Despite the fact that Australia is practically the sunshine capital of the world, solar-power for your portable gadgets has been ... mostly absent. But that's about to change when PowerTraveller launches its range of products next week.
PowerTraveller's range of battery extenders runs from the tiny PowerChimp, which recharges from mains, to the Silverback which acts as a portable UPS. PowerTraveller also make portable solar cells in a range of sizes. You can use just the Power range, recharging from mains, or add a Solar pack for renewable energy gadgetry.
|The tiny and colourful PowerChimp is the smallest in the range.|
You need a chunk of solar to get things going: an iPhone will charge in 6hrs with the smallest solar cell device (The SolarChimp), and a macbook can run all day on the Solar Gorilla (as long as you don't play video, which uses more charge than you can recover from solar.
We got to hear Jerry Ranger - CEO of PowerTraveller - talk about how the military, mountaineers and even submarines use his solar-powered kit. And we got to look over the entire range of PowerTraveller devices.
Talking with Jerry Ranger is like listening to an adventure guide - he's full of great stories about how his products are being used around the world.
A photojournalist in Madagascar, for example, used the PowerGorilla to power his laptop, camera and phone while on location.
That might sound tame, but less pedestrian is the SolarGorilla range, being used in Afghanistan by the British military.
Not only that, but Ranger told us a story about how the British Navy came to him to buy 11 SolarGorillas for their Nuclear submarines. It's a bit hard to imagine how you might use solar power on a submarine, but the Navy had done its research and found that it was the perfect in emergencies - with one on each sub, even under complete shutdown of power, the sub can surface and use solar power to then call base for help.
|The SolarGorilla: large enough to power a laptop, or a nuclear submarine?|
PowerTraveller also have an arrangement with African game rangers, through the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation: next time you're wandering through Uganda hunting for Gorillas in the mist, don't be surprised to find a ranger carrying a PowerMonkey to keep their phone charged and ready to call in troops to prevent smuggling and hunting of endangered wildlife.
And just when we thought he might have exhausted his cool stories, Ranger dropped one more: in the Carribbean, the SolarTraveller range is used after hurricanes - they're perfect because after a huge hurricane you get a sunny day, but may have no power. You can use portable solar cells until the infrast4ructure and mains power is restored.
Oh, and although it won't be available here until June, the mini-Gorilla (which suits netbook recharging with a 10.5volt, 12volt and 19volt setting) is used by UK police to power the cameras on their flak jackets so that they don't have to run back to base to get batteries.
In the next five years, PowerTraveller is working on a hydrogen fuel cell and refuelling station. It's also working on a gadget called Blowmonkey, which will use wind power and inductive power products.
The Power Primate range covers solar power for gadgets ranging from ipods and MP3 players through to laptops. They're available next week, from David Jones.
- PowerChimp - recharges aa batteries, which you can then use, or you can use the whole PowerChimp as a phone charger or torch. It comes with a nifty little bracket that fits an aaa battery, which lets you recharge aaa and use an aaa battery in a camera that takes aa batteries.
- MotorMonkey - a small, light in-car charger. It charges the iphone and other gadgets and fits in lighter slot to provide a USB port (along with adapters for a range of devices)
- SolarMonkey - a clamshell solar panel that includes a Velcro strip so that you can fit it on ta backpack or similar. The solar panel plugs into a nut that evens out the solar power spikes that result from fluctuations of light. It comes with adapters for phones, PSP or DS Lite and similar small gadgets.
- PowerMonkey Explorer - all-in-one kit designed to go anywhere. You don't have to take special care with it - it's waterproof and shockproof. An LCD screen to tell you how much power you have, and warns when it needs to be recharged. It charges a phone fully three times before recharging. The charger can be recharged via the sun (using the included solar panels) or via the included AC adapter.
- PowerGorilla is able to power a laptop. Consists of a battery pack, which provides multiple voltages (8.4, 9.5, 16, 20 and 24) to suit a range of gadgets from phones through to laptops. Adapters connect to devices from phones to laptops, and to connect it to mains power. It comes with a neoprene case to protect it.
- SolarGorilla - If you plan to take your laptop off-grid, the SolarGorilla combined with the PowerGorilla is the combination you need.
An even bigger product coming out later this year, called Silverback. which will provide a portable worldwide UPS system that can run a laptop for 14 hours. It's being tested out by British Himalayan expeditions.