The Solio is an innovative solar charger for almost any battery-powered device. It consists of a three panel photovoltaic system connected to an internal battery.
The interesting design feature is that it fans out like a flower, around a central ring.
It’s iPod-like in its ease of use. I discussed the product with the company at the recent Eco Live exhibition here in San Francisco, and they pointed out that following Apple design principles was one of the key ideas behind the product. They also mentioned that the product had really taken off after being named MacWorld 2005 best-of-show, and that iPod users had led the way.
My informal testing of the unit was with two devices I use almost daily, a Motorola Razr V3 and a 5G video iPod. The Solio worked flawlessly, acting like any other battery add-on pack to provide power to the device, while avoiding disposable batteries.
The Solio comes with a suction mount, which can be used to attach it to a window. For maximum charging effect, you should mount it to the window from the back side, outside of your house, although you can turn it around either way.
The device charges in 8-10 hours in direct sunlight. A system of LED flashes tell you how much power is in the unit (1 flash = 25%, 2 flashes = 50%, 3 flashes = 75%, 4 flashes= 100%).
One nice feature is that one of the panels is left exposed when you fold it up. This means that even when you fold it up, it still gets 1/3 power (as long as you leave it right side up!). This means you can stow it in a mesh water-bottle pocket in your bag, and it will get a slow supply of energy all day.
Another idea is to use a zip tie to create a carabiner mount for the Solio. Put a zip tie through the ring, and cut the excess off. Make sure the Solio is fanned-out first, otherwise the tie may prevent it from unfolding. Clip a carabiner to the loop your created. Now you can hook the Solio to your backpack and let it draw power during a hike. Note that this method interferes with the suction-cup mount. It would be nice to see a ring mount in a future model.
Speaking of future models, the folks from Solio intimated that new, larger models would be coming soon. I can’t wait, this is a cool thing, and if it came in a version with more power output and larger solar-collection surfaces, that would be great.
The Solio is available in four colors (white, silver, black, and pink). The system ships with power adapter tips that connect to most devices, as well as a USB cable that connects a standard USB-iPod / iPad dock connector cable. The package also includes a power adapter to charge the Solio from a wall socket (but that would be cheating). More tips and adapters are available from the website.
Around $99, at most online retailers, including Saks, Target, Amazon, and REI.