Yesterday I wrote a post called My Vision For Small Flexible Solar Panels where I talked about some ideas that I had for products that could have flexible thin film solar panels integrated into them.
While I was doing research for the article, I contacted a man by the name of Jeff Crystal who works for a company called Voltaic Systems. They make some really cool products that have rigid monocristalline solar cells integrated into the products that they manufacture.
Jeff explained the reason that they chose to use the types of solar cells that they use is because they want to make sure their products produce the most energy per square inch that they possibly can.
I’m excited about the possibilities that flexible PV panels might have to offer as the technology continues to evolve but Voltaic does have a good point. Consumers tend to want more power from their electronic devices and they want this power packed into smaller and smaller packages. Remember when cell phones use to be the size of a brick? The fact that manufacturers are packing more and more features into devices with smaller footprints demonstrates that the folks at Voltaic know what they’re talking about.
I can’t wait to get my hands on a Voltaic product to thoroughly test it but in the meantime I wanted to tell my readers about their products because I’m so impressed by them. Voltaic Systems sells several types of bags that have rigid solar panels integrated into them. According to their website, the panels they use are super rugged and can withstand the harsh day to day abuse that people tend to dish out to items like backpacks.
The prices for these solar battery chargers range from $99 for their 4 watt solar battery charger with universal USB battery to $459 for their 15 watt mobile office charging station.
My Favorite Feature of The Voltaic Solar Charging Backpack Systems
One thing I really like about the way Voltaic Systems has designed their products is that they’ve taken the initiative to go beyond just slapping a solar panel on a backpack. Most of their products also come with a universal USB battery that is constantly charging anytime the solar panel is exposed to the sun.
Out of all of the products in Voltaic’s lineup, one really catches my eye and it’s their Array Solar Laptop Charging Backpack. This is one of the more powerful products in their lineup. It has three 3.4 watt solar panels that are integrated into a detachable charging station which combine to provide a total of 10.2 watts.
This off the grid backpack comes with a 60 watt hour (16,000mAh) rechargeable universal USB battery. I’m really impressed with this feature because it means that this portable solar charging station will be continually storing energy in the battery anytime the actual PV panel is exposed to the sun. You can even detach the solar charging module from the backpack if you like.
Owners of this cutting edge backpack can even plug their laptops, cell phones, or other portable electronic devices directly into the battery pack and use it as a backup power source. I especially like this feature because the battery pack means that you won’t only be collecting electricity from the sun when your laptop or cell phone is connected to the backpack. I think it would be a bit of an inconvenience to have to plug your devices into a backpack and wait for them to charge before you could begin using them again. The battery in the Voltaic solar backpack charger provides instant power while at the same time harvesting energy from the sun.
What About Charging Times?
I haven’t had a chance to test this product myself yet but according to Voltaic’s website, one hour in the sun will charge the battery enough for 30 minutes of laptop use. They also claim that an hour and a half of direct sunlight is enough to fully charge a cell phone. The USB battery that ships with this solar powered backpack is reported to fully charge in 12 hours of direct sunlight or 6 hours when being charged with the AC adapter.
The Voltaic Systems solar power backpack comes with a variety of adapters for charging various cell phones and laptops but any device that can be plugged into a standard USB port can also be plugged into it.
What’s The Bottom Line?
To be quite honest, I’m really impressed with Voltaic’s product line but in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t held one of their products in my hands and examined it closely so I can’t speak to the build quality. I’d love to get my hands on some of their products to see if they’re really as great as they seem to be. I’m especially interested in doing some “real world” charging tests to see how they perform under actual use.
If you’re in the market for a versatile product that will charge your personal electronic devices with the power of the sun, you might want to consider giving a Voltaic backpack a try. If you do, I would really appreciate any feedback that any of you might be able to give me about your experiences with it.