BootstrapSolar needs your support!

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was working on a solar power pack. I’ve since completed the prototype and tested it, so I’m almost ready for production. But in order to get there, I could use some help…

My solar power pack contains a 6000mAh LiPoly battery, big enough to recharge an iPhone four times over (or an iPad up to about 70%). It has two USB ports, of which one is configured to support Apple devices with output up to 1000mA (that’s equivalent to the iPhone’s AC adapter). The kit also comes with a 5W monocrystalline solar panel which can generate enough power to completely recharge an iPhone in two hours. Furthermore, the power packs can support up to 10W of solar panels for heavy users (or cloudy days). And it’s enclosed in a bamboo enclosure, which is a much more sustainable material than the plastics commonly used.

Basically, I built what I wanted for myself. It’s the kit I wish I had in Japan. It’s the kit I wish folks had in Japan in the days that followed the earthquake and tsunami when the power was out. I took this kit with me to Burning Man, and wished everybody had one.

Right now, I’m in the process of raising funds to pay for a small production run. The Kickstarter campaign that I started two days ago already has over $3000 in pledges, though I need $7500 for the campaign to finish successfully and to start production. If you’re interested in a kit, you can “reserve” one by pledging $90 or above, which is substantially less than what the final retail price will probably be (or how much you’d pay for a similar commercial product). Of course, even if you’re not interested in a kit for yourself, I’d appreciate any help getting the word out as well. Also, if this kit succeeds, it’ll give me the funds to work on other kits, so you’ll be supporting a larger project that aims to make solar technology available and accessible to more people. So, any support would be greatly appreciated, whether it’s a pledge on Kickstarter, or a simple “Like”.


21 thoughts on “BootstrapSolar needs your support!

  1. Is the on-board battery LiFePO4 ? Li-ion ? NIMH? NICD ? something else ?

    There’s a big cost-point difference between a LiFePO4 battery+charger and a old fashioned nicd battery+charger.

    I don’t know if you know it, but omitting the specific battery tech from the descriptions (here and on the kickstarter pages) makes your project come off a little “fishy”

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve updated the post and Kickstarter page. I’m trying to strike a balance between accuracy and the fact that many non-technical people lose interest when they see too much jargon. In any case, I use LiPoly batteries; wouldn’t consider anything else.

      • @et, cost-point is the point on the cost curve ( see wikipedia dot org/wiki/Cost_curve ) where Ryo decides how much profit the project must have relative to the cost of the resources needed for the project to self-sustain (in his opinion). my comment in this context was supposed to illustrate that if Ryo include a cheap fixed voltage charger for nicd batteries (~$9USD) and charged $150USD per unit he would reap more profit than LiFePO4 batteries and charger (~$70USD) at the same “cost” of $150USD per unit. before Ryo added the “LiPoly batteries” to the description investors/supporters could have ‘filled in the blanks’ and assumed that Ryo was going to use more costly battery/charger tech and later felt misled to find that he was using inferior nicd tech (hence the “fishy” feeling when it wasn’t specified). this is the difference between cost-point and cost i was trying to convey. i guess this has been traditionally referred to as cost or price vs. price-point, but with kickstarter blending investors and customers, i got cost/price and cost-point/price-point mixed up as well. it is an odd perspective to be on both sides of the business model. i hope you understand what i was trying to say.

        @Ryo, than you for updating the description. I think less ambiguity in the description of the more expensive part(s) of the internal components will allay many investor/supporters’ concerns. on a technical point, pulling 1.5A out of li-poly batteries could have some thermal challenges. you might want to emphasize that the burn marks on the bamboo box were not created when the batteries cooked off :)

        • On the thermal issue, I’ll double check, but I’m pretty sure drawing 1.5A out of a 6Ah battery (that’s 0.25C) won’t be a big issue. The bigger issue would be if users left the power pack out in direct sunlight, especially with the clear faceplate exposed to the sun. Obviously, I’ll have big warnings telling people not to do that…

  2. Howdy, awesome project. This is exactly the type of project I’ve been wanting to launch for a long time. I’m thinking about backing your project on kickstarter but I have a question about the solar cell you’re using. I’ve gotten some budget panels before and felt burned as they were pretty flimsy and performed below the spec. I decided that it would be worth it to pony up for a higher quality panel like something from voltaic. Or, if you’re going with a different manufacturer, do you have any plans to make the panel itself more rigid and durable? Thanks! I love your blog. Keep up the inspiring life!

    • Yeah, I hear you. I tested panels from different manufacturers and these are the best I’ve found. They output 5W as claimed, and while thin and light, the backing is quite solid. I just packed it in a soft check-in luggage without much padding, and it came out just fine. It would take a lot of force to break one of these panels.

  3. Hey Ryo – I’ve been following your blog for a while and I love, love what you’re doing with this little solar power pack — like Jeff commented, the bamboo case is fantastic. I could really use something like this… but I don’t use an iphone. Instead, I need something to keep my macbook charged when I’m away from a reliable power source and I need to keep writing. In any case, whether I can use this right now or not I’m going to throw some cash your way – if this little device won’t work for me, I hope your next version will!

    On another note, it sounds like you used your iphone in Japan and I’m wondering what kind of plan you have that allows you to use the phone abroad. I travel overland between Canada, the US & Mexico (my home base is Canada) and I have yet to find a plan that provides reasonable cell and data use while roaming…

    • Yeah, I would like a solar charger for my laptop as well, however, this kit would be underpowered for that. If this kit sells well enough, hopefully I’ll be able to work on a bigger version that can support laptops :-)

      I actually didn’t use my iPhone in Japan. I ended up buying a cheap pre-paid phone, and the organization I was with gave me prepaid cards for the minutes.

  4. I just liked this on google and posted this on my facebook page. You have a good idea, but you might have to idiot proof your charger. If you do not idiot proof it you could end up with legal actions against you, if somthing happens.

    Best of luck to you

    • Unfortunately Kickstarter only supports Amazon Payments, mostly because it’s the only payment processor that supports this kind of transaction (basically, “pledging” funds to be paid later). I’ll eventually have a standard retail site where I’ll support other payment options, so you can wait for that. I also might be able to start accepting PayPal or checks in the next couple of weeks as well.

  5. Sorry I started checking your site so infrequently (you were doing important things). I just saw this today and would have pledged for the $90 level. Great idea!

    Went to the site, I see you’re not yet selling. I will buy one when you go live!

  6. Can you buy two battery packs (full kits) from your site and link them together? Charging both from the same solar panel, or panels? Something like output to input via cable?

    You still plan on building bigger ones to run laptops?

    What about portable LED lighting options running off your kit?

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