Solar Energy

Solar Trickle Charger and Solar Cell Phone Charger – the Expert Interview

Are Solar Trickle Charger and Solar Cell Phone Charger really useful?

Is a Solar Trickle Charger a good idea to power your mobile, netbook or RV? What about a Solar AA or Car Battery Charger? Or what about RV Solar Panels?

Read the “Solar Trickle Charger”-Interview with Expert Steve Paine.

Solar Trickle Charger Expert

Daniel: Hello Steve, welcome to what I call the “Solar Trickle Charger Interview”. Thank you for your time and sharing your expertise with my readers.

You are the webmaster of SolarUMPC and I got to know you as a real expert on using Solar Power to become Off-Grid. So I am excited to present you to this audience.

What our readers are interested in is how they can use Solar to power their mobile gagdets…or perhaps even their mobile homes…

So how do you see the developments over the years…are mobile computers and phones getting off grid soon?

Steve from Off-grid means both power and connectivity to me. Unfortunately, alternative energy for PCs and mobile gadgets is expensive. I haven’t tested a cheap solution yet that wasnt just a toy. For my own solar work I use a $300 solar panel that provides 25W, enough for a netbook although we’re getting to the point where that could be reduced to 5W given some good-weather days.

Solar Trickle Charger – The Interview

The Airlife 100 is an example of a device moving into this ultra-low-power laptop category and it’s the subject of my most recent article on As for networking, it’s still expensive and very spotty outside of towns and cities. It’s getting there though. I think we’ll be in a good position in the western world to be running a laptop from a 0.5m2 panel within about 3 years.

Daniel: Do you believe that Solar energy one day will free us from the grid? Our boat? Our RV?

Steve: It’s too expensive! The best panels in the labs are producing 40% efficiency since a few years now but we still only see 10-20% efficiency in products. Consumer-priced products are even more inefficient.

Not what you are Looking for? Go Back to Solar Powered Battery Chargers

Daniel: Is it possible today to power my laptop with nothing more than the sun? Without a battery?

Steve: Today, yes, a 24W panel can give you netbook-level computing. You’ll need a power-bank to store /convert and it will be expensive! Probably the same cost as a netbook!

Daniel: What can you tell us about 12V and AA solar battery charger? Any tips?

Solar Trickle Charger: Battery

Steve: Remember that solar panels are variable voltage devices and need a regulator. Also remember that Li-Ion batteries need constant current to charge. The combination of the two limitations makes it very hard to get good efficiency. Using a 12V lead-acid battery (as in a car) is a more efficient solution as it doesn’t need the constant current charging. You can trickle 12V nicely into a car battery. For off-the-grid work at home, this is a reasonably easy solution to set up. Solar panel, 12V regulator, car battery. You can then power a 12V laptop directly from this solution.

Daniel: Have you seen any working cell phone solar charger? Can you tell us something about the pros and cons, please?

Not what you are Looking for? Go Back to Solar Powered Battery Chargers

Steve: As I mentioned above, most of the products are just toys. Check out this one being used for the iPhone. At best, pocketable solar solutions can be used to charge an internal battery and then used as emergency power or to reduce the drain rate.

Solar Trickle Charger – The Interview

Daniel: Why is it that I always read that the best I can do is to load a battery with the sun and then the battery loads the mobile or laptop battery?

Steve: I’m guessing that most solar charger manufacturers don’t want to be responsible for blown-up PCs? There’s also the issue of voltage conversion. There are some solutions though and car adaptors are a great solution. Here’s one ‘direct’ set-up I’ve used.

Daniel: What tools and gadgets do you use? I understand that you like to be traveling off the grid?

Steve: I’m lucky to be given devices to test and I really enjoy the 5″ clamshell UMPCs. The new Viliv N5 is great although the UMID BZ does have a better outdoor screen. I’m excited about ‘smart books’ running on Android but the productivity software isn’t there yet. Currently I use an Xperia X10, Nokia N82 (great mobile photography), a Gigabyte Touchnote netbook (which isn’t that efficient) and a selection of UMPCs.

Not what you are Looking for? Go Back to Solar Powered Battery Chargers

Solar Trickle Charger – The Interview

Daniel: What is the coolest solar tool for you right now?

Steve: I want to try out a Reware Juice Bag but they are so expensive. $250 for a backpack!

Daniel: What computer do you use these days?

Steve: Right now I work using a Fujitsu UMPC attached to a monitor. It’s in a docking station so I can grab it if I want to go mobile. I also have a quad-core in the cellar for my video work and acting as a file server.

Daniel: Say I want to run this business from the top of the mountains – somehow connected to the internet -, what would you recommend me to use?

solar trickle charger
a convertible touchscreen netbook (Viliv S10 with built-in 3G, SSD) connected to a Sunlinq 24W solar panel via the car adaptor from the Viliv X70. A nice clean productive, self-contained and relatively rugged solution. Total Cost: About $1000 ©

Steve: Assuming you have cellular network connectivity, how about a Viliv S10 3G netbook which can run down to about 5W. It can use the car adaptor from the Viliv X70 and connect direct to to a 24W solar panel like the Sunlinq. I’m testing it for you right now and it works…

Daniel: How are the solar chargers connected? Is there an USB Solar Charger?

Steve: For low-power electronics such as phones, 5V through a USB connector is enough to trickle-charge a phone. You’ll need a panel of about 2.5W to directly charge the phone. For larger devices, voltages rise. 9V, 12V, 16V, 19V are all common. There’s a nice multi-voltage charger from Tekkeon that works well for multiple devices. It outputs different voltages and comes with a selection of converter tips.

Daniel: Do you believe this solar technology will get more powerful in the future, so that we can run our electricity at home with just a few solar panels?

Solar Trickle Charger – The Interview

Steve: It will take a huge investment in research and then a huge investment in making and producing a working product. For now, that sort of investment is going into solar farms rather than consumer products. Technically it’s possible but it could take 10-20 years before someone brings that technology to the masses.

Not what you are Looking for? Go Back to Solar Powered Battery Chargers

Daniel: Do you see a hydrogen fuel cell future for mobile gadgets?

Steve: Again, technically I see it happening but I don’t see it being cheap and large scale. The Li-Ion industry has a grip on the portable power world and there’s a lot of investment tied up in that. I hope that i’m wrong but it could be 5-10 years before it happens.

Daniel: Steve, thank you for this interview.

Back from Solar Trickle Charger to Solar Powered Battery Charger

Back from Solar Trickle Charger to Home of Solar Energy

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply