Backup battery device works

Hybrid solar charger can save the day when power runs low

September 20, 2007|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,McClatchy-Tribune

Consider the myriad mobile electronic devices available to us today. There are PDAs, cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, portable electronic games, GPS navigation devices, satellite radio receivers, and products that combine many of these functions.

But if there is a single weakness common to all of them, it would have to be that they all run on batteries. And batteries run out of power at the most inopportune moments.

When the power dies, we hope to have a set of backup batteries in a pocket or we've lugged along the usually clunky AC adapter and cable so we can plug it back in and recharge while we continue using it. That's assuming, of course, there's a nearby wall socket available. Odds are there isn't one. Backup battery products have surfaced, but these typically can be used only once and only on a specific make and model.

But there's something new that offers the powerless a ray of hope.

Solio is a portable device that can be categorized as a universal hybrid solar power charger. The Solio solves many of the problems found in other charging solutions. Unlike other solar chargers that rely completely on the sun for their charging power, Solio combines solar charging with a conventional Lithium-Ion battery that can be charged via an AC outlet as well as sunlight.

Just plug the Solio in and its indicator light tells you when it has a full charge. Its wall adapter will fully charge the Solio in four hours. And since the Solio can store its energy for up to a year, just keep the 5.6-ounce, fits-in-your-hand device nearby and it will be ready when you need it. Plus, the Solio has a variety of power tips available so it will be ready to recharge most any portable device you have.

The Solio will charge your devices at the same rate as your conventional charger. A fully charged Solio will completely charge an average cell phone at least two times according to its manufacturer.

And when you find that you need to recharge the Solio and there's no electrical outlet handy, just swivel the Solio open. The unit rotates open to unveil three "petals" that contain solar panels. Looking much like fan blades, charging the Solio's internal battery takes eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight when depleted. And while there's an included suction cup to stick the Solio on a window, the center has a small hole into which you can insert a pencil. Doing so positions the Solio at an ideal upward-facing tilt when placed on a flat surface. When it's charged, you're ready to go again.

You can also charge devices directly from the sun. For example, when charging an iPod directly from the sun, one hour of sunlight will provide about one hour of play time. Solio wants you to be aware that these performance times vary among device manufacturers, intensity of sunlight and ambient temperatures. It may be a good idea to try one out with the devices you own to get a better feel for these performance levels.

The Solio comes in pink, white, black and silver. Each model includes a selection of power tips, a suction cup, universal cable and travel wall adapter. The Solio sells for $99.95.

Craig Crossman hosts "Computer America" on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network.

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