Jackery Wants to Power Your Next Trip to the Campground. Or to… Mars?

There's more than one way to put solar panels on top of a vehicle.

A "Mars rover" with solar panels extending from the top of it.

Jackery's Solar Generator Mars Bot hasn't really been to Mars, but it has been to Las Vegas.

Jon Reed/CNET

CES 2024 is full of new gadgets and gizmos both practical and impractical, sometimes at the same booth. Consider Jackery, maker of portable power stations and solar panels, which offered a wicked-looking rooftop camper setup (practical) and a Mars rover (what?).

It's all about finding fun ways to use solar panels and batteries.

First, the impractical concept.

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The Solar Generator Mars Bot is like a portable power station on wheels with solar panels sliding out of the sides to capture more sunlight. Like NASA's Opportunity Rover with power outlets, ready to roam the Las Vegas Strip on a mission to discover undercharged cell phones.

The product is at CES to make a splash and look cool, of course, but Jackery's Emma Ross told me the goal was also to demonstrate a potential future for mobile, portable renewable energy. Something like this Mars bot might one day exist commercially and do actual, useful things right here on Earth. 

A Ford F-150 with a large black rooftop tent atop it, with solar panels jutting from the sides.

Jackery's rooftop tent solar panels are a dramatic looking way to power a camping adventure.

Jon Reed/CNET

One possibility: It could follow agricultural equipment around in the fields, harvesting sunlight that can power the tractors and tools of the future.

The Mars Bot is cool and all, but what if your travels keep you firmly inside Earth's atmosphere? 

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A different kind of rooftop solar

The biggest, most flamboyant looking thing at Jackery's booth wasn't the Mars bot, but the company's rooftop camper tent. 

Solar panels mounted inside the hardshell roof of the pop-up tent and extending wings of panels can provide power through one of the company's power stations, running plenty of camping equipment for long journeys.

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Unlike the Mars bot, this should actually be available to buy at the end of the year, Ross told me. 

The details are still yet to be sorted out, but the rooftop tent enclosure itself can provide about 600 watts of power. The extendable panels reach out from the enclosure like wings, making the whole setup look like a Transformer caught halfway between superhero and F-150. Those panels can provide an additional 400 watts, Ross said, but it's unclear yet if they'll be included in the final product when it ships. The final specs aren't ready yet because it's still being developed, Ross said.

Jackery's mockup of a camping setup showed some of what you could power with this system, including a microwave, an induction cooktop and a cooler.

Expect it to cost somewhere around $6,000 when it's ready to ship, potentially in the fourth quarter of 2024, Ross said.

Looking for more energy-related tech from CES? Check out this whole-home backup battery you can also take camping.

Updated Jan. 11, 2024 4:00 p.m. PT

Written by  Jon Reed
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
Jon Reed Senior Editor
Jon Reed is an editor for CNET covering home energy, including solar panels and energy efficiency. Jon has spent more than a decade making a living by asking other people questions. He previously worked as an editor at NextAdvisor, focused on home loans and the housing market; as a statehouse reporter in Columbus, Ohio; and as a reporter in Birmingham, Alabama. When not asking people questions, he can usually be found half asleep trying to read a long history book while surrounded by cats.
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