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Bicycle Touring Self Sufficient Power for Gadgets

The following details how were are currently powering all the electrical items that we carry with us whilst cycle touring and our aim to be self sufficient for power. If you have any suggestions that could improve our system then please comment below or email us hello@bikeabout.co.uk.

Technical Details and our Description

The items we carry that we need to charge on a regular basis are:

  • 2 iPods
  • 2 camera batteries
  • re-chargeable AA and AAA batteries (for head torches, bike lights)
  • Mobile phone

Diagram

Pedal Power+ AC Dynamo – Initially we were wary of getting a hub dynamo due to the resistance that it would cause. To our surprise and delight I don’t notice any difference at all. In fact it feels great to know that every pedal stroke is generating free electricity and reducing our need to pay for a campsite or hostel to charge stuff.
Manufacture Specifications

  • Rating 6v3w, Output DC 5v to 600mA
  • Standard 36 spoke configuration 14 gauge
  • Super free running, Weight 750g, Sealed bearings
  • Flange to Flange 92mm, Axel 92mm or 3/8”

Pedal Power+ V4 – It takes about 10 hours of cycling to fully charge the battery, for us this is two to three days of riding depending on the hills.
Manufacture Specifications

  • Capacity 5600mA
  • Input 5V 2000mA
  • Voltage 3.7V

Solar panel – Takes one to three days depending on how sunny it is and our ability to move it into direct sunlight. Having the panel on the back of the bike it tends to be partially shaded by our shadows. If you are using a trailer or possibly attaching the panel to a helmets might be better, although the latter could look silly.
Manufacture Specifications

  • Rated output: 4-12V, 0-1A
  • Solar panel output: 155mA @ 6V
  • Internal battery: rechargeable 3.6V, 1600mAh
  • Lithium Ion
  • Weight: 5.6oz/156g

Hahnel UniPal– This great little unit is small and light and saves us having to carry a different charger for each camera. We love it.
Manufacture Specifications

  • Charges practically all Lithium Ion or Lithium Polymer 3.6V/3.7V, 7.2V/7.4V and AA/AAA Ni-MH batteries.
  • Charges most devices with USB port
  • Fine adjustment wheels to easily adjust the charger contacts
  • Unique dual position contacts – to charge a wider range of battery types
  • Separate AA/AAA compartments for a secure fit
  • 12V DC input
  • Charging time approx 3 hours per 1000mAh

Limitations and improvements to our system

The UniPal only works with the solar panel not the V4, despite the batteries of the solar panel and the V4 being similar except capacity. The 12v cable that comes with solar panel somehow regulates the voltage output, giving out 12 volts. The disadvantage of this is that the solar panel’s internal battery is not that big – only1600mAh so it struggles to fully charge all the items we have in one go. We could do with another battery pack in addition to the V4 with a large capacity and the ability to give different outputs ranging from 5v to 19v, that could charge via a larger solar panel or the dynamo. This would power the larger electrical devices.

All of our devices can take a charge from the mains, however carrying all the chargers for each item would probably take up one pannier bag. We have a multi-travel plug that has a usb out so when we do get free mains power we can give some of the items a boost. We have found that usb is a rather slow way of charging and times when we do get access to mains electricity it is generally limited. What would be ideal would be a international mains charger, that could charge at high speed, with exchangeable tips depending on the device that needed to be charged. The difficulty of this is regulating the voltage and amps to match the product.

The future
We have recently brought a netbook computer to help us keep up to date with our blog writing and photo sorting. We are also hoping (fingers and toes crossed) to get a small video camera to capture our adventure on film. This is going to require more power and we still want to be self sufficient for power. We have some ideas on how to do this and we are just finalising our decisions.

Suggestions, improvements and comments to our system are most welcome.

Update

We wrote this some time ago and a few things have changed since writing.  We have another hub dynamo for Liz’s bike and a a V4i for Liz.  The V4i is very similar to the V4 it just has a slight bigger capacity and works with the iPhone.

We have also been testing the V4 with the UniPal we hope that we will at leat be able to charge batteries with a voltage equal or less than the V4.

Pedal Power+ have also given us a usb  international mains charger that delivers a 1amp output, this lets us charge the v4 and other devices quickly when we get mains power.

We shall update this again when we have had a chance to test the new additions.

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