11 Of The Coolest Solar-Powered Gadgets
Solar is all the rage… well, maybe not yet, but based on the growing number of solar-powered objects out there, it will be soon. From chargers to cars to bridges, here are some of today’s and tomorrow’s coolest solar-powered gadgets. Sadly, you can’t buy them all — Blackfriars Bridge in London is probably out of most people's price range — but they can still be marveled at as they light up the world with renewable energy.
1. Solar Shingles
Instead of installing bulky solar panels on a house, green-minded homeowners can go for the more sleek look of Dow Powerhouse’s solar shingles, which are miniature panels containing photovoltaic cells. The shingles lie flat just like regular shingles, and provide the same weather protection while also generating energy. In fact, Scientific American writes that depending on the brand of shingle, homeowners could save 40 to 70 percent on their electric bills according to Dow.
2. Solar-Powered Bike Locks
The Skylock is one of the most futuristic-looking bike locks out there. It actually has a built-in solar panel that, according to the company, will provide enough power for a week after just one hour of charging. The Skylock uses Bluetooth technology so owners can unlock their bikes using a smartphone; it also has a whole bunch of security features that can alert people if their bike is being tampered with or alert the authorities if you get into an accident.
3. WakaWaka Power
Feeling guilty about owning a high-tech phone that was probably built in a sweatshop? Get a solar charger! The WakaWaka charger requires 12 hours in the sun to build up a full charge, but once it’s juiced, it can power three MP3 players, 1.3 smartphones and one e-reader. It reportedly can charge an iPhone 5S in just two hours, and is made of high impact-resistant plastic. The company also donates one of its solar-powered lights for every lamp or charger that is purchased, so you can make a difference to others while getting yourself a cool new charger.
4. Organic Transit ELF
Called a velomobile by some and a “big white egg” by others, the ELF is one of the most daringly weird offerings out there. Essentially a cross between a stripped-down electric car and a bicycle, this three-wheeled vehicle boasts a 100-Watt solar panel on its roof, an aluminum alloy frame, headlights, taillights, break lights, turn signals, and a gasoline equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon. Its electric speed is about 20 miles per hour, and it can go over 15 miles on a charge, which can be achieved either by plugging it in or putting its solar panels to work — and even if its power is completely drained, you can always pedal it.
5. London’s Blackfriars Bridge
Although technically too big to be considered a “gadget,” Blackfriars Bridge is now officially a solar-powered structure; in fact, it’s the world’s largest solar bridge, according to Solarcentury. After being fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, Blackfriars Bridge is expected to reduce the CO2 emissions of Blackfriars Station by about 563 tons per year. CNN reports that on a sunny day, the bridge can generate as much as a megawatt of electricity.
6. Solar Backpacks
There are actually a few companies making solar backpacks these days, including BirkSun and Eclipse. Even though they might not be the most stylish of accessories, they pack quite a wallop when it comes to technology; thin-film solar modules are attached to the outside of the backpacks, which provide power in the range of about 4 Watts. Charge phones, tablets, cameras and more while simply walking around in the sun — and while they might look a little dorky, you can actually carry a lot of stuff in these packs.
7. Solio Charger
Solio’s petal-shaped charger powers phones, tablets and more, with its multiple panels allowing for multiple devices to charge. It connects with a regular USB charging cable and can hold a charge for up to a year, says the company. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can also stick a pencil in it!
8. Solar-Powered Cars
Among the new concepts for solar cars is the Ford C-Max Solar Energi concept, which sports roof-top solar panels that contain a special “solar concentrator lens” that Ford says will work like a magnifying glass to concentrate solar power and provide hybrid plug-in benefits without needing to plug in. The Stanford Solar Car Project, begun in 1989, produces even more futuristic vehicles, although none of them are commercially available… but if the solar car trend catches on, these bad boys might be cruising the streets someday.
9. Sonic Bloom
Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is home to a Dr. Seuss-ian exhibit called Sonic Bloom: five 33-foot flowers with solar panels on top. According to the Seattle Times, the flowers hum when visitors approach and use the daylight to suck up energy that makes them glow at night using changing patterns of small LED lights. The exhibit is intended to inspire people to think about solar energy and renewable resources. What could be more inspiring than giant, singing flowers?
10. Solar-Powered Tents
Inspired by England’s Glastonbury Music Festival, design and engineering company Kaleidoscope teamed up with telecommunications company Orange to create a concept for a tent that powers mobile devices — and itself. The tent, which would feature three banks of photovoltaic cells and fit four people, was designed to soak up sun during the day and illuminate itself at night, even generating surplus energy for vendors’ carts, sound equipment, and more, says Kaleidoscope. Goal Zero has also recently announced a partnership with Edie Bauer to create a tent with enough energy to power small appliances. Even the U.S. Army has its own version: a flexible, solar-powered shade that produces 2 kilowatts of power a day. If the Army’s doing it, it must be trendy!
11. Moser Lamps
These lamps are one of the coolest gadgets because they’re also one of the simplest. Created by Brazilian mechanic Alfred Moser, these lamps are actually just plastic bottles filled with water and bleach. Yet when installed in the roof of a house, the lamps produce light with a strength of 40 to 60 watts, which is stronger than some light bulbs, according to the New York Daily News. Sunlight refracts through the bottles to make them glow like lamps, providing a cheap and renewable source of light to poor families all over the world.