One of the biggest challenges for us has been the idea that we can be as self-sufficient as possible on this extended tour and that has led us to the problem of charging our various electronics while away from the standard power sources familiar to our previous travel experiences. The list of electronic gear seems to be growing some how and we may have to look at the potential problems this causes with the extra weight it will load on our bike. We started with the standard need for AAA batteries for head torches, digital camera battery, i- touch/pod for music , GPS (bike stats). The list then began to grow with the addition of Kindle e-readers (x2), some external speakers for some tunes on the long touring days and of course the major dilemma of taking our Macbook air for our blog updates/photo and video maintenance on the road.
Some of these items are easy to deal with, long battery life etc, some are a little more difficult, needing higher voltage to charge and are going to be used at a higher frequency. I have to thank the multiple bike touring blogs out there for posting some fantastic reviews on how they have gone about dealing with there issues of charging equipment while on tour. Some to note are TiredofI.T.com, cyclingabout.com.
So with some new ideas I set about researching ways to get charged. The two most popular ways have to be solar and the use of a dynamo hub.
Solar – the new products out there in this range seem to been a lot more efficient and user-friendly than ever before and some notable products such as the goal zero range have some good features that are beneficial when dealing with charging equipment like laptop computers. However, through reading some reviews from the road it really looks to be an inferior way of charging when bike touring. My biggest concern was keeping the solar unit in the sun for long periods while riding and not having enough charge at the end of the day due to bad weather or low UV light. On the plus side the solar panel can be used on days when not cycling to keep a consistent charge in the cache battery.
Dynamo Hubs – these are by far the most efficient way of producing a power while cycling. The problems come when turning the AC power produced by the hub into usable DC power for our devices. The more I got into this dilemma the more questions came up. I am not the best at working out voltage/ amps and watt conversions so it is a little confusing understanding all the intricacies in this field.
As I now understand it we will have to use a converter between the hub and the devices we will want to charge. To make it safer for our expensive kit it is also recommended to use a cache battery so the items being charged will receive a consistent charge even when we slow down or stop during the day. The cache battery can also be used to store power and use it later when we are not cycling. Great for our needs but the combined price starts to get a bit out of control. Something we will probably just have to accept if we want to achieve our goal of being self-sufficient for large parts of this trip.
It would appear that there are a number of different ways to go about achieving the outcome required on the market today. The most popular and the ones that are now being decided on are the super-i-cable from pedal power+ and the e-werk from Busch and Muller.
E-werk : pros
– neat set up that is water proof
– has voltage and ampage regulation for different electronic items
– can be easily removed from the hub connection for safety
– expensive compared with simpler units
– does not come with built-in cache battery
Super-i-cable : pros
– has 2200 mAh built-in battery as a buffer
– is far cheaper than the e-werk
– mounting is far less user-friendly
– hard to remove from hub to use battery as external power source
– cache battery not powerful enough to charge the Macbook
The pros and cons from our point of view are fairly similar and really come down to how much we are prepared to spend and how practical each system is for our needs. With both units we will need an extra cache battery to be able to supply our equipment with enough power while off the bike. This is where the e-werk is potentially going to be the better option. While pedal power plus have an external battery pack for their unit, it will not be enough to power our Macbook. This is the biggest problem at this stage and one that we might have to rethink and come up with a different plane for our online needs.
However there is a company that produces the hyperjuice cache battery specifically designed to charge the apple Macbook computers. The battery can deliver 14.5v to 18.5 v at 4.5A which is more than enough to deal with the charging needs of our computer. The real problem is keeping the cache battery charged through the e-werk converter which can handle a max of 12.5v at 1.5A . From what I can determine this would mean that the system would charge the cache battery but at a slower speed than it would otherwise charge at from a full voltage and amp source. If anyone has any ideas if this system would be efficient enough and can shed some more light on the subject for me it would be most appreciated. Please contact us.
At this stage, that is as far as I have come with this issue. It has been a fun learning curve and I am keen to see if what I have planned will workout. At least I know it will keep everything else charged and music pumping for the duration. As for our online potential and computer usage, I have another option just come to my attention that needs some more looking into, but I am pretty sure what I have planned so far will do the trick.
Only time will tell….and we will have plenty of that in a few months.