Wind and solar charger 'tribrid' for power blackouts
A new charger for recharging a cell phone or MP3 player can be powered both by sunlight and wind. But while the electricity from those sources is free, the charger is certainly not.
Erik Palm, a business reporter for Swedish national television, is joining CNET News as a spring 2009 fellow with Stanford University's Innovation Journalism program. When he's not working, he enjoys kayaking and exploring California's hiking trails. E-mail Erik.
Kinesis Industries' K3 is a compact "tribrid" wind and solar power generator about the size of a flashlight. The company calls it a tribrid since the built-in rechargeable battery also can be precharged with normal grid electricity using an AC plug. It also charges from any computer via USB, or from a car cigarette lighter with available USB adapter.
According to Kinesis, the fully charged K3 can power a mobile phone more than five times on a single charge--and an iPod/MP3 player more than 10 times.
At a weight of 10.5 ounces (a little over half a pound), I personally think it's a tad heavy for a serious hiking trip or mountaineering. It is marketed as more of a disaster relief device, securing power when there's an emergency with no available power supply, and you still need to make a call, for instance. Still, it is weatherproof, so you could bring it along for a kayaking or a boat trip for instance, when the weight doesn't count so much.
The built-in battery has a capacity of 4,000 mAh and can be charged from wind and sun simultaneously.
The recharging times provided by the manufacturer are impressive. The built-in battery can after one hour of sun and wind provide about 30 minutes of talk time, or more than 300 minutes of MP3s.
The included AC adapter is for precharging before you go--if you don't trust the wind to blow, or worse, the sun not to shine.
When it's officially released in June, the charger will come at a price, however--$99.95. That's compared with the cheaper and presumably simpler solar charger, which goes for around $30.