In a bid to capitalise on the green movement, or perhaps just trying to be cool, designers are creating more and more solar powered battery chargers for average consumers. But are these so-called “green” battery chargers serious electronics, or just a gimmick?
Last week, we outlined a new solar powered battery charger that seemed to offer some degree of serious charging for NiMH rechargeable batteries. Even on that model, which comes equipped with premium features tat you would find on a typical electricity-powered smart charger, we questioned its effectiveness. After all, it has been proven that battery chargers that run off of USB power don’t come close to charging as efficiently, evenly, and completely as a battery charger on AC power. If that’s the case, then how could solar power manage to effectively charge a NiMH rechargeable battery?
Well, it would appear that solar technology is slowly becoming a mainstream reality for battery chargers; it isn’t just for the hard core survivalist or outdoorsman.
Enter the odd, Hong Kong-based Nokero single AA solar charger. This solar battery charger would seem to be more a token gimmick than a serious battery charger that could do you any good in a pinch. It charges one (yes, just one_ AA NiMH rechargeable battery at a time, thanks to a mini solar panel on the front. There are no meters, no conditioning, and no controls whatsoever — just a simple tube that the battery slips into for a solar charge.
Gizmodo.com.au did a review of the Nokero solar charger, explaining that “since they recommend direct sunlight for best results (instead of filtered through a window) the Nokero C110 is also weatherproof, so it should be able to shrug off a downpour or flurry. And it even comes with an 800mAh NiMH battery, sweetening the deal.” While the weatherproof feature might seem attractive, the paltry 800mAh included battery is not. What are you, dear reader, going to do with an 800mAh battery? It is incredibly underpowered compared to, say the Sanyo Eneloop, which boasts 2000mAh? Sure, the Nokero might charge its low capacity battery in a few hours, but any serious rechargeable batter aficianado knows that, by the time this charger charges your Sanyo Eneloop outside, it would have already been cooked by the sun.
Another big problem with the design: the Nokera only charges one AA rechargeable battery at a time. What electronic device on earth runs on just one battery? If you fin yourself in an emergency situation in the outback, by the time you’re getting ready to solar charge your second battery, you’re probably nearing death.
The fact is, products like this are a bit scary: they purport to be serious products that people can rely on, but simply cannot deliver the reliability and quality of a real battery charger. As we have said previously — if you’re planning on a trip where you won’t have access to electricity to charge batteries, you’re better off investing in more rechargeable batteries, charging them with a smart charger, and bringing those extras along, instead of trying to finagle a recharge whilst you’re out in the bush. It just isn’t a good idea.
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