Another one? I haven’t even completely discharged the last 10 amp battery I bought from the Boing Boing Store!
Ignoring BB’s obsession with battery packs for the moment…
I’ve always been under the impression that tiny solar panels aren’t worth buying. Their cost per watt is absurdly high, you’re never going to use them because they’re way too slow and they’re in your backpack most days, and their environmental damage isn’t worth it given that you’re not going to use them. Thoughts?
Yup, I was just about to say that. Said solar panel is suitable for outdoors, on a sunny day, oriented just ever so. It will keep up with a low-graphics-use app, just barely.
Yes, I looked into those some time ago and it seemed that the solar panel is effectively a placebo because it is so horribly slow.
I agree with you on all your points. I bought one of those folding cell-phone-charger units at a garage sale for $5. I’m not sure I’ve ever used it past the first time to test it out. I’ll probably sell it at our annual garage sale and make back my $5 from the next schlub.
I think that answered your question. What additional detail would you like?
Which kind of emergencies do you envision using this for, where it’s worth waiting 30 minutes or more to be able to make a single phone call?
If it’s an “oh darn, I forgot my battery is low and I need to make a call,” you can almost certainly get to an outlet long before you could charge this up.
If it’s an “I’m on the top of a mountain with a broken leg,” and you had enough foresight to bring this, why didn’t you make better preparations for an emergency rather than something that takes a half hour?
If it’s a “The Big One just hit and we have no power for a week,” you should really have a better home emergency power plan.
And, in all those cases, your emergency better take place in the day, and when there are no clouds out.
And what emergency are you in where you’ve already used up the very battery you already bought to re-charge your phone in case of an emergency?
Millions of these tiny solar cells get bought by well-meaning people all the time, because they really think they’ll get some use out of them. They cost far more in energy and mineral resources and mining damage than they’ll ever pay back, and when you’re encouraging thousands of more readers to buy them, I really think it’s worth considering in a little more depth.
“I’m out of power, no where near another power source, and willing to wait a few hours to get a decent charge.”
I also can see your earthquake one coming into play, but I’m a Californian. I have a bigger backup battery at the house but can’t recall when I last charged it.
Perhaps “waiting” and “emergency” don’t work for you, but you sort of implied above they did.
This tiny solar charger reminds me of the hippo-staffed Power Plant art project that I participated in at Coachella a few years ago. I’d installed a FREE! phone charging station in front of the piece, as a public service. It was a power plant, after all. Unfortunately, it was run by hippos, who don’t care about humans one whit.
The funny thing was that I had inadvertently used a USB charge controller circuit that would charge phones REALLY SLOWLY. This caused lots of satire-impaired Coachella attendees to spend HOURS sitting in front of this absurdist art installation, waiting for their phones to charge up. They’d sit there, tears streaming down their faces, saying, “Damn hippos. I just want to charge my phone!”
The environmental damage thing is not really valid; the plant that made it undoubtedly made many other solar panels of various sizes and configurations, and overall the solar energy generated by the products of that plant will easily far surpass the amount of energy used to create all those panels, even if you never use this particular one, and will displace the burning of many tons of fossil fuels.
That being said, all the rest of your impressions are entirely correct. The best use for tiny solar panels seems to be for charging small LED lights; I have several that charge every day and burn most of the night and have done so for many years. Relatively high draw applications like (for example) high-capacity batteries or smartphones just aren’t a good fit for small panels, instead I recommend you use a larger, detached panel in full sun (they make fold-up and roll-up ones nowadays) and keep your battery/phone in the shade.
It’s really, really hard to get any specs on how much power is produced by this panel at full sunlight, but I found a couple reports that seven hours of sunlight will charge 500 mAh.
So it will be about 1/20th charged after seven hours of sunlight. Or, essentially, it will take about 20 days of sunlight to charge the battery.
If you’ve got a flip phone, you could probably make an emergency call after about an hour. If you’ve got a smart phone you’ll probably need three hours to get enough juice just to boot the thing up to make a call.
And if you’re willing to wait 20 days to fully charge the battery, that’s great. But why didn’t you just bring another one of your many, many batteries, if you’re in a situation where this might be remotely useful?
I’m still just stuck on the confluence of events where:
- You’ve used your phone’s battery
- You’ve already used this backup battery (which is about four phone’s worth)
- It’s going to be sunny for several more hours
- You’re willing to wait several hours to be able to make a call
- You had the foresight to bring this battery on your trip, but not any other battery or charging solution
I’m sure there’s a scenario that meets all those, but you should probably bring a dart gun and a map of Montana too too
That seems like a far more reasonable thing to have.
Wait… where were the hippos? Were there treadmills in the powerplant, but the hippos couldn’t be bothered to walk on them? Don’t leave us with that vague description!!!
Well they oughta go staff their own damned power plant next time, ya?
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