This Solar Charger Runs Devices Directly

We’re hauling around gizmos galore these days, so it’s no surprise to see a proliferation in portable charging options, especially ones that might be touted as green. The latest example: A USB solar charger from Suntactics that the company says can’t be beat for its efficiency.

According to Suntactics, its new PC5 unit is different from other portable solar chargers in that it doesn’t send power to an internal battery that then charges your device. Competing products, Suntastics says, “are literally charging a battery from a battery. The solar panels on them are too weak to charge the USB handheld device directly.” Not so with the PC5: “The PC5 solar charger has 5 watts of solar power potential as compared the ~2 watts in most of the other chargers. The PC5 will not only charge the USB handheld device, it will run it on dead batteries.”

Portable solar charger, SunTactics, PC5

image via SunTactics

Suntactics bills the device as best for iPods, iPhones and Blackberries. It can power an iPad, but it takes about an hour to provide a 10-12 percent charge, the company said.

Suntactics is based in San Jose and bills the PC5 as “Made in USA.” It’s selling the device for $129.95 through its website.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Steven Lange

    The reason that other solar chargers charge an internal battery before charging your device is for two huge reasons that consumers need to be aware of:

    1) Safety! Even though this device claims to have a 5 watt output, it can only do so in optimal conditions (fully sunny day). If say a cloud comes by, it’s an overcast day, or overtime a shadow blocks some of the solar panel, the device will not be able to generate enough energy to produce 5 watts. Thus, this type of solar charger would give your device all sorts of different charge rates which quickly damages your device. Most phones will actually stop charging once they sense they are not being charged at the required rate as a safety feature. Especially sensitive devices such as an iPhone. The internal battery in other solar charging devices allows the solar charger to always output the correct charge rate to your device. No battery = no ability to control the rate at which your device is being charged since you are purely relying on the weather conditions.

    2) Who wants to stand in the sun, or leave their expensive phone in the sun while it charges? Solar chargers with a built in battery allows the user to just place the charger in the sun and charge it’s own battery at anytime without attaching your device. You can then use the stored energy in your solar charger whenever you need it to charge your phone.

    Just some food for thought since solar chargers like this give solar charging in general a bad name. If you want to fry your phone, by all means, go ahead and try this one out!

  • Steve,

    For someone that has not even tried our PC5 solar charger, how could you make these speculations? Using a solar
    charger to charge a small low quality battery in it and then charge a device battery is asking for product problems with their resulting hassles.

    1) When we designed the PC5, we eliminate the middleman (the battery) thus increasing the safety.

    2) Lithium batteries like the one’s in these other chargers do not do so well when heated. The solar cells can reach temps up to 150F sitting in the sun. The solar charger case that holds the battery also gets very hot. This is not only bad for the battery, it could be dangerous as well. We recommend shading your USB device on hot days. It can be as simple as placing it under a towel.

    3) What happens to the internal battery if you let it sit on a shelve too long without charging? It dies. The PC5 will continue to work year after year.

    4) The backup battery in these take forever to charge when it is dead. The solar cells included on some of these units are only 1.65Watts. The PC5 can fully charge a dead iPhone directly from the sun in as little as a 100 minutes. Why wait to charge another battery first?

    The PC5 is not just a solar panel with a USB connector. We have specially designed circuitry to ensure that it works correctly. It is fully optimized for solar USB charging. In some cases it actually uses the sun’s interruptions to its advantage (Trade secret). And best of all, it’s very safe. We have put over a year’s worth of effort designing and testing our solar charger on many types of USB devices and we guarantee it’s performance.

    With all the PC5 units sold so far, we have not had one single report of any fried USB devices or damage whatsoever.

    We think there is room for all sorts of solar chargers, not just ours, but the battery units serve a very limited purpose.

  • JAmes

    Siamo pieni di psicologi esperti nell’elaborazione del lutto …. abbiamo sbagliato help desk

  • BeholdersEye

    Crap, it is now $135!