Little Sun solar light gets a phone-charging big brother, the Charge

Little Sun Charge prototype
© Inka Recke

This beautiful and functional solar charger and LED light is a high-performance sequel to the original Little Sun solar light.

Artist and designer Olafur Eliasson and his cofounder, engineer Frederik Ottesen, first brought us the Little Sun solar LED light, which we've covered before, including the company's receipt of a $5 million loan from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Since its inception, the company has sold more than 300,000 of these solar lights, with about half of them going to areas without electricity, saving those off-grid households an estimated $4.7 million in avoided energy costs. While a tiny solar LED light is almost a novelty in the developed world, where easy access to cheap electricity and reliable power grids is the norm, they can be a real lifesaver for those people living in energy poverty, because it may literally be the only affordable source of after-hours light they have.

And now Little Sun is upping the ante, with the introduction of the company's newest product, a combination solar charger and LED light, dubbed the Charge, which is designed to be able to handle mobile phone charging as well as provide lighting. The Charge, while having the potential to be useful to those of us in the developed world who need a mobile charging solution, could have a much bigger impact in the lives of some of the 1.1 billion people who live without regular access to electricity, and who rely on dirty and unhealthy kerosene lighting after dark.

According to the Kickstarter campaign page, the motivating factor for developing the Charge began "when we saw how many solar phone chargers there are out there that take 20 hours to charge," so Little Sun set out to design a "top-quality, portable, high-performance" solar charger that wouldn't require multiple days to charge a mobile phone. And while the campaign page is a little short on technical details, it does claim that the Charge's 2W solar panel can fully charge a smartphone in five hours, and it has a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery for storing the energy for both the LED light and for after-hours charging.

Here's the crowdfunding pitch:

I've tested out a fair number of mobile solar chargers, and while I have used a couple of smaller models that may take a few days' worth of sun to charge a phone, I've also reviewed a few that are much quicker than the 20 hour claim from Little Sun. However, the smaller and higher performance solar chargers also tend to cost a fair amount more, and aren't nearly as rugged as the Little Sun Charge claims to be, so for off-grid applications in places that require 'rough service' devices, where a higher-priced option isn't feasible, the Charge may be the most appropriate solution.

According to Little Sun, the Charge is enclosed in a rugged casing that is "weather proof, water resistant, heat resistant and UV protected," and the device is small enough to be easily portable, whether you're off the grid or just out of juice in the middle of the city.

Backers of the Little Sun Charge campaign can pledge €63 ($71 USD) to reserve one for themselves, or can pony up a little more (€85, about $96 USD) for a 'buy one, give one' pledge that will supply one to Little Sun's partner organization Alight Zimbabwe to help it scale up the local distribution of these solar chargers. And every pledge to the campaign will receive "heartfelt squawk of gratefulness" from a parrot, although there's no mention of whether or not you'll get to actually hear that squawk.

As of today, the Little Sun Charge campaign has almost quadrupled its original crowdfunding goal of $56,345, and now sits at just over $193,000 in pledges, with 23 days left to go.

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