This is the product test that I teased everyone with on Friday -- the Solio Xcellerator and battery pack that I found at REI last week. Unfortunately, this item appears to have been discontinued by the manufacturer, making the next closest (by price) product the Solio Bolt, found on Amazon for $37.49*. That price is over 13 times the $2.83 I paid at REI. Did I mention they are sold out? Yeah, no stock has been found on the West Coast, sorry.
Here is what is included in the kit:
What appear to be two AA batteries, but aren't normal AA batteries at all! In reality, they are AA-sized, 800 mAh USB rechargeable battery packs!
Solio recommends charging these batteries with a USB power source before their first use and before recharging with the solar panel. The instructions state that the cells are 50% charged from the factory when placed in the box and they did power up my small flashlight when tested. I plugged them into my computer for their initial charge.
Run-time testAs a test, a new pair of Duracell AA batteries (rated at 1.5v) were installed in my cheap 4 LED flashlight and allowed to run until dead. This took a bit over 3 hours**.
Next, I put in the Solio AA batteries which are rated at only 1.2v in the same flashlight, and allowed them to run until dead as well. The rechargeable batteries lasted a bit over 2 hours**.
This difference in run times is greater than what seems reasonable when comparing a 1.2v cell to a 1.5v cell. With my experience working around rechargeable power tool batteries, I expect the run-time to increase every time these cells are charged, with their maximum run-time reached after 5-10 discharges and recharges.
Solar charge test
This is where careful placement of your panel will pay off: my first battery charged in about 5 hours** since I was able to get good morning sun. The second battery did not get a full charge until the next day, due to the angle of the sun and trees casting shadows where I placed the solar panel.
- Very light weight -- less than 8 oz. including panel and batteries
- Simple to operate
- Up to 500 charges
Not So Good
- Slow recharge is probable unless you carefully position the panel.
- Direct connection from the panel to your portable device is NOT recommended, due to higher than normal current and heat generation while charging.
- Only 2 batteries are included in the kit. Many items need 3 or 4 AA cells now.
Really Not Good
- There do not seem to be replacement batteries available.
* $37.49 is $2 LESS than the original REI retail for the Xcellerator, and you get a more versatile, adaptable and longer running battery pack. At Amazon's retail the better choice is the Bolt. The Solio product currently using the Xcellerator panel is this, priced at $73.56. I'd still get the Bolt.
** All charging and run-to-dead times listed are approximate to within 15 minutes. I have a life and didn't watch constantly.
As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!