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Startup Looks for Sunny Skies for Solar Charging

Users won't tolerate the idea of their mobile devices running out of battery power, leaving them isolated from the world. Since no cure has been found for cellphone withdrawal and electronics manufactures haven't created everlasting batteries, some designers are creating solar-powered solutions to complement the increasing use of mobile devices outdoors.

Solartab Ltd., a startup of London; UK; and Shenzhen, China, thought about bringing to the market a product with smart clean-tech design in the form of a solar charger for tablets and smartphones unlike any other. EBN talked with Solartab's founders to get a closer look.

Brainstorming the Solartab's design. (Source: Solartab)

Brainstorming the Solartab's design.
(Source: Solartab)

Solar energy revolution for mobile devices on the go
The Solartab is a portable and powerful dual source of energy for electronic devices. It was born by combining beautiful, minimalistic Scandinavian design with a focus on green energy, sustainability, and convenience. Built in an aluminum frame, it counts with a powerful battery to keep mobile devices charged for as long as today's mobile life demands. Now iPads can be charged even while being used. “The Solartab sets itself apart via its large solar panel and a powerful internal battery,” says Eskil Vestre, one of Solartab's co-founders.

(Source: Solartab)

(Source: Solartab)

Technical specifications
The Solartab is 9.7 x 7.6 inches when closed and weighs approximately 400 grams. The lithium-polymer battery has a capacity of 13,000mAh, and the monocrystalline silicon solar panel has a nominal power of at least 5Wp and an efficiency of at least 21%. It comes with two USB ports and a micro USB port for wall charging, a row of five green LED internal battery indicators, one green LED charging indicator for each USB and micro USB, and one bright-white LED to indicate solar charging.

The integrated, water-resistant cover is made of high polyurethane, which protects the device and also works as a stand for the solar panel to achieve maximum efficiency. “Other chargers may have some kind of system to angle the solar panel, so that's not necessarily new, but having an integrated cover both working as a stand and cover is rather unique,” says Matt Einberger, who works in the field of renewable energies and is one of Solartab's co-founders. An elastic band and strong magnets keep the cover firmly closed. The Solartab includes a 2.1A wall charger (US or EU/UK) and a USB to micro-USB charging cable.

Designing the Solartab. (Source: Solartab)

Designing the Solartab. (Source: Solartab)

Green crowdfunding
With a successful Kickstarter campaign, the expected funding of $30,000 escalated to a total of $61,419. The massive global interest in this solar charger anticipates the Solartab will be a winner on the market. The first Solartabs will ship in July after two months of manufacturing and assembly in Shenzhen, China, where the team has moved for the entire manufacturing process for close, personal supervision. Solartab's manufacturing partner's experience in IC design for solar chargers will help ensure performance. After the first shipment is completed in July, anyone will be able to pre-order the Solartab exclusively from the Solartab website later this year.

(Source: Solartab)

(Source: Solartab)

According to Simon Methi, Solartab co-founder working with product development and sourcing, the unique and integrated cover allows the solar panel in the Solartab to be angled for optimal charging efficiency:

Flat solar chargers will only work at maximum efficiency when the sun is directly above, which is usually not the case. By angling the solar panel in the Solartab in three different angles we can get up to a 30 percent increase in efficiency. This means that the Solartab will actually deliver the 20 percent solar efficiency we promise.

Watch the video below to see how the Solartab works:

The Solartab team, Matt Einberger, Eskil Vestre, and Simon Methi, met while studying in East Asia. Sharing a passion for design, technology, and sustainable energies created the Solartab as the result of trying to find more environmentally friendly solutions to meet the increasing energy needs in a sustainable way.

The power consumption of previous generation of products is proving unsustainable and energy and charging innovation are becoming critical. Electronics manufacturers need to look to these new technologies to forge a path for responsible energy use. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

28 comments on “Startup Looks for Sunny Skies for Solar Charging

  1. Daniel
    May 22, 2014

    “Users won't tolerate the idea of their mobile devices running out of battery power, leaving them isolated from the world. Since no cure has been found for cellphone withdrawal and electronics manufactures haven't created everlasting batteries, some designers are creating solar-powered solutions to complement the increasing use of mobile devices outdoors.”

    Susan, keeping additional battery or using power bank is the best solution than relying solar power. Solar power is seasonal in most part of the world. Other times it can get affected by  snow fall, rain etc; where there is no sun lights.

  2. Daniel
    May 22, 2014

    Susan, am not nullifying the efforts, it's a good option when there is enough sunlight. Since its a renewable energy source, investments & wear& tear are also very less

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    May 23, 2014

    “Sharing a passion for design, technology, and sustainable energies created the Solartab as the result of trying to find more environmentally friendly solutions to meet the increasing energy needs in a sustainable way.”

    I think the idea of Solartab is a very ingenious one. It will set an example of how instead of going for power generation on a mass scale each device can become self-sufficient in terms of its own power generation and consumption. It would be great to see similar innovations like solar powered laptops and smartphones coming in the market.

  4. Taimoor Zubar
    May 23, 2014

     

    “Solar power is seasonal in most part of the world. Other times it can get affected by  snow fall, rain etc; where there is no sun lights.”

     

    @Jacob: I do agree that solar power has its limitations but despite that whatever power can be extracted it serves to reduce the power consumption through other means. With time and through innovation the efficiency of the solar powered sources will increase.

  5. Daniel
    May 23, 2014

    “but despite that whatever power can be extracted it serves to reduce the power consumption through other means. With time and through innovation the efficiency of the solar powered sources will increase.”

    Taimoor, in this case we are not looking for alternate source of energy, just looking for a back up source when battery got draining.

  6. Daniel
    May 23, 2014

    “It will set an example of how instead of going for power generation on a mass scale each device can become self-sufficient in terms of its own power generation and consumption. It would be great to see similar innovations like solar powered laptops and smartphones coming in the market”

    Taimoor, solar watches, lamps and calculators are in market for more than two decades.

  7. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    If this can be carried out then people would heave a sigh of relief about their high end smartphone running out of juice way too quickly. Not just that, solar charging, if made fashionable can be adopted into a myriad of fields. Looks like solar charged mobiles will be all the rage 5 years from now.

  8. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    @Jacob: Precisely. It may be successful in markets that have enough solar power capabilities. In a country with more number of cloudy days than sunny, this won't be of much use. Speaking of which, can Solar Tab be charged from the dimmed light under a cloudy sky?

  9. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    @Jacob: I think developers should focus on gathering other sources of energy for charging mobile batteries. UV exposure, IR exposure, radiation would also be nice for charging batteries in mobiles if the technology permits. Also, power banks are a nuisance. Not because they only permit 2 to 3 times use, but also they cannot be carried everywhere.

  10. Eldredge
    May 28, 2014

    I think, ultimately, the question that needs to be answered is – Is it worth the price, and is it worth carrying this solar device with me? Consumers will provide the answer.

  11. Eldredge
    May 29, 2014

    @anandvy – probably tue – I think it will depend, to some extent, on the conveniece of carrying a solar recharging device. 5 years from now, that will probably be feasible.

  12. ahdand
    May 30, 2014

    @eldridge: Yes you do need to give them some time but should also keep in mind the competitor factor too. 

  13. Taimoor Zubar
    May 30, 2014

    “solar watches, lamps and calculators are in market for more than two decades.”

    @Jacob: I know these devices have been around for a while but these are generally low power consuming devices that are a substitute to battery power. I was referring to devices like smartphones and laptops which run through electricity and consume considerably more power.

  14. Daniel
    June 3, 2014

    “I think developers should focus on gathering other sources of energy for charging mobile batteries. UV exposure, IR exposure, radiation would also be nice for charging batteries in mobiles if the technology permits.”

    You are right ANAND, other source of energy has to explored like charging from sound, vibrations, UV rays etc. They can also explore for pizzo eletric energy convertion in mobile handsets.

  15. Daniel
    June 3, 2014

    “Precisely. It may be successful in markets that have enough solar power capabilities. In a country with more number of cloudy days than sunny, this won't be of much use. Speaking of which, can Solar Tab be charged from the dimmed light under a cloudy sky?”

    Anand, like you said, solar has its own limitations depends on cloudy or rainy days. In such cases we have to look for hybrid solutions. Solar is not going to be the main source; main source is always regular mechanism of recharging through line voltage and an alternate source is like a back up.

  16. Daniel
    June 4, 2014

    “I know these devices have been around for a while but these are generally low power consuming devices that are a substitute to battery power. I was referring to devices like smartphones and laptops which run through electricity and consume considerably more power.

    Taimoor, w cannot run continuously any such devices on solar power because of the non availability of sun throughout the year. But we can keep it as an alternate source of energy, where it can be used for charging at certain points like while travelling or working at outdoor places etc. I mean like a hybrid form of charging.

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    June 14, 2014

    @jacob,  

    I think they are solving the same problem  but different ways when you compare solar charging and power bank and that determins what conditions or situations they fit into.

    Power bank still depends on an electrical source to charge it but solar on the other hand depends on nature

    Both are subjected to different conditions of availability but solves  power problem.

  18. Adeniji Kayode
    June 14, 2014

    @jacob,

    The sun is more available in some part of the world than othe part of the world, so solar charging will make more sense and fit into some environments more,  thereby solving the problem of power in some part of the world than other part of the world. 

  19. Adeniji Kayode
    June 14, 2014

    @jacob, 

    The fact that these devices are used both indoors and outdoors,  the use of solar charging may not fit into

    Making it the main source of power but having a solar device that can be used to charge a power bank and that can also charge the main device may not be a bad idea.

     

  20. Adeniji Kayode
    June 14, 2014

    @jacob, 

    I, m aware of some wrist watches that are powered from the vibrations of the wrist or hand but such application is still limited to some kind of devices with low power consumption. 

    But for sound, will it be from the environment, at what intensity would it be able to charge a device.

    Sound id always available somehow around us but some places are more strict with intensity of sound in public.

  21. Wale Bakare
    June 15, 2014

    I think solar power source is good. Although, manufacturers still could come up with an alternative sources for powering mobile devices, this where mobile markets would lead to. It may be a seasonal power source especially for outdoor events and holidays, i think is a good thing to have.

  22. Wale Bakare
    June 15, 2014

    @Adeniji, i agree with you. It will make more sale in those regions. Meanwhile, people inhabiting those places do have something similar to solar power, especially for mobile phones and tablets/laptops. Young graduates of electrical and electronics and, 2 or 3 telecommunication service providers are working on solar there and are in markets at a ridiculous prices.

  23. Adeniji Kayode
    June 16, 2014

    @ wale, You are right on that. It's still amazing why solar panels are that expensive in those part of the world that are suppose to be taking advantage of nature.

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    June 16, 2014

    @ wale, You are right on that. It's still amazing why solar panels are that expensive in those part of the world that are supposed to be taking advantage of nature.

  25. Daniel
    June 17, 2014

    “Power bank still depends on an electrical source to charge it but solar on the other hand depends on nature Both are subjected to different conditions of availability but solves  power problem.”

    Adeniji, power bank is a storage device. It can be get charged through any means like solar, line current etc.

  26. Daniel
    June 17, 2014

    “The sun is more available in some part of the world than othe part of the world, so solar charging will make more sense and fit into some environments more,  thereby solving the problem of power in some part of the world than other part of the world. “

    Adeniji, solar is always not reliable, so hybrid mode is more preferable. Based on the availability you can combine, hydro electric, solar, wind, tidal current etc based on situations.

  27. Daniel
    June 17, 2014

    “The fact that these devices are used both indoors and outdoors,  the use of solar charging may not fit into  Making it the main source of power but having a solar device that can be used to charge a power bank and that can also charge the main device may not be a bad idea.”

    Adeniji, I hope you remember how calculators are working without power storage.  It have hybrid mode of powering system. During day time it can use solar power and other time with batteries. Similar technologies can use for other devices too; but a large system may required to cater the huge power requirement.

  28. Daniel
    June 17, 2014

    “I, m aware of some wrist watches that are powered from the vibrations of the wrist or hand but such application is still limited to some kind of devices with low power consumption.  But for sound, will it be from the environment, at what intensity would it be able to charge a device. Sound id always available somehow around us but some places are more strict with intensity of sound in public.”

    Adeniji, sound is not at all feasible; unless you kept the device in a noisy environment always.

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