The manufacturer also boasts that the Freeloader is pretty durable. It is, but after a few days of day-to-day bumping about in a bag, something started to rattle in one of the solar panels. To this day, we're not sure exactly what came loose, but whatever it was it didn't seem to affect performance - when the weather permitted a return to testing, that is.
The time taken to power a plugged-in device from the Freeloader depends very much on what it is you're actually charging. The manufacturer claims the internal battery can power an iPod for 18 hours, a mobile phone for 44 hours, a PSP for 2.5 hours and a PDA for 22 hours, and that it will hold its battery charge for up to three months if not used. Granted, we haven't let it sit fully-charged but unused for three months, so we can't honestly comment on that last claim, but once we'd actually had enough sunlight to charge it fully - again, weather conditions will very much affect how long it takes to charge the Freeloader using solar energy - the other claims weren't a million miles away from the results we obtained.
Our iPod Nano charge lasted around 15 to 16 hours. The mobile phone we used was a superannuated, but sentimental Nokia 6170 and that seemed to last for a standard charge time of about 38 hours. The PSP lasted a little under two hours - granted we were playing quite a lot on this - and the PDA equivalent we used was a Samsung SGH-i600 Ultra Edition smart phone, which spluttered and died after a respectable 25 hours.
The Freeloader looks great, can take a not-too-hard knock or two and is a nice concept. But the solar panels themselves feel extremely fragile and any of the little adapters could very easily be lost, should your choice of hardware accessories require you to carry a few of them around. It could be something to put in the holiday box for when you travel overseas to your place in the sun. Otherwise, if you're looking to save on your electricity bill... just charge your stuff at work, it's a lot easier, though it won't help you go green...
Freeloader portable solar energy charger
Terry, you can get solar powered battery chargers (at the bottom of the page):
Can't comment on whether they are any good or not though as I don't own one.
Frankly, I'd be happier to find a simple, reasonably priced, solar battery charger; One that I can stick a couple of spare batteries in when the sun's shining, and then use them when I need them. It'd be Ideal for taking with the camera on holiday etc. Just stick it on the balcony and get it later when it's ready.
Significantly, my garden has a whole row of those LED lights, bought from my local Homebase DIY store and all powered by just such a device. And costing around a fiver (£5) each, complete.
So why, among the rows of battery chargers at the checkout ,are there none with the same solar charging capability?
I'm not an electrical engineer, but I've done enough with solar panels to tell by looking at your pictures that this thing has almost zero chance of working as a practical solar charger. Not in England, not in Greece, not even Arizona or Oz will give you enough rays to use this thing on a charge-per-day basis. The portable battery pack idea is nice enough- they should chop off the panels and focus on the part that does work right.
Not so good.
I bought one of these beasties a while back. So when there was glorious sunshine during April what happened?
Well to put it bluntly nothing. The system is not even powerful enough to keep a Nokia 3210 topped up on just solar power alone. After a full days charging in the sunshine it barely had enough power to boost the battery up by one mark on the scale.
As a portable charger its brilliant. Small and can keep things powered up for a while, but for solar power. Nil points. Needs something a bit beefier.
Incidently I stuck my volt meter on one of the solar units when in full sunshine. Approx voltage 4.1v. Thats fine. But current was at about 2mA which is absolutely hideous.