (phone) and is far more delicate when packing. So if I have mains power available during the route, I'll use that. From what little experience I have, the panel is useless when moving, but semi-useful in camp. Semi in the sense that to actually charge properly, one would have to stay in camp one full sunny day every now and then, and keep the panel oriented towards sun.

    I also do sea kayak touring, and there it could be possible to keep the panel pointed to sun better than when riding. But I haven't actually tried it, I'm not sure this particular panel can take the occasional splashes of water that are inevitable there.

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    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist2000 View Post
    I'm not sure how much benefit this will be since it is a rechargeable battery. Once it is expended you will need to recharge it. 25 hours of talk time is about 3-4 charges of my phone. I think a turbo charge or iGo with lithium ion batteries would give you power without an outlet. I bring these when touring as a backup to my wall charger. Also I always turn off the phone when I am riding unless I get separated from my touring friends.
    I can't charge my ipod touch with it. It will charge my phone and would charge my old ipod shuffle. Flat out doesn't work with touch and I have tried. I was hoping this would and it's some serious ah compared to two AA.

    Like I mentioned.. don't have one but it does interest me.

    ..
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    Grateful Tread brawny's Avatar
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    Has anyone considered using a dynamo and charging unit as an alternative to solar? No need to worry about sunshine - you just need to ride. :-)

    I found these links on Peter White's website:
    EWerk charger: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/ewerk.asp
    Schmidt Dynamo Hub: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/schmidt.asp

    I don't have experience with these products, but I'm giving them consideration as I spec my new LHT.

    Something to consider, anyway!

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    Last edited by brawny; 01-25-10 at 11:22 AM. Reason: typo
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    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    I can't charge my ipod touch with it. It will charge my phone and would charge my old ipod shuffle. Flat out doesn't work with touch and I have tried. I was hoping this would and it's some serious ah compared to two AA.

    Like I mentioned.. don't have one but it does interest me.

    ..
    I use them to charge my Ipod touch but it is a 1st generation touch, I didn't know that there were different charging requirements for the third gen.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
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    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brawny View Post
    Has anyone considered using a dynamo and charging unit as an alternative to solar?
    In addition to commercial products, if you search the Forums for member n4zou, you'll find his neat DIY design for exactly this.

    [edit]Here it is: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-by-dynamo-hub[/edit]

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  20. #20
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist2000 View Post
    I use them to charge my Ipod touch but it is a 1st generation touch, I didn't know that there were different charging requirements for the third gen.
    I wish it wasn't true... I have had zero luck and 3rd gen ipod touch. Will charge my garmin but.... I'm trying to find a solution for everything.
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    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Anything that has car style cigarette lighter adapter should charge any iPod or iPhone assuming you have appropriate chargers. I've charged my iPod and iPhone off of a generic car backup/jumper battery that has a cigarette adapter output.

    Adam

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    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
    Anything that has car style cigarette lighter adapter should charge any iPod or iPhone assuming you have appropriate chargers. I've charged my iPod and iPhone off of a generic car backup/jumper battery that has a cigarette adapter output.

    Adam
    this is completely wrong, I was just reading that the 2nd gen ipod touch does not charge with the firewire pin in the connector as previous models had. If you get an new ipod it will not charge in any of the docking stations or older accessories. the newer gen ipod touch needs to be charged with a usb connector
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
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  23. #23
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    I wish it wasn't true... I have had zero luck and 3rd gen ipod touch. Will charge my garmin but.... I'm trying to find a solution for everything.
    I just checked and the duracell "my pocket charger" that I purchased at Costco does work to charge my kids new ipod touch.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustercrb/sets/72157623483647522/

  24. #24
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist2000 View Post
    I just checked and the duracell "my pocket charger" that I purchased at Costco does work to charge my kids new ipod touch.
    Thanks for the info

    kyakdiver
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    Does anyone have any knowledge of this product from Amzer? Not much bigger than an iphone. It probably isn't that efficient from a solar standpoint but I like the option of charging the storage battery with AC when you have access to get me through a few days where I may not have access.

    http://www.fommy.com/view-full-page.asp?skuno=83981
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