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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Solio Xcellerator Solar charger and batteries test

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.









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:


The 'X' Solar Panel. If you look closely, you can see the solar panel's blue charging indicator on the edge of the loop handle.  Halogen desk lamps seemingly produce a decent amount of UV light!





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 test

As 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



To test the recharge time using the solar panel, a battery was installed in the USB port (located right beside the charging indicator light). While charging, the battery will show a red light (not visible in these pictures) which changes to blue when fully charged.

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.


Recap


Good
  • 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.

    Rating

      I give the Solio Xcellerator Charger 4 1/2 stars, even with the noted concerns, and have to recommend the comparable current models as this model is discontinued.


      Footnotes 

      * $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!

       
      NOTE: All items tested were purchased be me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds. 

      The Fine Print


      This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

      Creative Commons License


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