This mobile solar power station offers a lightweight high-capacity lithium-ion battery with all the bells and whistles.
The portable solar and backup battery market is heating up, with new manufacturers entering the fray almost daily with offerings that promise lighter, higher capacity, and more practical models that can power anything from your phone to your laptop to your fridge. And a new entry, from the startup EcoFlow Tech, promises to be a feature-packed portable power station that can charge up to 11 gadgets simultaneously, with an onboard inverter to allow for plugging in two AC devices at once.
The RIVER is dubbed a solar generator, but it's actually a high capacity battery that can be charged with a solar panel (but doesn't have to be). When coupled with the company's optional 50W folding panel, the RIVER is said to fully charge in about 10-15 hours of bright sunlight, after which its lithium-ion battery is rated at 116,000mAh/412Wh, or enough to provide about 30 smartphone charges, or up to 9 laptop charges, or even to run a mini-fridge for 10 hours. The RIVER weighs in at only 11 pounds, which is impressive considering that a similar unit from one of the leading portable solar and mobile power companies, Goal Zero, weighs in at 17 pounds, and is a slightly larger unit.
The unit can also be charged via an AC outlet (6 hours), or with a car 12V outlet (9 hours), and has a potential max output of 500W (AC + DC), which can be delivered by 6 USB ports (USB Quickcharge, USB, and USB-C), 2 DC 12V ports, one 12V car port, and two standard AC outlets, which are fed by a 300W inverter. The company says the operating temperature for the RIVER is between -4 and 140 degrees F, which is a rather generous range, and the unit does have a fan and temperature controls to avoid overheating, as well as electronic protection from surges, and the protective case uses IP63 certified material (water resistant, shock-proof, dust-proof).
To charge the RIVER from the sun, the company has paired it with a 50W folding solar panel, of which the specs are rather sparse, other than the 50W rating, the fact that it has one DC outlet and two USB outlets, and that it's foldable and zips closed. The 50W panel seems a little too small for the RIVER, unless the battery is only going to be drawn down a little each day, rather than be used heavily, as the company says it takes about 10-15 hours of direct sun for a full charge. It's not explicitly stated by EcoFlow Tech, but I imagine several panels could be chained together, or a single larger panel could be used, to decrease solar charging times.
From the information available so far on the RIVER, it looks to be a serious competitor for the mid-sized off-grid solar and battery market, which seems to be growing quickly. There is a definite need for a mobile power solution that's able handle more than just charging a smartphone, yet is still small enough to be portable, and that has the capability to deliver AC current and have multiple options for DC outputs for all the gizmos and gadgets that we take with us. Plus, being able to have a 'generator' that is quiet, clean, and powered by renewable energy to produce electricity for lights, music, cameras, etc., can be a benefit for events and larger gatherings, or for emergency preparedness. It's too soon to tell about the build quality or the reliability of the EcoFlow offerings, but the units will come with an 18-month warranty, and the batteries are rated as having a lifespan of 500 charge cycles.
To launch the RIVER, the company has turned to Indiegogo, where the crowdfunding campaign has already been massively successful, with more than $370,000 raised so far (on original goal of $30,000), with about three weeks left to run. Backers of the campaign can get a RIVER with a pledge of $459, or a package with both the RIVER and the 50W solar panel with a pledge of $700. Deliveries of the finished products are expected in July of 2017.
[NB: Backing a crowdfunded project can be risky, as there is no assurance that the company will deliver on time, or at all, or that the delivered product will match the original specs on the crowdfunding page. Buyer beware, and do your due diligence on the product and company before backing any crowdfunding campaign.]