The variety of backup batteries has exploded over the last few years. Other companies have introduced their competitors to Tesla's well-known Powerwall battery, while the field of smaller, portable power stations is even more crowded. EcoFlow, a company that makes some of CNET's favorite portable power stations, introduced a new battery model that aims for the middle ground between portable and whole home backup.
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When paired with its Smart Home Panel Pro 2, EcoFlow's Delta Pro Ultra power station can provide power to your home or be unplugged and wheeled away for energy on the go. EcoFlow touts an easier setup; you only need to have the smart panel professionally installed. Unlike most home backups, which are permanent, you can take the EcoFlow with you if you move. That can save you on installation costs and keep you from having to buy a new battery at your new place. It's another step toward more reliable and flexible energy use at home.
A solar-powered rooftop tent
Jackery, a company with plenty of portable power solutions, is looking to launch its most inventive product later this year. That's when you might be able to get your hands on a popup tent with built-in solar panels that can be mounted to the top of a vehicle. Final specs and design are being hashed out, but a company spokesperson said the solar tent is likely to cost about $6,000 when it's available for purchase.
Watch this: These Are the Biggest Trends of CES 2024
Jackery also had a solar-powered Mars rover on display (that it has no plans of sending to Mars) and an itty-bitty power station with a capacity of just under 100 watt-hours. That means Jackery's Explorer 100 just squeezes under the battery capacity limit for items you can take on a plane, the company told CNET. As a slightly nervous flier, I expect you might draw some extra attention at security.
Control your home's power with the push of a button
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Modes and scenes are customizable configurations of what's turned on or off in your house. Modes like "eco mode" prioritize using power from your solar panels, while "storm watch" ensures your battery is topped up in case of an outage. Scenes can be set to turn off all but necessary circuits when you're away from work or to power certain circuits during one season or another. Changing all that with the push of a button makes saving energy all that much more convenient.
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One is a portable power station with a twist. Rather than one battery stuck inside the walls of the power station, the AC180T has battery packs you can swap in and out, while the power station is running your devices. This could make for even more flexible charging on the go. CNET's Jon Reed said swapping the batteries was "weirdly fun to do." The AC180T has an energy storage capacity of 1,433 watt-hours (or about 1.4 kilowatt-hours.) Bluetti is planning to crowdfund the device's development with an Indiegogo campaign in February.
Indoor solar cells with a ton of applications
Solar cells that work indoors are not new. You might have used a calculator that powered up under your middle school's fluorescent lights. Ambient Photonics' updated version delivers about three times the energy of those older models. This means they might be able to power things with a slightly higher appetite for energy: computer mice, TV remotes or anything else that might take AA or AAA batteries.
Portable fridges gain new features and efficiency
Bluetti's swappable battery tech will be useful in other Bluetti devices, like the MultiCooler portable fridge. The fridge can keep things cool or downright frigid, from 68 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. What's more, it has a built-in ice maker. Whether that's strictly necessary for a portable fridge is probably up for debate, but you can imagine the device making for some truly luxurious camping.
Other portable fridges from another portable power stalwart were debuted by Goal Zero. The Alta fridges come in 50- and 80-liter capacities. The smaller version can maintain temperature using just 8 watts of power, once it's reached the targeted temp. That means that Goal Zero's smallest power station can run the fridge for over a day. Goal Zero introduced three new portable power stations and a home battery backup, joining the trend of other energy storage companies that started small, but are now offering larger, whole-home backup solutions at a more affordable price.
Stained glass that generates electricity
CES is great for finding odd, but cool little gadgets and the solar sector is no exception. Japanese solar company inQs is promoting its transparent solar technology with a range of solar-powered, see-through gadgets, including a silicon quartz crystal (pictured above) that can generate photovoltaic electricity. A company representative told CNET's Jon Reed its technology could also be deployed in windows, transparent or stained.
Because transparent solar tech is still emerging and not yet widely deployed, the challenge of recycling them doesn't loom as large as it does from the more traditional opaque, black or blue panels you see on roofs. Still, inQs says its tech, built on silicon quartz, is easier and safer to recycle and includes no rare earth materials.
Electronics company Panasonic was also talking up see-through solar tech this year, namely perovskites. Perovskite solar technology is still largely in research and development (and not just by Panasonic) but could open up a wide variety of solar applications, like solar on windows and the side of buildings. Or, you can stick solar on solar: In labs, perovskite solar layered on top of silicon solar panels achieves much higher efficiency ratings than either technology can separately.
A battery that can take a beating
Batteries are a key element in the electrification of everything and the transformation of the power grid. Increasing their durability and safety, especially in settings like electric vehicles, could be an important way of stretching the resources needed to make them. CNET's Jon Reed saw battery cells from Xing Mobility that, when intentionally damaged, caught fire but quickly extinguished. That's thanks to a nonconductive, petroleum-based lubricant that extinguished the fire and cooled the battery off quickly. Most of the battery actually kept its charge. Batteries with this ability could be useful in cars and tractors and trucks, where they're more likely to get a little roughed up.
It sounds like tech from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but you might soon be able to pull water right from the air. The WC-100 WaterCube from Genesis Systems is an 800-pound machine that can harvest 100 gallons of water per day at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity, although the company says it can work all the way down to below 10% humidity. It should get about 200 pounds lighter before it reaches the market, the company says.
The WC-100 WaterCube could be useful if your water supply is disrupted or to offset your water bill. You'd have to shave a lot of that water bill to recoup the cost, which sits at a hefty $20,000.
AI at CES 2024: Take a Look at the Coolest Tech From the Show
Article updated on January 15, 2024 at 6:00 AM PST
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Andrew BlokEditor I
Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a focus on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
ExpertiseSolar providers and portable solar power; coffee makers, grinders and productsCredentials