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You may have read my article a while ago about Better Energy Systems' Solio, a solar-powered iPod charger. Well, I went ahead and ordered one, and I've been using it for about a week now with pretty good results.
Even though a few reviewers didn't love it, I think it's pretty great, especially considering what I paid for it. I ordered mine from eXpansys for $60, but it looks like they've raised the price back to about $100 again, which is the same as what Better Energy Systems charges.
So far, I've had pretty good luck with the Solio. Sure, it's not perfect; you do have to have pretty good sun coverage to get a real charge and you do have to be facing at least kind of towards the sun, but what do you expect for something that's still as non-standard as solar chargers? I'm sure my location helps me out, though. According to the solar intensity maps on their website, North Carolina gets a solid 4 out of North America's maximum of 7. Also, it's early spring right now and not winter, which can't hurt.
Anyway, I'm lucky enough (minus the partial blindness) that I drive East in the morning and West in the evenings and for about 30 minutes both ways, so the Solio gets at least an hour of pretty direct sunlight just during my daily commute. Then I let it sit in my windshield all through the day, where it probably gets at least the equivalent of another 2 hours of full sunlight on a good day. It's at least enough power that I haven't had to plug my iPod into a wired power source in the last week, except the fire wire port on my computer to transfer some tunes, and I use the thing pretty heavily on my commute and during work.
The really important thing about the Solio is that it has an internal battery. You don't have to charge the iPod directly; you can charge the Solio itself and then charge the iPod from it whenever you feel like it. Also, you're not just limited to charging your iPod. There are extra connectors to charge many popular cellular phones, and soon, they'll be releasing a female 12v car adapter connection and USB connections, so you'll be able to charge just about any small device that you normally can charge with your car. Sorry, not laptops yet; they're working on a more powerful version for bigger devices.
All in all, I love my Solio. I especially love the idea that when I go hiking or camping I can use it to charge my iPod, electric lanterns, and whatever else completely ruins the idea of leaving the daily hustle and bustle in order to enjoy nature! However, at least I'll be doing it in an environmentally conscious manner. The Solio is made from all recycled, recyclable, and environmentally friendly materials. According to their website, the Solio is intended to achieve a net energy benefit over its lifetime. To reach this goal, energies needed for raw materials and production have been minimized. Better Energy Systems has also planted tree's in a bio-diverse sustainable forest to offset the carbon dioxide produced in the manufacture of the Solio.